A 20–year-old CEO. We have heard about it through the media but we are not familiar with it. We are busy with assignments and we haven’t thought enough about what we will do after graduation. To university students, a CEO seems to be related to a distant future, but there is a sophomore who founded his own business at the age of 23. He is the president of Solar-Science. He graduated from Gachon University. In general, CEOs in their twenties are usually related to the clothing business or the computer application business. However, President Seonggeun Son’s business is related to technology. Solar-Science is an eco-friendly firm which first developed streetlamps using solar power and after that developed and sold solar cells and LED lighting. The following is a summary of his career.
2013 - Selected as 20 Role Models’ best CEO who wants to be emulated in Seoul Venture Incubator
2012 - Received Ministry of Knowledge Economy Award
- Received Youth Entrepreneurs - Award 2012 organized by Maeil Business Newspaper & Korea Youth Entrepreneurships.
2008 - Solar-Science CEO
He set up the company in the campus Business Incubation Center. He succeeded in the development of the LED solar streetlamp. At first the company had a starting capital of 5,000,000 won and in 5 years grew into a company with 30 employees and 10 billion won annual sales. I wanted to know how he did it. Let’s hear about his story!
1. I want to know how your school life was.
I earned a living to help my mother in my junior and senior high school days. I had no interest in studying but I was a playful and naughty boy. The only thing that I took interest in was to create programs with computer. Not only was I interested in this field and but I wanted to go to college, so in 6 months I won eleven computer-related certifications. Since I liked to disassemble equipment and assemble it, I chose to major in electronic engineering.
2. What made you start your own business? What’s the cause of your determination?
We were very poor during my childhood so I did lots of part time jobs like newspaper delivery, milk delivery, delivery boy for a Chinese restaurant, and so on. One day it was snowy and very cold. I was carrying empty dishes and leftovers, and I slid while driving a motorcycle. The bucket containing the dishes and leftovers of black bean sauce noodles fell and blocked the street. I had to get out of the way quickly. I panicked and put the leftovers into the bucket with my bare hands. That day, I wept in sorrow and I thought “Really, I will make an effort and succeed.” This incident played a crucial role in my rising to my present position.
3. You selected solar powered products as a business item. What is the reason?
I had a mind to start a business but I didn’t have any idea what I would do. So I began to read books, news, and articles. One of the articles was memorable. When I saw the phrases, “carbon emissions have increased” and, ”rising temperature due to global warming”, I decided to start an eco-friendly business. There were several environmentally friendly businesses already, so I drew business maps and finally selected the item that could use solar power. So, I started a solar power business.
4. You did an internship at SME (small and medium sized enterprises) and a conglomerate during a leave of absence. What did you get through those experiences?
I thought I should learn from an existing company about how to start up a business. I worked as an intern at an SME for about 6 months and at a big business for 1 year after being discharged from military service. I could understand SME and conglomerate systems through this experience. I would like to stress that for young students it is essential to have a social experience. Having real life experiences enables us to solve difficulties. In particular, when it comes to doing business, one mistake can cause a business to collapse. So I think some social experience is very helpful. I learned what it means to run a company through my social life. I watched the atmosphere and welfare of the corporation and made a note of them, which helped me to know about the company's fund management and organizational management.
5. You faced a lot of difficulties, including a chain bankruptcy. What did you think and how did you overcome these difficulties? What is the secret of growing your business?
I think a positive mind is my forte. When I confronted adversity, I wasn’t discouraged. Rather, I considered it as a jumping board that could lead me to a higher place. Thinking, ‘How can I jump?’, I learned how to get out of difficulty. The company started as a wholesale and retail business at first, but now I’ve come to my present state due to continuous research and creative thinking.
6. You have participated in school events and donated a lot to your university. Do you have an extraordinary affection for this university?
Yes, I have an extraordinary affection. It is said that your life changes depending on whom you meet or whom you belong to. I am the person whose life was greatly changed by Gachon University. I started a business at the Saerom building at Gachon University. This was a special space that made me what I am. I could experience new things while attending university. I worked very hard, but I achieved what I have in my university campus. So I feel a great attachment to my school. I have a mind to help juniors. That’s why I’ve participated in school events and donated.
7. Please give some advice to students who want to set up a business but do not dare to challenge.
No money, no method; I only had hope to establish a business. That was me. I knew nothing but I had a strong desire to start. Also, I never thought, “What if I get it wrong?” I was so earnest. I thought, “Let's do it because I have nothing and no money.” Fear discourages people from challenging themselves even though they want to start a business. They worry, ‘’If it goes amiss, what shall I do?” You should find out how to overcome. It’s important to find a specific solution and use it. Failure is not to be feared. There is a reason why it is called the mother of success. I hope that you experience as many challenges as possible, while you are still young.
When I heard of alumnus Seonggeun Song, who has had a brilliant career, I thought that he could succeed without any difficulty in a good environment. On the contrary, he had several ups and downs. In spite of a poor situation like having no money and no knowledge, he achieved what he has and who he is, merely by his earnestness. Students these days mustn’t be afraid of failure and must be sure to finish what they determine to do. Even before trying, I used to think ‘If it doesn’t work, what can I do?’ Through this interview, I reflected on my negative attitude. I was impressed by his enthusiasm that led him to enter companies and experience the social life and to learn how to start a business. I was surprised at his upbeat personality and his positive mind that regards hardship as a jumping board. Lastly, he said challenge itself is beautiful and valuable. He advised us to try challenges when we are at a young age. I want students of Gachon University to be people who discover their specific way to run and challenge, rather than worrying about failure.
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