My Experience Entering the Startup World
April 2014, I was in a period of transition. I moved back home, applied and got accepted to graduate school, and decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur (I figured I could do both). For the last 24 years of my life I was a student, and now I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
I didn't know any entrepreneurs, I wasn't exactly familiar with terms like "startup," "pitch decks," "VC's," "co-working space," and the nearest startup community was in Boston, which took 1.5 hours to get to with my local commuter rail.
I was still very optimistic, despite the little resources I had. I transformed my room into a mini office, I rampaged through my mom's basement and found a nice wooden desk, a comfy chair, and white boards; I found an extra computer monitor so I can have two screens when I worked; I reached out to a professor and managed to convince him and his business partner to join my startup; I found a programmer, graphic designer, and friend to help with social media marketing; took some online coding courses, and started reading more about the US startup ecosystem.
As a "BeautyTech" entrepreneur, I came to Korea for 2 reasons, to write about the startup ecosystem, and also to learn about K-Beauty. Lately I've been focusing a lot on the "Tech" part of my startup, so I carved out some time to explore cosmetic shops, beauty retailers, and talk to people in the cosmetic industry.
It wasn't hard to find cosmetic shops and retailers, as they are everywhere, such as Olive Young, Innisfree, Skin Food, Nature Republic, and many other cosmetic shops that promise youthful, healthy, and beautiful skin, hair, and nails.
The beauty business is very competitive and after some time exploring many shops begin to look the same. So, I asked some people I met if they could recommend any natural and holistic shops I could see. One entrepreneur I met, told me about this DIY beauty shop/coffee store that just opened up.
Agarbatti DIY Cosmetic Shop (couldn't find the website), where customers can make their own cosmetics, fresh, as in choose the ingredients, scents, oil, specifically for their personal needs. And while they wait, can buy coffee/tea.
I know what it's like to make hair and select products from my kitchen, but going to the shop was quite an experience! In fact, I made a video so you can see for yourself how amazing this place really is!
Overall, it's quite amazing to see cosmetic shops invest so much in the branding, packaging, interior design of the stores, advertising, and the salespeople. I cannot emphasise how impressed I was with the sales people, as too many shops I've been to, the salespeople were not very familiar with the products and only interested in sales.
As people are starting to **read labels** it's very important that brands educate the staff and not just "sell a product." In Korea it's different, despite the plethora of cosmetic shops, lined back to back, on every corner and street, the beauty business is thriving!
My advice for beauty bloggers and beauty entrepreneurs, come to Korea to see and learn why K-Beauty is a multi-billion dollar global business.
As always, thanks for reading :)
Event: Startup Weekend Women Seoul
Host: Techstars Startup Programs
Organizers: Songyi Lee, Jay Kim, Chris Geogriev, Marta Allina
Guest Speaker: Jinju Lee of Girls Robot
Seyoung Seo, Amazon web services, Stacy Kim, WeWork Korea, Joy Choi (Radish),
Mijeong Park (NAVERLabs), Elysia Lee (WooZoo), JiHong Kim (Design Spectrum),
JungEun Yoo (Mabo / Gpause)
Lalitha Wemel, Techstars Regional Manager for Asia Pacific
Nina Jeon,Professor of Design Kyemyung University
Charlene Wang, Manager of Samsung NEXT
SeokWon Yang, Serial entrepreneur and startup advisor
Event metrics: 42 attendees, 21 ideas pitched, 10 teams
Date: March 22- March 25, 2018
How I Learned about Startup Weekend Women Seoul
I learned about Startup Weekend Seoul Women on eventbrite.com, as I was preparing to travel from Bangkok to Seoul for the next 4 weeks. In Bangkok, I usually find events on Facebook, few events on meetup.com, and a few (pricey) events on eventbrite.com
Like shopping for a good discount, I "shop" for good events to attend every time I travel :)
Once I found the event details I reached out to the Startup Weekend Women Seoul team introducing myself as a blogger (I'm learning more everyday how people really love and respect bloggers), who attended and wrote about Startup Weekend Bangkok Women last year, and was very interested in attending Startup Weekend Women Seoul during my time "exploring" Seoul startup ecosystem.
About 1 day later, I received a enthusiastic email from one of the organisers and a 50% discount code (the event costs 50USD-70USD), and details of the Startup Weekend Women Seoul. I also encouraged my friend whose teaching English, but also interested in startups to the event, and off we went!
Event: Fireside chat with Taekyung (TK) Kim
Founder of Amazing Brewery Company
Host: Startup Grind Seoul
Sponsors: ASAN NANUM Foundation,
Samsung, SparkLabs, Mango Plate
Venue: Maru 180
Date: Thursday, March 22, 2018
How I Learned about the Event
Startup Grind is a global startup community that connects, educates, and inspires entrepreneurs around the world. Powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, Startup Grind chapters can be found in many key cities such as, Bangkok and Tel Aviv (I've been to both) in which chapters organise monthly events hosting an entrepreneur sharing her or his story.
Startup Grind is great for entrepreneurs that frequently travel and curious to connect with people in the local startup ecosystem. And as I was planning my travels to Seoul, I found Startup Grind Seoul and booked my ticket to their latest event that perfectly fit into my schedule.
The event cost 10,500KWN (about 10USD) and guests were provided with food (pizza, cookies, snacks), and beer (free) from the Amazing Brewing Company, whose CEO, Taekyung (TK) Kim, was guest speaker for the fireside chat.
Startup Grind Seoul
What I like about Startup Grind events (or the startup ecosystem in general) is how the primary language is English (there was Korean translation real-time as one of the volunteers was typing the discussion in Korean that projected on screen for all to see). Of course being a native English speaker helps navigate different ecosystems very easy, but when I went to this event I was glad to see a mixed crowd of Koreans and foreigners, of different age groups from young professionals, mid-career professionals, young and middle aged entrepreneurs, and a good balance of men and women.