Im Mi-na (IM), CEO of I-Ro Style, achieved sustainable growth in her career. At first, she started her business with just one hundred thousand won, but now, she is CEO of an Internet shopping mall which earns more than 400 million per year. She says the secret of her success is in her different idea from others. During the interview, she consistently put importance on thinking and acting differently. Her idea is reflected in the name of her business, which means different path (I (異) in Chinese characters means “different,” and RO (路) means “path.”)
SMT I heard that your original major was Department of Biological Science. What made you change your course from science to fashion?
IM Since I was very young, I always wanted to work in the fashion field. However, my father, who was a middle school teacher and had a conservative characteristic, strongly opposed my decision. He wanted me to be teacher like him. When I entered university with a major which my parents wanted, I was puzzled and wandered for a long time. My major didn’t suit me well. After two years in university, I applied for a leave of absence. I couldn’t stand it anymore and I needed some time to rest. I rested for 3 years. During my leave of absence, I did part time work in a small cloth shop in Bucheon. Actually, experience from this period helped me a lot afterward. Before doing this part time work, I was a young and spoiled child who had no experience in real society. Frankly speaking, for 3 years, I earned and spent lots of money and enjoyed my youth. However, at the same time, I also realized that this society is not that kind and easy as I thought before. I felt exhausted both physically and mentally, and that time was when I decided to go back to school. After graduating from university, I was planning to enter graduate school. On my way to apply for graduate school, I saw one banner on the street, advertising a stylist education program, and I realized that I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. It was my true voice from deep inside.
SMT You started from only one hundred thousand won but now you hugely succeed. Can you explain the process and secret of your success?
IM I started my own business in 2006, with just one hundred thousand won. At that time, I did simple work which was buying clothes from Dongdaemun market, and reselling them through the Internet. At that time, I had no business education and because of that, I had to go through many failures. However, I got to know that there is a “Start-Up Assistance Project” provided by the city of Seoul, and I entered this “Start-Up Assistance Project School.” In this school, I could learn business in an academic and theoretic way, which helped me a lot. After I graduated from “Start-Up Assistance School” first, the government gave me various aid, which helped me economically. About the secret of my success, I always try to think differently from others. I put more focus on styling items, than each item one by one. Right now, I am doing an Internet shopping mall, but my final destination is becoming a personal stylist for all kinds of people. Styling someone is a very difficult job. Image making and styling is a totally different notion, and image making is simple and one dimensional visual information. However, styling demands deeper and broader understanding of the person. Styling reflects one’s ideas, lifestyle, and characteristics. It is more complex and three dimensional work than image making. One day, I want to talk comfortably with customers, and after deep
understanding, style him or her, through the telephone, smart-phone, or the Internet. For that, intuition and inspiration is a prerequisite. I am still working hard to increase these abilities.
SMT What is your advice to university students who are dreaming of starting their own business?
IM Firstly, you should not just follow the same ideas as others. People usually tend to follow one successful person’s item or business. It is very foolish because it is not all that you can see. Behind glamorous success, there are always procedures, time, hardships, capital, and effort which made success possible. You should try to see the procedures, not just the success itself. Secondly, the more experience you have, the less failure you may have. Nowadays, many youngsters grow up sheltered and they have no experience or patience. Do as much part-time work as you can. It will teach you something you couldn't learn in university. Last but not least, be humble. Do not try to do everything on your own. It is always better to be helped from others. It can be your friends, seniors, or even the government. Don’t hesitate to ask others to help.