Hi everyone, can everyone hear me okay. Okay, great, thank you for coming, it’s like
the coldest day out of the whole winter I think and luckily I guess we picked that day. So actually I am very surprised,
pleasantly surprised to see many of you here As Taeyun mentioned my name is Celina Lee I am an attorney, practicing
in New York and also the founder of a speaker
series called Give One Dreams. So we have similar events
like this where I interview people from different backgrounds with
inspirational stories, so if you’re interested come talk to me afterwards and
then I’ll add you to our mailing list. So without further ado, oh my gosh, I have
been hearing about Su Kyung for so long. So it’s actually very meaningful
for me to be sitting here and actually interviewing her, and hearing her
stories, and also sharing with our audience, so So, let’s get it started. Also save some time for us, for you
to ask some questions at the end So, as we are having a discussion
think about what you want to ask her. So first question, how did you first
become interested in the fashion industry and you know when you are faced with
a really challenging family situation, Why did you think about
starting an online shopping mall? I’ve always been interested in the fashion field and since elementary school I’ve always loved collecting fashion magazines from Japan, from Korea from all over the world, and
as an elementary school student, I was collecting and making a scrapbook out of fashion magazines on my sketchbook, so that’s where my passion sprung from. So often times, like I would sit at a
cafe downtown and just people watching, Just see how people are dressed and looking at the magazines on the tables and thats the things I liked doing
since I was in elementary school and I liked getting dressed and
dressing people, so that was my passion. I’ve always thought about
launching my own brand name and wanting to like, have people wear my
clothing after I finished my college degree. And after all that my family’s financial
situation went drastically bad and I just had to start what I wanted to
do way earlier then I thought I would and that’s where I ended up having to
open my own business at such a young age. Wow, okay that was quite a story but you had to drop out of school though. So dropping out of school especially middle school I’m sure was a very big and important
decision for you, especially in Korea where education is considered so important. So, why did you decided to drop out and
I’d be interested to know the reactions of people around you, what did your parents say? What did your teachers say? And looking back did you think
that it was a good decision? There are a lot of people who think it’s not as hard as it actually is about having your own shopping mall, just upload a
photo of clothes and people will buy, but it really isn’t It was impossible for me to continue my schooling and have my own business at the same time, given all this work that I had
to do with the shopping mall. So I had to decide to quit school. Due to the strong opposition, well not opposition but since Korean society is pretty
demanding in terms of education my whole family members, extended family members, cousins, uncles, and everyone very much opposed against me quitting school. There are a lot of family
members who were teachers, so they insisted that I shouldn’t quit
school, but I was determined to do so and I like looking back I don’t
regret it, and that was the only choice that I had at that time So it’s one thing to say, okay,
I’m going to launch a new business and I’m going to start an
online shopping mall, but I’m sure you had a lot to learn,
you had to start from nothing, so how did you prepare
to launch this business? There were, like I said there
were a lot more than what you would initially think that it would take
a lot more effort and a lot more work that goes into launching your own
business especially shopping malls. I was reading and learning a lot about
the whole opening business part from online cafes, books, and
everything, and also I worked as a part-time employee at a
shopping mall to gain more experience. Well I would pick out items
and select items from the suppliers in dongdaemun and I would come
up with a coordination of different styles and also match different colors, and
accessories and jewelries to stylize, and after that I would have a
photo shoot with models, and take photos and with the
photos I would go ahead and edit all the photos on my own and
upload them and start the sales online and after that I would communicate
with the customers to satisfy their needs. Wow that’s a lot to do for
like a seventeen year old, I didn’t know 99% of that or actually
none of that when i was your age. So I would like to hear some
of your most difficult and also some of the most interesting and
fun experiences of running this business and also what is like
to be a teenager boss? I’m sure all of your employees
are much, much older than you. Well the first and the biggest
problem that I faced, or what brought me into the situation was
my financial problem and the family and that was definitely the most
difficult problem that I had to face. Very much. There were a lot of people who were
pressuring our whole entire family to pay debt on all these like phone
bills and everything like on a daily basis. So that was very difficult. Of course being able to gain
