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Succeeding in a niche market             

After identifying a niche in the property sector, Edward McKenna and Karen Choi created a unique business that helps property investors become established and grow throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

EMKC has two main client groups – occupiers and investors. It uses the Advice, Design and Develop approach to add value to clients’ properties and portfolios.

Karen is a registered architect and Edward a property economist and qualified valuer. Their combined skills fill a market niche in the industrial property sector and offer unparalleled experience and expertise. In addition, EMKC uses external consultants and contractors as needed.

Clients are either occupiers or property investors, with most in the industrial sector. Karen and Edward offer expert holistic solutions. 

Among other things, their services include helping international clients entering the Australian and Asia Pacific market, sourcing land for new or pre-lease development, partnering with land owners to develop their estates and refurbishing ageing facilities to suit today’s requirements.

Owner Occupiers may need help sourcing land for a new facility that they will purchase and occupy. “With our market knowledge, agency connections, design and feasibility skills, we can compile a holistic solution,” Karen says.

EMKC helps existing property owners upgrade or refurbish their facility to suit their business and operational needs, using architectural design to create cost effective solutions. EMKC works with property owners to maximise the value of their assets.

Karen says EMKC is uniquely positioned in the property sector, with few businesses offering such tailored solutions in a traditionally conservative market.

EMKC’s philosophy is based around generating results for their clients and Edward explains this is why “we are generally remunerated based on the results we generate for our clients”.


While Karen and Edward knew their business had good potential, they felt a mentor could help bridge the significant gap between being an employee and a business owner.

“There are a lot of business skills that need to be acquired to nurture a successful business,” Karen says. “It’s very helpful to learn from someone who has done it before has done very well.”

Karen heard about SBMS through a friend who had used it. She was matched with mentor Ilona Way, who offers a wide range of skills in marketing, analysis, coaching, communication, financial projections and leadership.

Ilona’s sales background means she knows how to effectively present to all management and staff levels, as well as to customers. She also helps with financial analysis, including budgets, cash flow, profit and loss.

SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business.  It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it. 

Karen had 10 sessions over a year under the SBMS core program. Edward attended several and mentoring is continuing.


Ilona provided guidance on marketing, communication and operational elements. Among other things they covered:

  • Identifying key marketing elements such as:
    • Brand and message
    • Research target market - who are they, profile, motivators, optimal communication method and message
    • What is being sold - features and benefits to identify what customers are really buying
    • Business positioning
    • Public relations
  • Marketing, including website, collateral, social media and even the voicemail message
  • Financials, including personal and business cash flow projection, managing non-paying clients, syndication
  • Operations, including quote, submission and contract systems, key performance indicators, project management, virtual assistants, tenants and operating manuals
  • Management, including identifying and addressing stakeholder needs and managing the establishment of their office
  • Review and finalising payment schedules.


Ilona says Karen has since gained confidence, launched her business, secured a number of clients and generated more exposure for the business.

“She has a clearer picture of where the business will head, how to reach customers and how to communicate effectively,” Ilona says. “Her confidence has improved and comfort zones have been challenged.”


Karen says Ilona’s mentoring significantly improved her management skills in areas such as business income and documenting charged hours. “At times it’s been stressful, and our mentor taught us ways to be efficient and flexible,” she says.

Ilona also guided Karen in relation to marketing and how it was not about her and Edward, but how they could help clients. Consistent branding was a crucial part of this.  “We have updated the website to reflect this and our clients have given us very good feedback,” Karen says. “It’s easy for them to understand how we can help and has increased our sales.”


Karen and Ilona set goals after each session that helped motivate Karen to act and strive for the best solutions. “It’s important to focus on the big picture and work towards it, instead of working hard on daily tasks and losing focus on the business,” Karen says.

Seeing Ilona has been an important part of EMKC being able to successfully manage its growth over the past twelve months. “The business has been growing strongly - we would have double the revenues compared to last year,” Karen says. “Without Ilona’s help, EMKC would not be running as smoothly as it is now.”

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