Reinvention – AG’s 5th Anniversary

November 2014, by So-Young Kang

This year marks Awaken Group’s 5th anniversary. As we celebrate this milestone and reflect on our journey, we also wanted to share our story.


This is our story…

September, 2008. Worst global economic crisis the world has every seen signified by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

November, 2008, So-Young quit her stable job at McKinsey to pursue a crazy dream and a calling to design a new kind of business that was ‘human’ and people-centered. A dream to create a business that really helped companies and organizations transform and be better versions of themselves in an authentic way. Imagine, if businesses can be more than just about making money; but also, about making meaning?

Awaken Group launched in December, 2009 in Los Angeles. In this journey to create an innovative enterprise, we got a lot of help from advisors and friends who helped us shape and nuance who we were and what we offered. Instead of going after clients and doing business development, we spent many months defining our essence, our core values, and who we wanted to be, before we started doing anything.

The vision that emerged over time for us was and is…

To design transformative experiences from the inside out to bring joy and beauty to the world.

That is why we call ourselves a transformation design firm.

Our first year was a tough year. We made a whopping USD$1,500 in revenues in 2009 and barely stayed afloat in 2010 as we laid the foundations of the company.

We opened our second office in Singapore in December 2010 with a small team. It was a year of investment and while it’s sometimes easy to focus on outward successes, we feel that it is important to celebrate our first year of many mistakes, learning and growth. Setting foundations requires tilling the ground and removing weeds before you can even plant any seeds. People didn’t quite get what we were doing as we talked about integrating strategy, leadership and innovation. Multi-disciplinary? Design? Strategy? Coaching, too? What exactly do you do? It was tough. But we plugged away and kept focusing on doing what we love to do.

In spite of the growing pains, we started donating our time and resources back into the community since 2010. We have supported many NGOs and causes including Xealot, The Young Professionals’ Group, Beautiful People, Open University of West Africa, Malachi Foundation, LNKM, and the City of Iloilo in the Philippines. We believe all businesses exist to make a positive difference in the world.

2011 is when our seeds start to grow as we starting building a presence in Singapore especially within the government and grew our team. We extended our expertise and services through global partnerships with our “Creative Collaborative” from multiple industries across architecture, interior design, film, art and design. We based our partnerships on common values and vision.


In 2012, we started global expansion and extended our annual research on leadership and innovation to a broader Global Leadership and Innovation Project (GLIP) and published our first book, Inside Out, as part of that effort. The first of our Inside Out series focused on selected leaders and innovators in Singapore.

Since 2013, we added a few new Studios across Branding, Art Consulting and F&B through partnerships. We continue to innovate and re-invent how we work with new collaborations to stay on the cutting edge of business, design, and leadership.


Today we have a staff strength of over 20 people globally and we have served over 30 clients in Singapore, the US, Korea, Switzerland, the Middle East, and Japan. We have the privilege of being asked to speak at conferences around the world like TEDx, Universities, Government agencies and make regular appearances on business-related TV shows like Channel News Asia. In 2014, our CEO, So-Young Kang, received the honor of being selected to be a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

If we, in business, are ready to take on challenges and face them head-on, and have the courage to reinvent ourselves to come up with creative, innovative and fun solutions, we feel that the world would be a more joyful, beautiful place.

This year we turn 5. It has been a journey. We are happy to celebrate with you – both the ups and the downs. We look forward to the continued journey of constant re-invention into a more beautiful and joyful tomorrow. Thank you for being part of our story.

View photos from our 5th anniversary party on our Facebook page!