Chinatown girl runs $100 million company

Chinatown girl runs $100 million company

SINGAPORE - In 2008, Madam Catherine Foo flew in a Santa Claus from Finland to spread some Christmas cheer in Singapore.

The portly fellow visited sick children and distributed presents in the cancer wards of the National University as well as KK Women's and Children's hospitals.

"I just wanted to spread some joy and make some dreams come true. When I was young, I had no gifts and presents at all, nothing," says the executive director of Singapore furniture brand Scanteak.

Madam Foo, 57, had a rough start in life. Given away as a baby, she grew up poor and went through many trials and tribulations before she and her husband - Scanteak's founder Lim Pok Chin - built their company into a furniture chain with over 100 retail outlets worldwide. Its turnover last year was more than $100 million.

Comfortably ensconced on a sofa in the company's head office in Sungei Kadut, she says in Cantonese: "I came from nothing. I don't even know who my real parents are."

She was only a few days old when she was given away to a maid who worked for wealthy families.

"My adoptive mother was engaged to be married but her fiance died. I think she adopted me so that she would not be lonely," she says.

As her mother, Madam Chong Ah Nui, now 87, had to work, the young Catherine was entrusted to the care of four majie, one of whom became her godmother.

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