experience that none of my peers would have as a teen boss was
definitely one of the most fun, I guess the most exciting experience
that I think that I could’ve gotten out of from running my own shopping mall. And also touching and making
my own clothes and selling them, and dressing them on my models, that was all part of a good
experience that I’ve had And also given the nature of the field,
having to prepare for the next season for example for spring collection,
you would have to prepare it like in the cold like today, and for
summer collection you would take it in the spring, so all of that
and being able to get in touch with all of the newer collection before
anyone else was definitely something that, that I was really excited about. So I know you said you don’t have
any regrets of dropping out of school, but we’ve met before and I
think your, 20 years old. So 21-year-old in Korea,
but still 20 so she is actually not even legal yet. So 19 years old. So her friend are in college now. So your friends are in college now. Do you think that you want to
at some point go back to school? I mean I think it applies to everyone that, some of you understood, but that if you are working
you want to go back to studying, and if you’re studying you want
to get out of school and work, but for me I really do want to study. Because I had to quit out of
middle school, I don’t have enough interaction with
my peers from school, and also the whole education part, so
I definitely want to go back to college. Although I was lacking my education
I was gaining a lot of different experiences hands-on experience while I was
working, and I was able to meet all these great people and great
connections so I’m hoping that, or I think that it will enable me to you know, give me good opportunities. or unexpected opportunities that
would lead into being a student. I understand it’s your first visit
to New York actually first visit to the United States so, and I know
you went to the Fashion Week last night, so how was
your visit to New York? Well, it was my first time in the States
and the first time in New York and it was my first fashion
show and I was invited to designer Lie Sang-bong
fashion show last night. Well, I also went to the 9/11 memorial
and thinking that there were a lot of successful people who were in
the building during that time I sort of came to realize that life is very
short, and every day is a privilege and I should really appreciate every day I have. Well, I went on riding water taxi
and I’ve been to different museums and New York is definitely a place where
all these passionate and successful or great people gather, so I
definitely learned a lot out my trip to New York and I’m
getting more motivation and like learning and experience out of my visit. It’s a great place. So this is my last question that I’ve
prepared for her, so feel free to ask any questions you want after this last question. So, you’ve obviously experience
a lot and achieved so much for such a young age, what
messages do you have for people your age, or others
who may be going through a tough time and also struggling
to figure out what their dreams are. There are a lot of people
who give lectures and lessons on achieving your dreams and
most of them or a lot of them say, go after your dreams,
chase after your dreams. Of course I do think that it’s
important to chase after your dreams and to have confidence, but I think
it’s more important before doing so to have self-esteem and care
about your own self before you go out to try to achieve your dreams. I feel that a lot of times Korean
people tend to underestimate their own abilities and own sort of identity. I think it’s very important that you love
yourself, and you take care of yourself instead of having, like low sense of
security and having to scold yourself on like, why am I not good at
this, and why don’t I have this and instead of that, like your
should really love yourself. I think that’s what’s more important before
you even think about having a dream and even if I am a young person now,
after all these experience that I’ve gone through that’s what I
came to realize and learn. I mean it’s also important that
you take care of other people but it’s very important that you take
care of your own self and love yourself, and I love you. Okay, we’re going to open
up the floor for questions So if anyone has anything to ask, yes. Given that Korea has a reputation
of having really tight capital markets, as a startup it’s very difficult to get that
capital to help your business startup and grow. How did you overcome those barriers to
essentially expand your business when you need it to grow especially given that
your family already had that financial hardship and you go with them, and for those
that don’t know the Korea market you know, family finances really effect your
personal credit rating when you do business. Well, there are definitely a
lot of shopping malls so a huge pool of competition and also the
capital market in Korea is very tight but where I fall under in terms of the shopping
mall categories is my peers so I think that I think that because I can empathize a lot
with the people who are my customers, I would by myself in their shoes
and just think in their terms that, what would I buy if I were the
customers, and I am selling to those customers who
