At simply 17 years previous, Sukone Hong has realized his entrepreneurial dream by constructing not one however two companies.
The primary, a South Korean style model of which he’s CEO, has remodeled $1 million in gross sales this yr and received the popularity of Harvard College. The second, a braille smartwatch for the visually impaired, has superior orders within the 1000’s.
That is one method to get again on the bullies.
“It was arduous for me to get engaged with faculty. I sort of bought bullied. I needed to discover one thing that would change my life,” Hong advised CNBC Make It.
Constructing a model
Teen Hong started his entrepreneurial journey 4 years in the past, when he was in simply eighth grade.
Struggling to slot in with classmates at his faculty in Seoul, he was desirous to discover a distraction, taking to reselling branded garments on South Korean search engine Naver.
However with simply $150 in his pocket, which swiftly “flew away,” he realized he needed to change tact.
Hong wanted a novel promoting level. So, utilizing a $5,000 mortgage from his grandparents and the help of a printing enterprise, he set to work creating his personal clothes web site providing unisex informal put on with easy, playful designs.
With that, Olaga Studios — Korean for “going up” — was born.
“Nothing occurred for like every week,” stated Hong. “Then, on Monday morning, there was like 15 orders. Fifty at lunch. Eighty by night. That week, I bought 300 shirts.”
Studying to offer again
The three-year-old model since has develop into a regional success, amassing $1.2 million in annual gross sales throughout six Asian markets and rating No. 1 in Model Share’s t-shirt class.
That has enabled Hong to make use of a staff of 12 to assist run the positioning. However it has additionally allowed him to pay his mother and father again for the varsity charges on the American worldwide faculty in Seoul to which he relocated.
And it was there that he gained inspiration for his newest enterprise, which he says is his true calling.
“Earlier than, I assumed enterprise was nearly making a number of cash,” stated Hong. “However after shifting faculty I had some good training.”
“My trainer stated that my expertise may very well be used to create a enterprise to assist others,” he added.
With Paradox Computer systems, the corporate behind his braille smartwatch, he goals to just do that.
Discovering investor assist
Braille smartwatches — which allow the visually impaired to obtain real-time data, similar to texts and messages from their telephone — have been in the marketplace for a number of years.
However the exorbitant price of such merchandise — sometimes upwards of $300 — could make them inaccessible for a lot of disabled folks.
After engaged on a faculty challenge about disabilities, Hong realized the inequality and determined there should be one other, extra reasonably priced possibility.
“I discovered that that is so unfair,” he stated. “And, on the identical time, it is a good alternative for enterprise.”
So, he got down to perceive the market, chatting with visually impaired folks to get to know their wants, and engineers to work out options.
Then, with a e book of contacts from his current style enterprise, Hong rallied one to again his imaginative and prescient with a $300,000 funding for a 30% stake.
“My background as a CEO helped me,” he stated. “I realized that despite the fact that I haven’t got a background in know-how, I might rent all these folks.”
Six months on, Paradox Computer systems’ $80 braille smartwatch has bought within the a whole lot, with a 3,000 pre-order from China at the moment within the works. However amid his success, Hong stated he stays dedicated to maintaining together with his research.
“When the enterprise was rising quickly, I considered dropping out of college. However I met plenty of CEOs they usually all advised me that I ought to go to school,” he stated.
And who is aware of, as a visitor speaker and mentor at Harvard and Stanford, it could simply be well worth the effort.
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