Six students at Ewha gathered and founded a vegan bakery called “Planet-V130.” The team operated the bakery on the first floor of Sinchon Boxsquare from April 1 to 29. The six members were from different majors including Food Science and Engineering, Environmental Science and Engineering, and Division of Design. They were recruited by Hwang Da-som, a senior in Sports Science, through the school community and came together in January.
To dig into the story behind Planet-V130’s operation, Ewha Voice interviewed Hwang, the team’s representative. Hwang had been a skater for 14 years, and the experiences she accumulated during her life as an athlete evolved into a startup idea.
“I tried vegan foods for the first time when I had to perform my best as an athlete,” she said. “During that time, I had lactose intolerance and a weak digestive system. So I restrained myself from consuming bread in between matches althoug I enjoyed such foods. I could not eat desserts in particular because I had also been controlling my weight severely. Since then, vegan bread became an alternative.”
She explained that not only could she beat the feeling of guilt by thinking that vegan bread was relatively lower in calories than non-vegan ones, but also she could digest vegan bread without any difficulty. However, at the same time, she realized that vegan bread fell behind in taste - that there were limited varieties and were not popular.
Hoping to lower the entry barrier of vegan bakeries, she started her very own, Planet-V130, after retiring as a skater.
Planet-V130 sells a variety of vegan cakes, cookies, and drinks. To introduce a few, “All Day Great” is a fragrant and refreshing cake made with Earl Grey sheet, raw grapefruit, and lemon cream while “Pl-V” is composed of carrot cake sheets, handmade sweet pumpkin mousse, and coffee cream with peanut crunch. For vegan cookies, Hwang picked out “Chocoholic,” a vegan cookie consisting of Valona chocolate and walnuts, and “Choco Stone,” protein cookies, as the two most popular ones. Among the drinks, “The secret of the sun and the moon,” the vegan milk tea, had the highest demand.
As the term “vegan” denotes, Planet-V130’s vegan goods do not contain any animal ingredients such as butter, milk, and eggs. Therefore, when purchasing their baking materials, Planet-V130 carefully checks the ingredients’ labeling of each product, even for products that people wrongly assume to be vegan, such as white sugar.
“When I decided to start a business, it dawned upon me that the initial capital for a university student to open a store from scratch would be too much,” Hwang said. “To solve this problem, our team decided to participate in the ‘Kiwoom Restaurants’ project.”
Organized by the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation, Kiwoom Restaurants is a project incubating restaurant start-ups by providing the youth with workplaces and supporting their operation for a set period of time.
According to Hwang, by participating in the project, Planet-V130 received the opportunity to rent a kitchen and space to sell on the first floor ofSinchon Boxsquare for a month. Not only were they provided a certain amount of promotional and material cost, but they also received valuable feedback from the advisory committee of Kiwoom Restaurants on their products’ ingredients and visuals. Overall, starting a business became easier with the reduction in set-up cost and help from the outside.
Planet-V130 had carried out their menu development for about two months. At first, the team planned to launch vegan pound cakes as their main products. But after receiving feedback, the pound cakes developed into the unique layer cakes and cookies they have today. In the process of developing their products, they had gone through difficult situations to the extent that they had to modify the recipe two days before the first opening.Prior to the opening, it took the team’s designers and marketers two months to create the theme of outer space.
When asked about the significance of the brand name “Planet-V130,” Hwang replied that the name shows their team’s unique worldview.
“Planet-V refers to a vegan planet created by the six of us and the 130 that follows denotes the day we met, January 30, as in the day we first discovered our planet,” Hwang added. “Our team members have become the guards of the vegan planet and thus call each other by the name of theirEnglish pseudonym. For example, in our working space, my team members call me Lucia Ziggy, not Hwang Da-som. Simultaneously, we call Planet- V130’s guests “Travelers” as they are traveling our planet.”
During Planet-V130’s one-month operation, Ewha students expressed their positive reviews on Everytime, the school’s online community, complimenting the product’s taste, ingredients, and healthiness. Hwang explained that many students revisited their store to purchase other goods saying that the ones they had previously tried were delicious. The team also felt satisfied when receiving praises about their props such as astronaut figures and flags tailored to the concept of space travel.
Even though the operation of Planet-V130 ended under the Kiwoom Restaurants project on April 29, the team is planning on officially enteringSinchon Boxsquare after applying for it in May. Upon official opening, the team is devising to strengthen their existing desserts and develop new ones. Their goal is to enter e-commerce, make their very own delivery system, and create a market for Planet-V130.
“We hope our growth as well as people’s healthy vegan lifestyle become infinite, just like the universe,” Hwang concluded.