‘Employed at a major company’, ‘Jackpot business’. These words are what we want and what we think make a successful life. In fact, it's difficult to enter small business companies, and even harder with major ones. In contrast, starting a business is possible regardless of age and qualifications as long as you have an idea. If you don’t have a fund, you can start an online shopping mall with little money. Also, the country and the university provide a lot of support for business start-ups. Recently, a lot of young men who are running successful businesses have been appearing on the media and the number of young people who wish to start a company is increasing. However, you will never be successful without brilliant and unique ideas and fascinating items. Many people think that discovering something that has never been out before, like a 'selfie stick', will lead to success. Well, here is one man who succeeded in business with 'rice cake', a traditional food of Korea. What made this rice cake such a hit? Let’s find out.
1. Why did you decide to start this business?< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
After finishing my military duties, I worked at my uncle's rice cake factory. After working there for 5~6 years, my younger brother and I learned that working under others was not something we could handle, and also my uncle's business strategies were different from ours. We decided to 'do what we want', so we started our own business. It wasn't like we had nothing prepared. Starting a business with no proper preparation and unique items are likely to fail. But I saved enough money while working at my uncle's factory and built the basic foundation for starting a business. I think this long preparation time has allowed me to succeed in my business.
2. Is there a special meaning in your brand name, ‘Jaiso’? I'm curious how you got the name.
First, 'Jaiso' comes from a Gyeongsang-do dialect, 'jasiobsoseo', 'deusiobsoseo'. When I first named it, people were opposed because of its similarity to another large company, 'Daiso'. They said it is not a suitable name for a rice cake company. They recommended 'Jongno tteok shop' and 'Traditional tteok shop'. But I had a different idea. I always wanted to expand my business abroad, so came up with that name taking international business into consideration. The pronunciation of 'Jaiso' is easy. In addition, 'tteok' is hard to translate into English and it seems difficult for foreigners to pronounce correctly. That is why we named it 'Jaiso'.
3. When you first started the business online, how did you promote it?
I didn't intend on opening an online shop. But a minimum of 160 million won was needed to open up a rice cake shop. It was beyond my budget. So I began running a 35 square-meter store in the basement with an online shop. But our online shopping mall had no customers. On top of that, people didn't even know that my rice cake shop existed because it was located in the basement. After three months passed with no sales, I thought of a new plan. I researched on why, when, and who buys rice cakes. I found out that the main target for my item was mothers. So then I started to run my business aiming at mothers. First, I redesigned our online shopping mall to attract mothers. Next, since they are careful about the food materials they buy for their babies, I started to make rice cakes using nature ingredients. Also, as I went around to mothers’ cafés and promoted our products emphasizing our natural materials. Furthermore, I considered the service that mothers would prefer and provided a 24-hour hotline and morning delivery services. The sales increased rapidly after promoting this way. Within three months, I got a call from the TV show, ‘Complaints Zero’. They told me the store was selected for its good service. After the first appearance on TV with ‘Complaints Zero’, I received many other broadcasting offers. After that, our store became even more popular and that is why I am here today.
4. Rice cakes are the most delicious when warm. Don’t they get cold during delivery? What's your method of sending parcels to customers?
The expiration date for rice cakes is usually one day. So at first, I had no choice but to deliver only within Seoul. However, more and more customers outside Seoul want to taste our rice cakes. So I thought deeply about distributing rice cakes with a short expiration date. The method I found was ‘freezing’ them. Freezing rice cakes will extend their expiry date, like frozen dumplings. In this way I was able to send them to people who lived far away. Although I can’t deliver freshly-made rice cakes, I can now send them to a larger group of people. Microwaving or steaming the cakes in a pot will bring out the warm delicious taste again.
5. Even with popular rice cake cafés and online services, a lot of people still seem to dislike rice cakes. Do you have a plan to get close to people?
Unlike bread, modern people tend to dislike rice cakes merely because they are a traditional food. However, the biggest reason why rice cakes are not as popular as bread is because there seems to be no change in them. Bread has a long history, starting as plain bread and baguettes. Over time bread has changed and turned into different kinds of bread, but rice cakes are still the same. Actually, the rice cake shops I went to 13 years ago still serves the same kind and design as they did back then. So I focused a lot of effort on developing rice cakes to meet the needs of modern people. I pay attention to the design, kind and taste but also, the names as well. Rice cake shops usually have the same names, such as bar rice cake and glutinous rice cake. They may sound too old and out of style. So I thought, "Every bakery serves different breads and breads have diverse modern sounding names. But why are rice cakes still the same? What is the reason?'. Thus I started to name each type of rice cake with a different name. I have studied and tried to bring rice cakes into the modern world so that many people can enjoy them, and I will keep going at it.
6. I was absolutely amazed to see the design, packing, and taste of your rice cakes; as well as the desserts sold at the café. Where do you get your inspiration from? Also, how did you think of making these creative desserts?
First of all, I got this idea through market research. I went around many countries to doing my market research, but I learned the most in Japan. I visit a shopping center in Osaka and Toyko twice every year to learn about their packing styles and designs. Then I get inspired from some hot new items. For example, if ‘honey butter chip’ is a trend these days, I try to make ‘honey butter tteok’’, rice cakes merged with honey. Our deserts are distinct from other rice cakes because they are made with consideration for overseas expansion. I have come up with different tastes for different markets, such as head-dried bonito tteok for the Japanese market and hamburger tteok for the European and American markets.
"Don’t be afraid of failing" is the motto that every successful CEO has in common. It would be nice to succeed on the first try but learning from failure and accepting the mistakes with a positive mind is an important driving force for us to go forward. Here is Hosung, Park’s message to us; "I don’t have any experience in doing business. So, why not start it right away and learn before it is too late!’ I want to send this message to all the young men who are concerned about starting their own business. Experience isn't something that grows with age, but something that matures through failures and frustration. I wish all young men who want to start up a business could get as much experience as possible and fulfill their dreams.