Entrepreneurs in Korea, we’ve all heard this age-old saying…

If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life 

But for many of us, the thought of turning our passions into profits is nothing but a distant dream. And, let’s be honest, this can’t be truer for many millennials in Korea for whom crazy working hours and jam-packed commutes are the norm. For those who lost that loving feeling with your corporate job or who have been sadly let go, maybe it’s time to start flirting with the idea of turning your passion into profit and being one of the thousands of entrepreneurs in Korea.

To help you get started, we’ve created a step-by-step guide that’ll get you out of your boring job in no time or start your new journey as an entrepreneur.

Find What You Really Love

It’s all well and good wanting to do something that you love every day for the rest of your life…. but what if you don’t know what that is yet? Maybe the only things you’re really passionate about are watching Netflix and sleeping until midday on a Sunday. This is something we all can relate to during COVID.

We understand.

It can be difficult to find your passions but, if you dig deeper, you’ll find that even the most mundane things can be turned into profitable business ideas.

So, let’s start with the Netflix analogy and explore these questions.

  • What do you love about lounging around and watching TV?
  • Do you think that other people love that, too?
  • Is there something that would make your experience better?
  • How about an app that’ll deliver curated snacks to your home every Friday night, just in time for your big binge?
  • Or a pimped-out DVD bang filled with gourmet treats, comfy couches, and cozy sweaters? (So you can still feel social while doing what you love!)
  • Or how about creating a blog that covers your favorite Korean drama series on Netflix?

With a few simple questions and a bit of digging, you can easily find some commercial potential in your guilty pleasure.

And after you find it, you have your business idea.

Find your Customer

Korean EntrepreneursWhat’s the prime thing that a business needs to survive? Money. And to get money, you’re going to need customers.

These days, there’s so much competition on the market from creative micro-businesses who’re developing amazing products that are utterly perfect for their customers.

You might think that the secret to their success is something complicated or extraordinary but, actually, it’s easier than you probably think:

They know exactly who they’re selling to and exactly what their customer wants.

And, you can do the same thing, too.

First, think hard about your customers. What type of person are they? How much do they want to spend? Where do they shop? Why do they need your product?

In today’s business environment, you shouldn’t be afraid to niche down. Actually, the more niche, the better. People want something that feels like it was 100% curated for them. So, maybe you want to open a dessert cafe for marathon-running vegans who love chocolate? In Seoul alone, you probably have thousands of potential customers. (I mean who doesn’t love chocolate?!) And, best of all, you probably have very few- if any- direct competitors.

This is a Win-win.

While you are at it, why not create a blog or YouTube channel for your niche? This will not only help you grow your customer reach but also can lead you to become a key influencer in your field.

Have Fun

If you have worked for a Korean company, fun is not the first thing you think of. Therefore the business you start should be fun, do YOU! Make sure you set a culture of fun led by passionate entrepreneurs in Korea and everything will grow from that passion.  If people are happy within your company, there is a higher chance your company will thrive.

Once you establish yourself as a fun company, you will have a wide range of entrepreneurs looking to join your company. For added benefits look to experiment with some company perks such as increased vacation days per year, free food and drinks (this includes beer and maybe soju), and summer/winter company trips.  It is important to turn off work mode and get to know each other in a fun and relaxing setting.  This will allow your employees to feel they can share some innovative and fresh ideas for the company.

While this is a big no-no in typical Korean companies, you need to embrace employees’ willingness to join in on the creative process.

Be Unique and Have a Voice

In a sea of voices, how do you make yours heard? By being unique. No one remembers Plain Jane or Beige Dave. The same thing goes for businesses so don’t be afraid to express yourself and shout about all your quirks to the world.

First, consider what makes your business different from your competitors. That’s your unique selling point and is a vital survival tool for startups in Korea.

This unique selling point is the thing that you really want to shout out to the world about. Incorporate it into your web copy, your social media strategy, and make sure that it’s the first thing people remember about your product.

Make a Timeline

Probably the most important step of all is creating a timeline to get your business off the ground. So many business ideas lie dormant in potential entrepreneurs’ minds for far too long. Not getting started is a surefire way to fail- don’t fall into that trap. Make a clear plan with achievable goals and a realistic timeline.

Sample 3-month Timeline for Startups in Korea

3-Months Before Startup

Now that you have an idea, you should do some research. Try to talk to business professionals about setting up a business in Korea. There is a lot of paperwork based on the type of business you want to open. Think about where you want to register your business. Gangnam? Look for coworking spaces in Korea that fit your style and ones that have a network in your industry. Or better yet, look for accelerator programs that offer free office space. Finally, begin writing a business plan that outlines the goals of your company. This will help you organize a budget that you can show to potential investors in Korea.

2-Months Before Startup

You should start to apply for any licenses/permits you might need. In Korea, you will need a general business license from the city where your business is located. At this point, you should open a business bank account in Korea and apply for business loans offered by the Korean government for startups or foreign entrepreneurs in Korea. This is why it will be crucial to have a partner or advisor that is fluent in Korean that can help you through the process.

1-Month Before Startup

At this point, it is a good idea to come up with a marketing plan. You can start to promote your business now before your official launch via social media. Therefore create your website and social media accounts. Look to reach out to local partners in your industry so your company starts right away the first day you move into your office.

This is a simple general timeline, however, I recommend you come up with the best startup timeline for your startup. Every startup is different, but the key is to have a plan that will keep you on the right track.

The Verdict

With careful planning, turning a passion project into a profitable business is well within anyone’s reach. Starting a business in Korea requires effort and patience, especially if you are not fluent in the Korean language. Remember that success will not happen overnight. Just don’t overlook the most important aspect, passion. As long as you have the passion, the easier it will be to get your project off the ground and running. When you truly believe in something, your passion will spark other people’s interest and motivate them to help you achieve your goals. So, let this be the year that you say goodbye to your corporate job, long hours, and crazy commute, and say hello to a life of doing what you love.

Entrepreneurs in Korea, you can do this!