are my age so I think I would have a better understanding in that direction. And of course for the price range,
I try to keep it very kind and nice, and relatively speaking with the
good quality that we provide at our shopping mall, so that’s one
thing that’s one of our strengths that we provide good material, good clothes
for a good price, so that’s the strength. I have a question about your sales strategy. I too work for a fashion company
as a merchandiser for online issue and then we often faced with every
season there is inventory left and there are products that certainly don’t move So, what’s your strategy for moving
that through like product promotion? And then especially in New York, like
Black Fridays, like every summer, like customers know, they’re very savvy, so
they sometimes wait until the sale kick in. So, is there any strategy that you use? Often times, even in my office
place, I open a flee market I would open a flee market like
a form of part and invite people that are not just my acquaintance
but also like from all over the customers and non-customers to let them, sort
expose them to our clothing line. And not only do I take it as
getting rid of leftover inventory, I take it as a chance for me to
communicate with the costumers and with potential customers
and communicate with them and sort of see what they want and
ask them what they like about it and what they don’t, and often
times there are a lot of customers who are satisfied with the quality
of the clothes that we sell, so that also helps me to gain
more trust from the customers. Okay, next question, in the way back, yes. Well due the K-wave, he was speaking on
behalf of the chinese market, I assume and Victoria Garconne, her shopping mall,
is also gaining attention as part of the Korean fashion, and he was wondering whether how she would manage the international
customers and how would the after service be in terms of the customer service. Through the Chinese shopping mall Jamie
I do have interactions with the Chinese market and because it’s me sending my items
abroad, I would take extra care in terms of going through my products and make sure
there are no returns or unsatisfied items to, to come back to Korea, so there wasn’t any
case of returns or any need for after service yet. So that’s how she kept her strategies
in terms of keeping the quality as good. And I am trying to develop,
improve more in that direction also, because I want to expand
into that and also want to have a bigger variety of selection, in terms of the
items, and that’s what I’m working on right now. Okay, anybody else have a question? The fact that my initial shopping
mall was targeted for the teenagers, which sort of limits the financial pool. So I think that because you
have to keep the price really low and try to have the best quality out of it. Well, I would want to improve even more the quality of the clothes that we sell and I think one way to do it
would be to sort of target an older customer pool instead of just
the teenagers which is definitely difficult in terms of the whole quality and price balance. And also as far as the offline store, I would if I get the chance, I want
to have my store somewhere. Well my ultimate, or the ultimate goal for
any kind of shopping mall would be to sell nice quality and fashionable clothing, and that’s what I’m going for. I hope that answers your question,
anybody else have a question? Okay, right there, we can barely see you. Is there people who weren’t satisfied with your product? And if so did you try to make the
satisfied by giving them additional items? Thank you for that question. Well there was a case where
there was a thread string hanging out a little bit out of one item. And there were people who
were cursing at me for having such non-satisfactory items, just because of that. Well from those kind of experiences
I learned that there are so many different kinds of customers, like there are
so many different types of people. So, after that I would take extra measures
to examine my clothes and my items more so than ever, to make sure that she can really satisfy everyone of every type of customers. Well in that case, in those cases I would directly call
them and send them an apology for their dissatisfaction, and also I would
send them the new product for that which I would make sure
that it’s completely satisfactory. And I would ask them to send
the original product back to us. And on top of just sending the new
product, I would send a cosmetic pouch or some sort of little gift as
an apology/gift to the customer. Okay, next question. In the back. Well given the regional aspect
where she started her shopping mall in Daegu, which is sort of outside
of the metropolitan city of Seoul, so How were you able to overcome the
regional sort of limits and disadvantage? Being far from the capital of fashion
industry and sort of maybe a little late to the frontline trend, of fashion trends, and how are
you able to overcome that with your strategies? Well given today’s technology and
online access, it wasn’t so limiting. In terms of me having my base in Daegu, that
I was able to access the fastest trend online and also because it was an online shopping
mall, it wasn’t so disadvantageous as having the base in Daegu, and also that, well given my financial problems with my family,
like there was no other way around for me to think of other options, so I just had to
