Meet The Tribe: Jay Spencer
Meet the Tribe is an eight-part series introducing some of the 122 industry leaders across Asia who helped us select the Gen.T List 2019—a panel of experts we call The Tatler Tribe. Jay Spencer is a member of The Tribe in Thailand, representing the Social Entrepreneurship category.
Situated between the HSBC building and JP Morgan in the heart of Bangkok’s financial centre, with views over Lumphini Park, lies the Woof Pack Building.
The structure is the brainchild of Jay Spencer and his wife Jareyadee. A casualty of the financial crisis in 1997, the building had been left incomplete for more than 17 years when the couple decided to take it on and repurpose it as a creative and lifestyle hub.
The pioneering initiative is now home to branding, architecture and design firms, an arts cinema, exhibition and gallery space and five onsite restaurants and bars. Jay, who is co-founder of Woof Pack Projects, has bigger plans, too—the launch of his brand’s first F&B project, Oh Ho, on the rooftop, is imminent.
Ahead of both that and the launch of the Gen.T List 2019, we spoke to the entrepreneur about his career path, proudest achievements and the positive impact of the Gen.T platform.
My wife and I took on this project when many people said that it was crazy to do so
What are your proudest accomplishments to date?
It would have to be the Woof Pack Building. My wife and I took on this project when many people said that it was crazy to do so, that no one would come and that there were too many unknowns when it came to repurposing. Three years later, we are very proud of the building, which is now fully occupied with interesting, creative tenants. It’s a joy to come in and see the place buzzing with energy.
There are monthly exhibitions and we have featured artists including [Spanish cartoonist and illustrator] Joan Cornellà, [acclaimed Chinese photographer known for her imagery capturing the lives of China’s women] Luo Yang and [American-born, Thailand-based abstract artist] Douglas Diaz in the past year alone. We also have a company programme to raise funds for charity and awareness about social issues. Annually, Woof Pack personally raises and donates more than US$20,000 to charities focused on migration, child welfare, LGBT and animal welfare. We also provide free space for student and charitable exhibitions.
As a Tribe member, how did you find the process of nominating names for the 2019 list?
I didn’t find it too difficult. You meet the people or read about what they are doing and when you have a chance to chat and understand what drives them, their goals and aspirations, you just know.
The second risk—and one that didn't end very well—was working with a partner I didn’t know well enough.
— Jay Spencer
What does Gen.T mean to you?
Gen.T honourees are the creative future; the driven, youthful, talented agents of change.
What value does a platform like Gen.T create for young entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives in Asia?
Ideally, it will serve as a network that will forge regional ties and make the whole community more vibrant and positive.
Are there any young leaders from the Gen.T Lists that you have your eye on?
I have been following Apinara Srikarnchana, Barom Bhicharnchitr, Ploy Bhinsaeng and Ivan Pun.
What are the most useful resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain perspective on becoming a better leader?
Resources are everywhere, be it books, seminars, TED talks or anything else. The important thing is to find what appeals to you, so it doesn't become a chore.
How do you foster creative and innovative thinking as a leader?
Encouragement goes a long way; people tend to grow more confident to try new things in a positive environment.
What are the most important traits of a successful leader?
To be humble, patient and to lead by example.
Which leader do you admire and why?
Coming from Thailand, we have a deep reverence and admiration for King Rama 9th, who passed away in 2016. As a monarch, he was known for his wise counsel, his lifetime dedication to the improvement of his people’s livelihood and his sufficiency economy philosophy, which focused on responsible consumption and sustainable development.
What are the biggest risks you have ever taken professionally?
Firstly, the biggest risk was leaving a secure job after seven years and starting a business. The second risk—and one that didn't end very well—was working with a partner I didn’t know well enough.
Is there a person who has had a tremendous impact on you and your life?
My father. He has always led by example. He is forthright, true to his word and kind. One of his sayings always stuck with me: "You make your bed, you sleep in it." I have been sleeping in that bed my whole life.
If you could give one piece of advice to the 2019 Gen.T honourees what would it be?
You are always going hear plenty of advice, listen to that which you believe in.
What are your future ambitions?
To build more creative and sustainable projects that people enjoy visiting. We are looking for a new location for another repurposing project as we would like to highlight the fact that, with creativity and perseverance, these types of projects are viable.