Karen Tan specialises in taking run down areas and redeveloping them into something attention catching and sustainable.
So, when she went to look at a derelict cinema on the fifth floor of a somewhat seedy building on Beach Road, she knew right away that she was looking at a diamond in the rough.
“It looked like it had so much potential,” Karen, who has a passion for bringing old things back to life, shares.
“So, my business partners and I decided to set out to re-invite people back to this once-popular space that had been forgotten, so that they could enjoy it again.”
While most entrepreneurs would run a mile away from what she was trying to do, the founder of design consultancy, Pocket Projects, was steadfast in her belief that she could transform old neighbourhoods into inclusive community-driven spaces.
Her vision for what was to come was in a similar vein to what she had already done with the Lorong 24A shophouses in Geylang and The Row in Kuala Lumpur.
She and her co-founders raised the funds to renovate the space through a crowd-funding drive, and put together an inventive business plan that featured multiple revenue streams.
This included renting the lobby out as a co-working space, and selling naming rights to the bottoms of cinema seats.
Through hard work and sheer determination, Karen was able to realised one of her most famous revamps – the chic art-house cinema, The Projector.
“Where people see rubbish, we see potential and exciting opportunities to do something creative. When we started that particular project, there was a lot of negativity and people telling us that it’s not going to work,” says Karen.
“Somehow we dispelled that, barrelled through because we felt it deserved a shot, and managed to fill a gap in Singapore’s cultural landscape where you have an independent platform for film and creative discussion as well.”
The move paid off for Karen and her team, as the area itself has seen an injection of vibrancy that it sorely lacked before.
“Since opening in 2014, The Projector is now a known space, so we don’t want to do too much in terms of rejuvenating it. That’s not the point, you see, of injecting life into a space,” she says.
We have to move on from the obsession with newness, because life is not about newness and shininess all the time.”
Words to live by: “Don’t be afraid of failing. Otherwise, you’ll end up not doing anything at all.”
Next up: “I want to continue to improve Singapore’s cultural landscape, by breathing new life into some of the city’s iconic and forgotten buildings.”
The Great Women Of Our Time 2017 is proudly presented by Lancôme.