go into the market, go into the business, like right on, without having to think about
the limits and the downfalls of my problems. There was a question right here, yes. I was wondering, since you started at high
school and you said your family was in debt, how were you able to afford to
start, like how much did you start with? Because when you first begin, you need
to pay your photographers, the models, even getting clothes to whole sale,
buying your products, transportation fees even the inventory programs are not for free. I was wondering how much did you start with,
and how were you able to afford it in the beginning? Well, I mean of course I worked as a
part-timer before I started my own business. So I collected some money on that,
and also because I had a wealthier life, before my father had the whole financial
problem and has his business downfall, I had the items, like cameras, and like other
items that were probably needed for the business. So, that was definitely helpful,
and also my mother’s family, mother’s side of the family knew of the
situation, so they definitely supported me financially, a little bit as well. So like advice for people in high school, college
trying to start, how much would be recommended? Well, I guess it’s different for different
people in terms of what you already have. That for me, I already had
my camera and the computer. Well, definitely there were a lot of spendings that
had to go in, but aside from the camera and computer for the employment part, I did everything
that was needed so that was that, but for modeling and for buying clothes to sell, my mother’s side of the family, my aunt support me with, $6,000 equivalent of Korean won. And also I got a little help from the bank as I
needed more stuff as I went into the business because it wasn’t everything that I thought in
the beginning, that was needed to the business. Okay, next question. I know you’re going back
tomorrow, back to Korea and from your five to six day visit in New York,
aside from what you saw and where you went, and I know you have a lot of opportunities
to speak to the young Korean generation about your own experience,
and to sort of give them lessons. What do you think would be the message
that would give them about your experience in New York aside from the tourist aspect? Well I would definitely want to
say that beyond the Korean market, beyond Korea’s competitive market there’s a whole new level of grand market in New York or in the States. And I’ve seen a lot of different
things, and different experience. I guess she needed a few minutes to think. Well she is still on trip, so she is still processing. Well I learned that the world is really
big and when I go back home and sort of aside, or beyond the sort of
daily or tedious limits that you see in Korea, like I would want
to sort of have the motivation to go beyond those small limits to
the world, and for the bigger market. Because there is a whole
new world beyond just Korea and also along with kind of going
over the limits in the domestic market I would have to say that, you
would have to put in so much effort to overcome all those limits and
open yourself up to the bigger world. Well, now you have a translator but I hope that one day I will be able
to have an interview, or have my own lecture in English without having a translator. There was a question right here. I feel kind of relating to her question before. I was wondering, because a lot
of American shopping sites are still only offer the product image, without
models, although a growing number of them are providing model images now, but
especially in Korea I feel like online shopping, fashion websites especially,
have to be modeled to sell well. I was wondering how you balance
out the cost for hiring models and and a photographer too, lots of people who
do your stuff, how do you balance that cost? Also, since you are trying to keep the clothing
quality, how do you balance those costs? Well to lower the labour costs I do basically
everything on my own aside from modeling. And she does photography, I
mean photographs too, as well. But, I love Forever 21 from the US shopping mall. Well because there are not that many
models shots of clothes in the US websites, it was hard for me to sort of
get the estimate of the realistic sort of fit of the clothes, so that’s why. So when we shoot clothes with
the models on, I would try to have them styled in a realistic sort
of situation, where I would be wearing this clothes for this kind of occasion,
so I would put the models on site like in different venues outdoor, and try
to give the customers a realistic sort of feel to what its like to wear that clothes there. And I definitely take advantage
of having friends as models. And because I am not employing,
like a model who are not my friends, they are definitely willing to help me out,
which definitely helps me lower the costs of hiring models for a photoshoot. That’s a great business strategy,
hire all your family and your friends. I assume that there would be a lot of young Koreans, who would be motivated to start their own business. So if there’s anything that you, aside
from all of these successful stories that made you who you are, where
you are now, were there any moments, or where there any times that you
went through non-successful times? And if so, given the knowledge
