For many Ewha students, three young men selling Korean rice balls on a white Styrofoam stand and shouting hearty morning greetings outside the Ewha Womans University subway station would be a familiar scene. Targeting those who had not eaten breakfast with a sign encouraging people to smile and have a good day, the three soon became famous among Ewha students for their scrumptious rice balls and positive attitude. Eventually, they came to sell up to 500 rice balls in one morning. Three friends, Choi Seong-ho, Choi Jong-eun and Keum Tae-kyung, moved to Seoul right after graduating college last year with a dream of starting a business on their own. “Rather than simply selling substitute food for breakfast, we wanted to bring one more smile to Ewha students’ faces in the morning and help them feel brighter,” said Choi Seong-ho, the CEO of Happy Venture, which is the name the three gave themselves. Keum said they had originally planned to develop a real estate smartphone application for students. Then a delicious rice ball store in Cheongju led the three men to decide on the rice ball as their sales item. Through experimenting to mimic the taste, they ended up inventing their own rice balls of distinct flavor and healthy ingredients.
The trio then landed at Ewha while searching for the least costly place to stay in Seoul, and thus began their roadside business in May. Amidst the continuous efforts to provide healthy food and happiness, the members encountered inevitable adversities as beginning venture businessmen. They first had to face their parents’ disapproval, deriving from concerns about the difficulties of venture companies and a lack of free time. Many others considered their idea to have sprung from wanting to avoid the current employment crisis and the “real society.” “Contrary to my parent’s worries, I did not consider time consumption a problem because I knew the same issue would exist even if I were employed in a major company,” Choi Seong-ho said. Once their business got rolling, a nearby merchant’s complaint to the city office lost the three men the cart they used to transport their rice balls. They were also forbidden from selling rice balls near the station, which is why they are no longer seen outside the station. Despite their hardships, Keum encouraged the three to keep going. The trio now agrees that the unfortunate event led to a better outcome, since they were stimulated into quickly finding a store, a project that otherwise might not have been accomplished until now. In addition, the owner of a nearby cafe who sympathized with the three allowed them to continue their sales outside the cafe in the morning, where they can now be spotted. “All three of us had been through various jobs and had different interests, but we wanted to do something good for people, which kept us going in spite of it all,” Choi Jong-eun said. In June, the Happy Venture team was chosen as one of the subjects of Seoul’s project to support young adults’ venture business. “The extra money and learning sessions are helpful, but they neither are nor should be the main engine that drives a newfound business,” Choi Seong-ho said. “It should rather be effort, stability, and passion.” He also advises that anybody who wishes to start a venture business with a breakthrough item should instead try to start with a simpler item within one’s capabilities and build experience. He said overseeing a team project is just like starting a business, only with different topics, and one who does well in the former is more likely to succeed in the latter. For now, the trio wishes to mature and develop along with Ewha students, and become a mark of growth as the years go. Their ultimate goal is to transfer their business to the United States in three years. “Today, hamburgers and coke are more than simply food; instead, they represent the American culture,” Choi Jong-eun said. “Likewise, Korean snacks like rice balls and sik-hye (rice punch) have as much potential to represent a facet of Korean culture and become globalized in a country as diverse as the United States.”