MEET CARMEN TOH: AN ARTIST ENTREPRENEUR REDEFINING BOUNDARIES & EMPOWERING FUTURE LEADERS

BY: RACHEL TANJONG

There’s a chance you’ll come across the catchphrase, “Never Tried, Never Been To Sarawak” which serves as Kantin at The Granary’s iconic tagline, Kuching city’s popular gastronomical hotspot.

Proving to be more than just a local sensation, this brand is creating ripples even across the oceans. Priding itself as an urban hipster Sarawakian themed restaurant, it is here that food, art and culture is harmoniously celebrated. Within its first year of operations, Kantin became a must-visit tourism destination in Sarawak, earning itself multiple accolades along the way.

The brainchild behind it is none other than visionary artist entrepreneur Carmen Toh who combines intelligence, business savviness and creative brilliance to catapult Sarawak’s creative and culinary industry forward.

Going by many titles, Carmen is regarded as a revolutionary force in her sphere. Her monumental step towards entrepreneurship began in 2014 when she founded Sarawak Eye which has now grown to be the leading Chinese news media portal in Sarawak with the aim of spreading a more positive-voice of influence. Concurrently, as the Managing Director and Producer of creative agency Faithworks Studios, the agency has gained prominence on the local and international stage for its works.

REDEFINING FOOD

The team standing proud in front of Kantin at The Granary

Full of surprises, no one saw it coming when Carmen and her team suddenly announced their involvement in the Food & Beverage industry despite never running a restaurant before. What seems like a bold jump is driven by her continuous mission to empower and educate her community. This time, through the medium everyone loves best: Food!

This business strategist with a Midas touch is never short on curiosity.

“I think it (curiosity) is an important element to be an entrepreneur. Like how Elon Musk is curious about space, I am curious about humanity. You have to stay curious. When you are, it will drive you to look for answers and study how things work. For me, you have to play around,” she explains, a character further fostered through her earlier years as a journalist and editor.

As a heavyweight in the industry, Carmen devoted seven solid years in Media and Communications, working for some notable Chinese newspaper agencies in Sarawak. It was at this point in her life that she received insight into society’s real-life struggles and the needs that come with it.

“As a journalist, I have seen both the good and the bad. For me it is about ‘balance’ – the ‘yin’ and ‘yang’. As I am aware of the policies, I want to help shape society in a beneficial way.”

EMPOWERING FUTURE LEADERS

A get-together session with the Kantin at The Granary crews

Extending upon this, this corporate ship captain believes that it is equally essential to groom and empower the next-generation of future leaders.

“Great leaders are ones that produce more leaders. When I first came across this, I thought it was so cool”, her eyes light-up with enthusiasm. “In my experience, most leaders would fail to groom their successors,” she notes.

Inspired by this, Carmen sets out a company culture that values positivity and knowledge sharing above all else.

“I know that whatever I choose to do, I must bring the team together with me. What my experience has taught me, what I’ve come across, I will share with them as much as possible because they are young and I want them to be ready,” explains Carmen on her growth-oriented approach.

She admits although it is never easy, a leader must strike balance in their leadership style. Down-to-earth, Carmen is never one to flaunt her successes; instead she lets the results speak for themselves over the years.

“I want myself and my team to be behind-the-scenes. When our goal is to bring
positivity to society, we want the focus to be on the cause rather than putting the
spotlight on the individual,” she emphasises, sharing that when a brand is accepted
by the public, naturally recognition will follow.

Carmen taking home the ‘Wanita Dalam Perniagaan’ Award at the APIUM 2022

“To be successful, it is never easy. You must have the belief and resilience. As an artist entrepreneur, it is much more than just about earning money but also to reset and recreate our own ecosystem that can bring sustainability.”

For Carmen, timing is key. Setting her sights ahead, the possibilities are endless.

Carmen optimistic about the possibilities of the future

“Everything is about timing. So, if we want to enter any industry, anything is possible,” she smiles in confidence after taking home the ‘Wanita Dalam Perniagaan’ (Women in Business) award at APIUM (Anugerah Personaliti Industri & Usahawan Malaysia) 2022.

-NIAGATIMES

Carmen-01 Carmen-02 Carmen-03 Carmen-05 Carmen-04

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