Praew is the founder and managing director of FABRIC & VIVE, a one-stop integrated design company, specialized in architecture, interior design and 3D presentation. She focuses on the hospitality and F&B sectors and has designed some of Bangkok’s most stylish spots, such as Il Fumo.

“I am a qualified architect and I have always been passionate about fashion design. I studied abroad and then decided to come back to Asia as ‘that’s where the money is’, I thought. I worked in Singapore at an architecture company for a few years and then came back to Thailand. My family produces ambulances and medical equipment so initially I helped with that. But I missed architecture and after a few months decided to set up my own design studio. I grew up in a business family so I am not afraid of doing business but pondered whether to do it on my own or a business partner. When I spoke to my family and sought advice, they said ‘Let’s cut the complications. Do it on your own and see how it goes’.”

“If you don’t have a large capital to start with, try to cut costs and spend less. I am quite lucky because I could use a room in my family company so initially I had no rent to worry about. I started with 4 part-time employees and one of the key ingredients has always been trust. I told them, ‘It’s not going to be easy, I don’t think the money is going to come immediately.’ But my team trusted me and believed that something good was going to come out. The first 4 months were quite difficult, I don’t think anybody got paid. But my staff believed in me and when things picked up, they joined me full-time.”

“My strategy in hiring talent was to get very experienced, top designers first so that they could hit the ground running. This leaves me the time to focus on business development. I was willing to pay more to poach them from other companies but for many people that I work with, money is not the first consideration. Designers and architects work so much when they are young. By the time they hit 40, they can’t go on like that and work until 2am anymore. Working with big companies might feel draining while working on their own might be too much, too consuming. So many would rather stay with a smaller company like mine that understands them and gives them more free time. I think the key is a combination of efficiency of your work, your kindness, and the ability to take care of your staff. If they have problem, that they feel good to come and talk to you and that you try to fix it. That’s how you gain their respect.”

“The biggest lesson I have learned is to be patient. Having worked in Singapore for several years, I had to re-adjust to life and work in Thailand. In Singapore people tend to work faster; they try to finish things very quickly and there is no much time to rest. In Thailand people tend to go with the flow. When I first opened the business here, I was working pretty much like in Singapore and I was too blunt. Some of my staff couldn’t bear it so I had to adjust. Also in this business sometimes you just have to wait and see. You got to be still and you got to be solid. And realizing when to stop and when to race is an art you need to acquire.”

“I never got a loan and I don’t want to borrow any money. If I wanted to grow very quickly and become much larger, I would need to but given the political situation, I think it’s better to stay humble. When I first opened the business my brother, who is now my assistant, encouraged me to borrow money and make it big from the start but I wanted to take a different approach. My two businesses are small and support each other. VIVE is the design studio and FABRIC provides 3D renderings and marketing material. I am very conscious about managing risks and I am comfortable with growing slowly.”

“As a designer you have to work with many parties – contractors, suppliers, clients. Everyone wants to please the client so if anything goes wrong, they try to blame the others. Dealing with the construction part is particularly difficult. If anything goes bad, the guys at the construction site get really rude to my staff and me and it’s like they are trying to push me to lose my cool and hoping that as a woman, maybe I would just walk away and cry or something. It’s to push the blame on someone else.”

“The most challenging thing for me has been that some of my clients decided not to go forward with their projects in Thailand because of the political situation and that really affected us last year. You are never going to know how it’s going to be like next year so this uncertainty stops a lot of people. It’s something uncontrollable so the challenge is to be flexible and adapt to any situation – good or bad.”

Company: VIVE & FABRIC
Location: Bangkok
Founded: 2012
No of Employees: 6

Woman-owned & led