“It all started from my mom. One day, I was at home watching TV when a housewife cuisine researcher came on the screen. She was earning money, as a professional, and was even on TV. Then my mother said, ‘If I knew how to do it like her, I would had raised you kids a little bit easier…’”
South Korea has been home to OECD’s thickest glass ceiling since 2000, with the latest gender wage gap being 36 percent. Not only that, according to the Global Gender Gap Report, the country was last in line for economic participation and equality. In reality, mothers who quit their jobs after childbirth or those who are new to the workforce find it difficult to pursue a professional career after their families get settled.
Park Sun-ha, CEO of Wimple — short for “Women’s Playground” — decided to help housewives grab a chance to build their own careers through things they do best.
“Low-income housewives often resort to simple labor to earn a living, as waitresses or assistant cooks. These jobs are low-paid and difficult to make a career out of,” Park said. “We contemplated how we could turn our mothers’ everyday talents into a profession.”
Wimple’s work is specifically divided into segments to better nurture aspiring chefs. The company, firstly, encourages amateur cooks to develop their own recipes that are appropriate for different given situations. The continuous education includes not only theoretical studies but also field experiences through managing pop-up restaurants. A recipe consulting service supports those hoping to start their own food service industry.
As part of the manufacturing process, there are social dining projects where the profit is shared by the company and the participants. Wimple also connects participants to other catering businesses recruiting new employees.
Among Park’s various successful business items, her most memorable one is a pop-up restaurant she supervised as part of the Local Recipe Creator project in 2016. The project aimed to teach amateur cooks the practical skills needed in managing restaurants, through providing a platform where participants can share existing stores to operate their own business. During the break time when the original restaurants did not operate, Wimple sold their own food.
“By using the lunchtime when the restaurant did not operate, we sold food based on our own recipe to the local workers,” Park said. “It was a win-win because the owner of the restaurant profited from the rent we paid, and by the advertising effect through our projects. Those who took the Wimple class got to practice working as a start-up, and manage the sales earned by the restaurant. Encouraged by the success of our initial venture, Wimple had a chance to look forward to similar new projects involving operating restaurants by store sharing.”
Behind these successful projects, Park surely had faced numerous obstacles. When overcoming those challenges, Park counted self-esteem as the key in pushing forth her social enterprise successfully.
“Social enterprise has to provide specific directions for people who work together,” Park commented. “To provide directions, the president of a company must be confident in her actions and beliefs, while sharing social values and tasks with everyone in the company.”
Until now, Wimple has mainly focused on projects to support women become financially independent. Moving forward, it plans to solidify its own stores, and their newest store, Bananadang, is paving the way. The company hopes to enhance the durability of their business and widen the opportunity for more participants to benefit from it.
“People often tell us ‘you’re doing a good thing!’” Park said. “Yet, what’s missing from this comment is that it’s not something ‘I’ can do, but rather, indicates that it’s merely an eyeful to look at.”
“Being morally right doesn’t necessarily open customers’ wallets. Our goal is to change our business to something so practical and successful that ‘I’ myself would want to participate. We’re still trying, but we believe that is the key to our sustainability that can bring meaningful changes to the financial problems women face.”