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5 Life Lessons with entrepreneur Patricia Ho Douven

Think it's all champagne and caviar on your way to the top? Well, think again. Our Five Life Lessons series gets all the best advice from those at the top about how they got, and stay, at the top. This week, we are profiling Patricia Ho Douven, a Singapore-based hospitality interior designer and entrepreneur. 

  1. Dream, and dream bigger

I started White Jacket in my tiny apartment (alone), thirteen years ago. Fueled by passion, enthusiasm and dedication, I worked tirelessly to set up a studio and build our portfolio from scratch. Today I manage two companies and three offices across Southeast Asia, and we have ambitious plans to expand to Europe and East Asia.

The hospitality design industry is highly competitive, and even as established design giants maintain a strong grip on a majority of the market, the design scene is never short of new talents joining the race. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would be recognized by some of the most reputable developers and hotel operators in the industry. These dreams give me a sense of purpose, show me a brighter future and cushion me from failures and falls. During White Jacket's early days, one of the featured quotes on our website was “To dream, it is the only right thing to do”. I live by this quote till this day.

  1. Never lose the inner child in you

I was a very curious and active child. Growing up, I was always seeking new experiences (I was hardly at home but busy exploring our neighbourhood). I was good with my hands from a very young age. In fact, I made most of my toys from scratch; toy cars, pistols, kites, helmets and hanging mobiles to name a few. I always managed to get myself into trouble by being so active in my mind and body! Looking back, I realized that my creative mind was taking shape since my childhood.

Children are creative and they love to do what they like. Today, I am still the child who is inspired by anything and everything. I have so many interests and hobbies. I picked up DJ'ing last year and will be starting to paint during my free time again. I am also picking up Japanese language classes since we have been commissioned a project in Japan this year. I think my endless curiosity allows me to express an outstanding and unique design language & style.

  1. Value 'me' time

I struggled with time when I first started the company and, to be honest, I still struggle sometimes, but I am better at allowing myself more quality "me" time. Truth to be told, it took me a good few years to not think about work literally 24-7. I set firm boundaries, for example I had to refrain from bringing work home so that my home remains a place to rest my busy mind. As you can imagine I didn’t enjoy working from home during covid! I felt that the sanctuary I have carefully constructed, invaded. I am glad that I am able to divide my working and living spaces once again.

My job is highly stressful, and my schedule is always packed. Travel is the best way for me to decompress and take a break & distance from the hustle. It is also the biggest source of inspiration for me. I love experiencing the variety of culture, nature, and of course food! Travel is my therapy and I make sure that I get a few good vacations each year.

Free time also equals me time. Having moderate amount of free time is essential for my mental and physical wellbeing. Most importantly, I have so many hobbies! I must make time for them.

  1. Choose powerful words to live by

And mine are: Passionate, Authentic and Tenacious (PAT, I live by my name!)

Passionate – I am passionate about life and living it. I love what I do, and I enjoy everything that comes with my job including the good and the bad. Being passionate is my tool to maintain positive outlook through challenging times during my entrepreneurship.

Authentic – I am proud to be authentic. This is how I stay close to my main core values - empathetic, grounded, and appreciative. When I am authentic, I feel that my mind and my actions are aligned. Which is the most empowering feeling when I am true to myself, not just to please others.

Tenacious - Tenacity brings courage, courage moves you forward and upward, and going forward brings hope. Never give up!

  1. Never take no for an answer

Don’t do this! You will fail! That’s the worst advice I have received when I decided to start my business. I have received quite a few of these negative comments. In fact, I didn’t share with my parents about my plans to start my own business. They only found out after the company was registered and set up!

What Is important is to stay positive and focused when your ideas and goals are being challenged or denied. Adjust your plans and course when necessary. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.