The UOS Times
OpinionPeople
Making ways for customers, Young Entrepreneur Sang-min Lee
Hye-joon Suh  |  hjsuh789@uos.ac.kr
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[136호] 승인 2015.11.19  
트위터 페이스북 네이버 구글
Sang-min Lee, a graduate of the University of Seoul, and CEO and founder of The Hive, an electric tool corporation, is having a bustling time these days as he develops new products. He has just begun a new project to promote a mini electric screwdriver, which was Lee’s first invention, through home shopping sales. Despite the busy days, Lee was happy to tell UOS students the story of how he established his company and other significant events in his life. Let's listen to him as he offers his tips and heart-felt advice to young people who have hopes of building their own startup companies someday.

Sang-min Lee, a graduate of the University of Seoul, and CEO and founder of The Hive, an electric tool corporation, is having a bustling time these days as he develops new products. He has just begun a new project to promote a mini electric screwdriver, which was Lee’s first invention, through home shopping sales. Despite the busy days, Lee was happy to tell UOS students the story of how he established his company and other significant events in his life. Let's listen to him as he offers his tips and heart-felt advice to young people who have hopes of building their own startup companies someday.

Lee founded The Hive in 2012 by introducing his earliest invention, “the mini electric screwdriver,” a semiautomatic machine tool, to a worldwide market. At 9.5cm, it is the world’s smallest electric screwdriver, and it features an amazing USB charging system that has never been implemented before on similar devices. Though his work being displayed as a mere prototype at the beginning, buyers from the United States saw its potential in an exhibition. He then entered the Small and Medium-Sized Business Corporation (SBC) youth entrepreneurship academy and received support to strengthen his company. After founding The Hive, he made his first active transaction with a client in Japan, and that marked his company's launch into the global market.

The main vision of The Hive is making the customer’s life better through a customer-centered management system. Lee said, “I am constantly upholding the value of the corporation with the phrase, ‘A good idea for development does not come from a book.’ We develop products in the shoes of customers, constantly deliberating over their needs. That is why we can invent products that fit our customers.”

Life in the SBC youth entrepreneurship academy gave him great memories and provided support. The institution exists for supporting young entrepreneurs who are in the beginning stage through systematic guidance and assistance such as financial aid, education, networking, working spaces, and coaching. He said, “The government’s support offers a great advantage in helping young entrepreneurs build trust among customers. The great merit, which ironically could also be a disadvantage, of young entrepreneurs is that they are not old. Since they are young, it is really difficult to gain the trust of buyers, but the backing of the government can change buyers’ attitudes.” The academy was just one of many activities that he undertook to gain support for his business, but it became a major asset in the end. However, he also added, “Operating a real company is different from establishing it. This point of conversion to an operating company is a vulnerable time, so many companies fail at this stage. If the government helps them, not by directly saving them, but by building bridges between startups and private corporations, especially listed companies, better and healthier enterprises will be the result.”

Attending the UOS as a student in the Department of Architecture also provided strength for him to go forward. He picked up skills such as computer aided design (CAD) and 2D graphics/3D programs which were really helpful to him later as he began designing products and promoting the company. His academic background also helped him become a multiplayer in planning, marketing, and developing, allowing him to create an image as a “well-prepared company.” He also attributes this image to the prompt, friendly service he provides. This was his only strategy to survive in the global market, where Japan’s outstanding technology and China’s low-price strategy dominate, but he wound up with many successes and achievements.

“Are you enjoying your work since your success as a young entrepreneur?” One would expect the obvious answer to this question to be, “yes,” but it was not. “These are actually very tough, demanding times. I imagined life of leisure by now, but I was wrong. Time goes by, but I still feel as if I am walking on thin ice when it comes to running the enterprise.” There are also some difficulties finding time with his family. Frequent business trips abroad and late nights at work make it hard to spend ordinary time with his family, and he says his greatest wish is to become a well-balanced breadwinner. However, there are also joyful moments when he feels a sense of achievement. In one recent event, he was on a business trip when a middle-aged woman called him. He expected it to be a support question, but instead she told him, “No, this is not an inquiry. I just want to say I really appreciate this product. Thank you.” He now calls this the best memory of his job.

It was delightful to learn from his expertise, but above all, his modesty defines his personality. “It is all just part of the process, and there is a long way to go before success.” Then he answered some questions to give advice to UOS students. “Stop searching, and just do it! You are only in your twenties, and you can try anything you want. Getting into major companies or normal ones, being government officials or making your own firms are just means, not the ends of your lives. Be honest with yourself, and think about what kind of life you want to live. Do you want to be a millionaire, or perhaps just live with dignity and honor, or just have a relaxing, happy life? You can make your own means to reach your goals!”

Tips - for future entrepreneurs

Q Is there any advice for becoming more competitive?
A Studying English is really recommended!

Q Would you give us some tips on making a business plan?
A First, students should make sure their proposals absorb the people who will read them. A successful proposal will include clear sources of objective data and well-organized, clear language. When you are making a plan for foreign markets, you should know clearly who the readers are and define your motives. It is helpful to decide on a main field to focus on according to the purpose of your plan and to prepare some parts that will grab a reader’s curiosity.

Q Please say something to students who are interested in startups.
A There so many reasons to discourage students from undertaking startups because there are so many people I have seen who have cracked up! I always compare startups to driving. Fine automobiles do not make you drive well, and driving well also does not guarantee zero accidents. I recommend this job only to those who really long for it with all their heart, not doing it as a task allocated to oneself in a passive attitude or unfounded responsibility. I also suggest that you venture into a startup later, after accumulating a variety of experience when you are young.

Hye-joon Suh
hjsuh789@uos.ac.kr

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