Doctors and nurses are busily rushing here and there. Beds are continuously being moved about. Children can be seen with IV needles. Caregivers are suffering the pain of looking after a loved one. This is the scene at a children's hospital. Then, how do the sick kids spend their time in the hospital? You might see people sitting in small hospital rooms watching YouTube or just looking bored. To help these children patients and caregivers, eight people are putting their best effort forward. SMT met Mindle maum, a social venture, to hear their stories.
Before I ask you some questions, would you please introduce 'Mindle maum' to our readers?
I'm Son Yurin, and a student of Business Administration at the University of Seoul. I operate a social venture called Mindle maum with the dream to allow people 'to live together with their loving ones'. It was established in March, 2019. Since then, we make and sell goods made by children patients such as drawings. Most profits from selling those goods is given to the children's parents or their family members in various ways. Mindle maum is currently composed of eight members from seven different universities.
The name of your organization sounds lovely. What does 'Mindle maum (Heart of Dandelion in English)' represent?
Both myself and Vice-president Kim Seongwan deliberated over the ideas of starting this business for nearly two months. As we discussed the venture, I would write essays. One of the essays was about dandelion seeds, which inspired us with a message of hope so we selected the flower as our logo and name. It actually has three meanings. The first refers to the power of influence. Like dandelions which spread their seeds over great distances, we hoped the stories of our Mindle maum families and the sick children would spread widely. Second, the name and logo refer to life force. Dandelions can be seen all over the place. They even grow in cracks in concrete, so we hope to capture the strength of a dandelion. The last meaning relates to being single-hearted. Dandelions are often viewed as the heart of loved one far away. Hence, Mindle maum represents our desire to help sick children and their families by widening knowledge of their struggles, increasing their life force, and showing single-heartedness.
What inspired you to establish such a social venture?
I started volunteering at Seoul National University Children's Hospital in August 2018 because I didn't want to just waste away my time at university. I started volunteering without much deep thought. However, I soon realized that there were many ill children, not just in Korea but around the world. Because SNU's Children Hospital is one of the biggest hospitals in Korea, it cares for those who are seriously ill. Some children suffer from unidentifiable diseases, and others do not have treatments for their diseases. Along with doing my volunteer work, I had a desire to help the children and their parents. I didn't want to just provide a one-time cash donation or one-sided donation as big companies do. I wanted to do something in which the children themselves could directly participate. That is the main reason I established Mindle maum. Moreover, there is a lack of facilities for child palliative care in Korea. Generally, palliative care focuses on relaxing patients. It also does not treat the patients or their family members' social and psychological problems. These are important in treatments, but in the whole of Korea, there are only 4 palliative organizations for children. I wanted to alarm about the problem and let society know what they could do to help palliative care for children.
What types of activities does Mindle maum typically do?
Our main work is the selling of work created by sick children at hospitals and then to provide financial or other support to their parents or family. We have held events like job shadowing or bringing magic acts to the hospitals for children to enjoy. Nowadays, we cannot enter hospitals because of COVID-19, so we sent 'Mindle Kits' to Seoul National University Children's Hospital. The kit is filled with things the children will enjoy playing with. It also includes a letter and a coffee & waffle coupon for the children’s parents because the parents of children patients also suffer.
You referred to the selling of goods made by the children patients as the main work of Mindle maum. Could you explain about it more detailedly?
We regularly host the event 'Imagination World, Drawing Class' at Seoul National University Children's Hospital. At the event, sick children aged 5 to 12 are invited to draw and paint. Their creations, with the help of our design team who turns them into characters, are attached to various products like phone cases, keyrings, or tumblers.
What are some of your experiences at university that have helped or prepared you for this work?
I was active in a club called "Enactus" starting my second year of university. Enactus is a club that tries to resolve social problems through business. REO, which makes goods such as bags from tossed away fire suits, is one example. For a year and a half, I participated in the project of creating an adult sex education diary with Enactus. The project was formed to supplement public sex-education, which provides only superficial information. My teammates and I wrote about practical sex information that everyone should know, but no one wishes to discuss. Through the work, I realized that I could jump into social work by myself. Besides this, the experience of being scouted as head of the education bureau of the student council in 2018 also served as a channel for obtaining useful information on current projects. As head, I heard a lot of complaints from students. I organized them and passed them onto corresponding department offices, so I was responsible for a lot of paperwork. This work prepared me for interacting, contacting others, and writing documents and correspondence letters efficiently.
Please tell us about some memorable episodes from hosting the drawing class program for children at SNU Children's Hospital?
