When she was a student at Ewha, she was just like any other Korean students. During her high school years, Kim heard the same thing most students hear: enrolling in a good university will take care of the rest of your life. She just went along with what her parents expected her to be. Even when deciding which university to enter under which major, she simply applied to Ewha according to her test scores.
When Kim became a university student, the allowance her parents gave her did not suffice her needs. Typically, university students in Korea earn extra money through private tutoring; however, she knew teaching was not her specialty. Hence, Kim started to find a way she could earn money while doing something she enjoyed and was good at. Finally, she realized that she was actually good at commerce.
At that time, online shopping was new and just starting to be publicized in Korea. Kim jumped into the online market. At first, Kim’s parents worried, since there were prevalent problems regarding the trade of fake products in online shopping malls. They were concerned that people might think she was selling these fake commodities.
During her university years, she earned money by selling clothes. When her graduation drew closer, the time came for Kim to seriously think about her future career, and she started contemplating what kind of life she should have after graduation. She was wondering if she could truly be happy by following the values set by others. She started to think about what she really liked and how she would like to live her life. At that time, her parents were strongly against Kim running her own business as a long-term career.
“My only options at that time was either getting married or studying abroad,” Kim said. “Studying abroad was a kind of compromise with my parents.”
Kim decided to study fashion in London, where she did internships at luxurious department stores and select shops.
“Through those internships, I wanted to find other possibilities related to fashion,” Kim said. “In Korea, my experiences selling clothes online was not regarded as a good career move, but in London, many people thought it was good experience. I was also lucky to have had many opportunities to work for renowned companies in the fashion field.”
While working in London, Kim realized that unlike most Koreans – who tend to buy clothes from popular and famous brands – many westerners do not consider the brand much when they buy their clothes. If the clothes suited their style and looked good on them, they just bought those clothes. Kim saw the possibility that clothes sold in Dongdaemun might also sell well in London or any other western cities. That’s how she started her very own fashion mall, Storets.
Even though she saw potential, it was not easy when she first started Storets. It was especially hard for her to build the infrastructure for her shopping mall. When Kim started Storets, not many Korean online shops were targeting global markets; so many homepage building companies were not experienced in build a global website. Also, many of her customers used various Internet browsers like Firefox, Chrome and so on, whereas Koreans use mostly Internet Explorer. This caused compatibility issues with regards to the payment system on various browsers.
In addition, sometimes Kim had a hard time finding the right items she wanted. In those cases, Storets had to design their own clothes.
Despite such problems, Kim found that the fashion trends in the world tend to move together.
“These days most countries around the world share the same trends,” Kim said. “I think Koreans pick-up on the latest trends quite quickly. And sometimes in fashion, styling can be more important. This way, we can find our target customers, so it’s not too hard to sell Korean clothing abroad.”
Kim hopes for Storets to sell more of their own designer brand clothes and for many fashion people to love Storets more.
“I don’t consider Storets as a mere shopping mall,” Kim said. “I want to grow Storets as a global fashion brand rather than just selling clothes that others made.”