Fred Choo and Michele Kwok on making work possible between couples
October 8, 2014 | BY Calvin Chong
The co-founders of the Souled Out franchise and WIP restaurant talk about the trials and tribulations of working in a business as a couple and how they make the impossible possible.
Following our first power pair feature on Sereni Linggi and Shen-Tel Lee, we talk to another incredible duo on their experiences in working together as a team. This time, we talk to a married couple, Fred Choo and Michele Kwok, on their personal account of working together and how things have turned out for them.
For Fred Choo and Michele Kwok, Commander-in-Chief and First Lady of Soul Society, the mutual understanding of each other blossomed into a chain of restaurants, bars and cafés, which includes the Souled Out franchise, WIP and the recently opened Hubba Hubba, and there are no signs of slowing down for this power couple.
Michele says, “If you ask me, I’d tell all couples now to not start a business together. Just don’t do it. It’s not easy and it hardly ever works out.”
This came as quite a surprise, especially from someone who has founded multiple companies with her husband and has been working together for over 25 years. If you were to sit down with Fred and Michele for just a quick chat, you will soon realise that they have an unspoken bond and unwavering trust between them. The vivacious and outspoken Michele has a flair with words and ideas, while Fred is the quiet and observant one who has a good sense of humour to complement his wife.
Together, they represent different sides of one coin – different, yet complementary to one another.
One of the main worries for couples that work together in a business is having conflicting opinions. While most fight over it and try to get their own way, Fred and Michele take a different approach.
Fred says, “We are both very stubborn but sometimes you just have to let go and let your partner do whatever they want and support them.”
Michele agrees immediately saying, “And we’re so busy to a point that even when we fight, it will be over in seconds. We just need to move forward and not think about it. Couples nowadays don’t have that much tolerance.”
(Photo: Fred Choo and Michele Kwok with their two sons and god-daughter)
Perhaps the best way to go about it is to separate the business where each takes care only of their respective sides. In Soul Society, Fred helms the financial side, which involves all the business planning, franchise strategies and financial issues.
On the other hand, Michele is the face of the brand that heads the public relations and marketing team, which revolves around creativity and social prowess – both things that Michele excels in.
Fred says, “It was always Michele who came out with the creative ideas for the company. Even for our first Souled Out outlet in Mont Kiara. She just said ‘let’s find a place and sell tong sui!’ and the rest was history.”
Not only that, the effort taken to understand each other is also crucial. With Fred and Michele, they have grasped this concept with perfect synchrony.
Fred says, “She is a tiger. Ferocious, determined and she always gets what she wants”, while Michele laughs and says, “I think he is very strong-willed and he takes the words ‘hardworking’ and ‘commitment’ to a whole new level and he is a tyrant at work.”
An old Chinese saying once stated that “there can never be two tigers ruling one mountain” but with this dynamic duo, we can say, without an ounce of doubt, that there are definitely two majestic tigers sitting on top of a mountain called Soul Society.
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