At first, I was eager to have the children create beautiful artworks, so I suggested them to draw particular pictures. For example, I would show them pictures of various flowers and asked them to choose and draw the flowers they liked. However, the children did not draw flowers. They just drew whatever they wanted. I realized that I was being greedy and demanding with my desire to have them create perfect products. Once I realized this, I allowed the children to create pieces they wanted. One day, a child, who was hospitalized, drew a puppy because she missed her puppy at home. Seeing and hearing her draw, this was truly memorable. I saw pictures of that represented their thoughts and intentions.
What do you think is the most important thing to be aware of when operating Mindle maum?
Mindle maum is both an economic and social venture, so it has two divisions: business and social work unlike other commercial enterprises. Many consumers of Mindle maum like its social mission and buy goods because they contain the venture's value. Since Mindle maum is a social venture that delivers its value through the products, I think it is really important for us to build trust in our name among consumers. Another important thing to be aware of when running a venture is to ensure proper compensation and respect for workers. Looking back on the difficulties I experienced during school, I remember it is because of not being properly compensated for the amount of work I did and the heavy responsibilities and roles I had. At Mindle maum, I always want to provide staff the rewards and respect worthy of their responsibilities. Sometimes it's really difficult, but I'm always trying my best to find ways to do so.
When has been the happiest and most rewarding moment for you at Mindle maum?
I once had the opportunity to award a diploma to children who had participated in our painting class. I made it look like a real school diploma. The parents of those children were so happy. In fact, when the child was attending regular school, a child had received plenty of awards, but after being admitted to the hospital, they did not have such a chance. I think this is the reason the child’s parents were so happy. Seeing them happy, I knew I had had a small but important effect on the world. Another incident I recall is the encountering of Mindle maum's goods on the subway. I was amazed and proud of seeing someone possessing a Mindle maum product outside of the hospital setting. A third impressive memory is that one of Mindle maum staffs' father carrying the business card of Mindle maum in his smartphone case. I also have heard that a mother of another staff carefully framed the organization business card. Whenever I hear or recall these episodes, I feel am I doing the right thing in life.
Have you encountered any difficulties? If so, how have you overcome them?
Nothing has been easy because this is my first attempt at a business venture. As I said earlier, it is important to build relationships of trust with consumers. However, trust is not automatic. It is something that must be earned. Trust comes from showing sufficient sincerity over time, so it was hard at first. As a university student, I didn't have much experience in this field, so it was hard to earn others' trust. I often would hear, "Is Mindle maum a volunteer group?" Over time, I build up trust and sales started to increase little by little. More and more we could help children and their patients. Another challenge was the change of my personality. To be honest, I liked hanging out with people and meeting friends in the past, but it soon became harder and harder for me to stay in close contact with others. The best way to relieve stress for me was to meet friends. However, because I became mentally uncomfortable meeting others, I was not able to release my stress. I started spending more time alone daydreaming or lying meaningless. However, I had to meet a lot of people being a CEO. I felt it burdensome. About one month ago, we hired a 9th team member of Mindle maum, a cat called Ming Ming. Since Ming Ming's adoption, I've started to loosen up. These days, whenever I hug Ming Ming or sleep with him, I feel much more comfortable.
What are your plans for Mindle maum?
Last year, I put much effort into business area rather than trust area in order to build a business foundation. From this year, I will put more effort into building deeper trust. Also, we will continue with sending Mindle kit to the children's hospital as we have done. After this, we would like to expand the delivery of kits to all across the nation, so we are now working on product creation. This year Mindle maum plans to do various works with Seoul National University Children's Hospital and expand those to other children's hospitals across the country.
Please leave a final message for Sookmyungians.
It may sound strange, but I hope you do what you want to do without listening to others. It is okay to be selfish. I don't mean you should hurt others or take advantage of them for your own interests. I mean be selfish by doing what is good for yourself. I hope Sookmyungians follow a path created by themselves, not by others. To be selfish, you need to know what you like and do well, what you dislike and what you cannot do. Many people hesitate to do what they want because of other people's eyes and expectations even though they are the only ones who really know themselves. No one knows you better than yourself. Therefore, I would like to tell Sookmyungians not to be swayed by others, but to do what they want to do by considering the environment and conditions to which they belong and the resources they can utilize.
Thank you for your interview. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Mindle maum came into being thanks to the people that gathered both their wisdom and their hearts. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me make Mindle maum a reality. Also, I would really like to thank our team members; Semi Kim and Nara Lee from Management Support Team, Seunghyun Lee and Inhwa Choi from Design Team, and Yeji Seo and Jihae Choi from Marketing Team. I appreciate all the effort you do working with me in this business.
Son Yurin (Caesar Son)
- The CEO of Mindle Maum
- Department of Business Administration '17 at University of Seoul
- The head of the education bureau of the 54th Student Council (2018)
- Volunteer Corp at SNUH 'Dream Seeds' (2018~)
Kim Lee Hyunmin / Editor-in-Chief
Kwak Lee Shinyoung / Woman Section Editor