In Conversation with Select Investors: Desley Maidment, State of Escape

Author Steve Settle, Partner, Select Investors, a Partner Practice of St. James’s Place (Singapore).

One of the joys of my roles with Select Investors and CFO Centre is that I get to meet with executives and entrepreneurs who are doing all kinds of interesting things. Nearly 30 years after Paul Keating signposted Asia as a market Australia needed to explore, I have noticed an increasing number of Australians arriving on the Red Dot.

One such person is Desley Maidment, the joint owner (with her good friend and business partner in New York) of State of Escape, an eight-year-old company manufacturing a beautifully designed and crafted range of bags for women, proudly 100% Australian made. I had the pleasure of chatting to Desley over a coffee at 1880 about her experience as an Australian entrepreneur since she arrived with her family here almost three years ago.

 

Why did you come to Singapore in the first place?

I lived in Singapore for a short period when I was very young and had been here on several business trips meeting with our key retail partner in the region, Lane Crawford Group. Growing up my father worked with Qantas which meant that we lived in a variety of locations around the world, hence it has been ingrained in me to travel and explore to fulfill that sense of discovery. My husband and I had discussed moving to Asia some years ago, but the timing had not been right for us and the family, however when the opportunity again presented via his current employer out of Singapore, we gladly accepted knowing how valuable it would be for me to be on the ground in Singapore and building the business in Southeast Asia.  

Since arriving what have you learned?

I think that from the outside, Singapore can appear to be a fairly “one dimensional” country and not overly dynamic. I have found to the contrary that there are so many layers to Singapore, that I never appreciated before living here. The degree of innovation and the variety of entrepreneurs that you can engage with and learn from is extensive. I believe that the varied and often complex history, including the origins of many of the people I have met adds multiple dimensions to the cultural and educational exchanges and I love all that.

I have also come to appreciate Singapore’s position as the hub of Southeast Asia and importantly for our business, I developed a greater insight into our growing customer base here – seeing how people live their lives and how best to reach and connect with our potential market segments.

On the personal front, I have learned that Singapore is wonderful place to be with your family – the education is excellent, there are no language barriers and there are plenty of sports and activities to keep everyone busy.

Are there things you wish you had known more about before you arrived that may be useful for others considering the move?

I did have some prior knowledge of Asia and I did do a little research, but I am great believer that having pre-conceptions can blind you to what is going on and actually stop you from doing things that could be beneficial. Many entrepreneurs say that if they had known it would be so hard, they probably would never have started a business; so, I arrived with open eyes and an open mind and have been learning as I go and still have lots to learn. Your context shifts with your experience and people here are very open to sharing their experiences and being open to connect and support.

Are there any resources that have helped you and your business?

Physical networking amongst many things, has been adversely impacted by COVID for everyone which has resulted in my focus since 2020 being very much inward focused. This will hopefully change as things return to normal. What has been great are the women’s forum’s that 1880 have organized, but even on an informal basis I have met a lot of terrific and smart, driven individuals through friends, my husband, school etc. I have joined AustCham to develop my network further.

I am very grateful to you and CFO Centre for helping us source a fabulous part time CFO resource in Sydney, that has enabled me to spend more time working on the business rather than in it. Additionally, the tax and repatriation advice that my husband and I have received from Tristan and yourself through Select Investors has been extremely valuable.

Looking ahead, how do you see the future for the business?

Fingers crossed the world re-opens, and I can resume travelling. This will enable me to continue to connect and build a better understanding of the markets around Singapore where we have seen great success with via key retail partners as well as directly with customers here from online sales. As mentioned, we are happy with the way the business is tracking in region so will now devote more time to looking at external opportunities that will concentrate on and facilitate further growth. This path will be fostered via a top regional distributor that aligns with our values, has robust PR connections and strong positioning in marketplace, all essential for the brand and our ongoing success.

 

If you would like to learn more on the topic of tax and repatriation; Steve, Tristan and the Select Investors team regularly present educational webinars on planning for a smooth & tax efficient move to Australia, as well as the UK. Find out more here or email Steve at steve.settle@sjpp.asia.

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AustCham Singapore

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