and experience that you have now, if you were to go back from when you
started, is there anything that you would think that you would not want to do, or
you would want to do when you go back? I mean of course there were
so many depressing moments, but I think it’s very important that you
know that there’s a difference between what kind of clothes, or what
kind of items that I love and I like, from what kind of clothes or items for other
markets, that the people or the public like. And I think that’s applicable to not only just clothing but web design and other items
and in all different categories. Well, when I started, I started off sort of
adding or putting so much of my personal taste onto selecting clothing and
designing my website, but that didn’t sell well. And I sort of compromised to
sort of having the public opinion and and sort of thinking in their perspective
to widen my own taste to sell what they would like, instead of my personal
choice, so that did the job, I think. So, an additional question would be,
how were you able to find the public taste? And how were you able to sort
of, like understand their needs after giving up your own personal taste. Well, I started off looking at a lot of
high fashion magazines and those kinds of websites where it’s not really daily
or realistic for just regular customers. And after that I sort of looked into the
different cafes, and blogs, and websites that had collections of what people
would wear on like daily basis and that’s where I got my inspiration from,
in terms of learning about public taste. Well, at first I thought of people like
models, wearing the clothing that Iike and it turned into me thinkings or
imagining regular, or normal people wearing the clothing that I liked,
and that was a big difference. Basically, I don’t know if I should say fat people, but yeah, like fat people, unlike
models, so that was helpful. And that came with a realistic and very good item, that there are a lot of people with, their own complex in upper body and lower body, arms
and legs with more than enough fatness. So one of the items that
sold really well was like tights that was just not a regular tights,
but a very tight, that just pressured pushes all your fat into shape. It’s like a slimming tights. It’s magic. Well, so after looking through all
those realistic websites and cafes where people uploaded their own taste, and
where I learned of all these public needs, I was able to actually find that there was there was a type of tights that actually
does the job and I learned that it wasn’t coming from Korea, but it was
coming from China and Japan. Well, as a result of my
research into finding this item, this particular magical tight
item, I learned that there weren’t like that many people who knew about it,
and not many of the other shopping malls knew about it, so I was one of the pioneers
to bring that into the shopping mall. And that sold a lot. So to definitely increase your revenue,
instead of sort of being in your imaginary world of having everyone be like
a model figure, sort of applying that, applying all of your items into sort of
realistic like everyday people’s figures that definitely helped me understand more
of the public needs and thats what got me. That’s great, I interested in this magical tights. I want to get one too. Like where can I get one? How are you doing with time? Do we have time for more questions? Okay, so last question, right here. Well that just makes me a fat person. So her question was, are
you wearing your own clothes? There are different variation in terms of
how deep of a pressure that a tight can have, and she’s wearing a medium level pressure. Okay, should we ask for one more question? Okay, one final question, right there. So, since you were able to earn so much
money within such short period of time, given like six months, how are
you able to manage such big amounts of money at such a young age,
that anyone would be tempted to use or spend money on cosmetics, or
any kind of personal spending, but how were you able to manage
it, were there anyone else who was helping you out with
managing your own funds. If it was me before, I would’ve bought lotion, cosmetics, clothing, anything for hair,
underwear, shoes and basically everythin. But the situation that I faced in terms of
financial problems that my family faced was way over what anyone else
could imagine at my age. And every time I make money I had
to pay off bills like on a regular basis. And because I had to support the
extended family with grandpa, grandma, mom, dad and multiple siblings, I couldn’t
be who I was before it all went downfall. And also my mom helped me a lot
in terms of managing the big numbers because I thought that I would be too
stressed out having to think about managing big numbers. And even until now, we’re still paying
off the debt that we had from earlier so even until now I don’t think I
have room to really be sort of selfish or arrogant, using my own
money for my own goods. Great, thank you everyone for coming,
I hoped that answered the last question was a nice closing question to think about
what you should do for your family too. Thank you again, everyone for
coming, if you have any questions please feel free to come up and talk to us and we hope to see you at the next
Korea Society, Give One Dreams Event. So, thank you.