Traditional Values Shape Dr Susan Teng’s Legacy to Her Daughter Kelly Keak of MTM Skincare
Mothers are at the heart of our early education. More than teaching us the ABCs and 123s, they shape how we evaluate and react to situations, how we treat others and the qualities that matter most to us.
For Kelly Keak, managing director of MTM Skincare Singapore, her mother Dr Susan Teng’s strength and compassion was an inspiration for her growing up.
“She is a strong woman. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. With every failure she faced, she has only gotten stronger. She is also a very compassionate person. These two qualities have also become my own unknowingly, guiding me when I meet with obstacles.”
Susan, who started working at the young age of 12, originally carved a career for herself in fashion, paving her way to the role of a fashion designer from the bottom. But a bad experience at the beauty counter sparked her interest in the industry, hoping to prevent other women from going through the insincere service she encountered.
“So at 19, I left my designer role and went to a beauty school. The rest is history,” Susan said. She started with her own beauty salon and eventually brought MTM Skincare into Singapore in 2003, with Kelly taking over the reins three years ago.
Joining the family business was always part of the plan for Kelly.
“My mum has been in this business for over 40 years. I was her helping hand from young, watching as she worked and interacted with her customers. It was clear that this was what I wanted to do—I loved seeing the happy and confident smiles of our customers as they left our salon,” she shared.
“With the many years of foundation laid, it would be a waste for it to go nowhere. I’m motivated to bring MTM Skincare to greater heights.”
With Kelly managing the business, Susan has been focusing on the cultural training for staff, an initiative unique to MTM Skincare’s Singapore outpost. It imparts positive values and virtues to staff members, such as filial piety, empathy, and compassion.
“I started the cultural training when life began to slow down, and I was thinking about what I could bring to the team after Kelly took over. Our staff have been with us for many years, and I wanted to share lessons from my ups and downs in life so that they have the wisdom to make good choices,” Susan explained.
And they aren’t just talk—since 2018, MTM Skincare has been working with WAH Foundation, a Cambodian non-profit focused on the improving the living condition of rural communities, especially women and children, in Cambodia. Staff at MTM Skincare are rewarded for their long service with a water filter donated in their name, as well as the opportunity to visit Cambodia and witness the process themselves.
All staff at MTM Skincare also volunteer annually at Willing Hearts—a volunteer-run charity benefiting vulnerable communities in Singapore—helping to prepare and distribute food from the soup kitchen.
Beyond the corporate social responsibility initiatives of MTM Skincare, both mother and daughter are passionate about philanthropy. Kelly selects the charities they support, focusing on community wellbeing.
The Community Chest of Singapore, Halogen Foundation Singapore, Sian Chay Medical Organisation and Tai Pei Old People's Home are amongst the charity groups they are involved in, and Kelly is on the committees for several fundraisers, including the Singapore Red Cross Benefit Gala 2019 and one in the works for the Singapore Cancer Society this year.
Asked what sparked her interest in charity work, Kelly replied that becoming a mother changed her.
“Have you heard of the Chinese saying that a virtuous woman benefits three generations? After having a child, I started thinking about how I could be a positive influence to him. Then it extended to how I could make a change amongst my family and friends, the community, and in my country,” she said.
She added that her son had already started tagging along on charity visits from a young age.
“It’s about planting the seed of love and care. If we can make one small change and be kind to just one person, our child will learn and we can make this world a better place with our little sparks. At the very least, it matters to the one person that you helped.”