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This 17-year-old Korean CEO made $1 million in gross sales this 12 months. Now he is onto his subsequent enterprise

At simply 17 years previous, Sukone Hong has realized his entrepreneurial dream by constructing not one however two companies.

The primary, a South Korean vogue model of which he’s CEO, has revamped $1 million in gross sales this 12 months and received the popularity of Harvard College. The second, a braille smartwatch for the visually impaired, has superior orders within the 1000’s.

That is one method to get again on the bullies.

“It was laborious for me to get engaged with faculty. I type of acquired bullied. I needed to discover one thing that would change my life,” Hong informed CNBC Make It.

Constructing a model

Teen Hong started his entrepreneurial journey 4 years in the past, when he was in simply eighth grade.

Struggling to slot in with classmates at his faculty in Seoul, he was wanting to discover a distraction, taking to reselling branded garments on South Korean search engine Naver.

However with simply $150 in his pocket, which swiftly “flew away,” he realized he needed to change tack.

On Monday morning, there was like 15 orders. Fifty at lunch. Eighty by night. That week, I bought 300 shirts.

Sukone Hong

founder and CEO, Olaga Studios

Hong wanted a novel promoting level. So, utilizing a $5,000 mortgage from his grandparents and the help of a printing enterprise, he set to work creating his personal clothes web site providing unisex informal put on with easy, playful designs.

With that, Olaga Studios — Korean for “going up” — was born.

“Nothing occurred for like every week,” mentioned Hong. “Then, on Monday morning, there was like 15 orders. Fifty at lunch. Eighty by night. That week, I bought 300 shirts.”

Studying to provide again

The three-year-old model since has turn into a regional success, amassing $1.2 million in annual gross sales throughout six Asian markets and rating No. 1 in Model Share’s t-shirt class.

That has enabled Hong to make use of a crew of 12 to assist run the positioning. Nevertheless it has additionally allowed him to pay his dad and mom again for the varsity charges on the American worldwide faculty in Seoul to which he relocated.

And it was there that he gained inspiration for his newest enterprise, which he says is his true calling.

I believed enterprise was nearly making a lot of cash. However after transferring faculty, I had some good training.

Sukone Hong

founder and CEO, Olaga Studios

“Earlier than, I believed enterprise was nearly making a lot of cash,” mentioned Hong. “However after transferring faculty I had some good training.”

“My instructor mentioned that my expertise might be used to create a enterprise to assist others,” he added.

With Paradox Computer systems, the corporate behind his braille smartwatch, he goals to just do that.

Discovering investor assist

Braille smartwatches — which allow the visually impaired to obtain real-time data, corresponding to texts and messages from their telephone — have been available on the market for a number of years.

However the exorbitant price of such merchandise — sometimes upwards of $300 — could make them inaccessible for a lot of disabled folks.

After engaged on a faculty challenge about disabilities, Hong realized the inequality and determined there have to be one other, extra inexpensive choice.

Paradox Computer systems’ braille smartwatches inform time and date by vibration haptic for the visually impaired.

Paradox Computer systems

“I discovered that that is so unfair,” he mentioned. “And, on the identical time, it is a good alternative for enterprise.”

So, he got down to perceive the market, talking to visually impaired folks to get to know their wants, and engineers to work out options.

Then, with a ebook of contacts from his present vogue enterprise, Hong rallied one to again his imaginative and prescient with a $300,000 funding for a 30% stake.

I realized that although I haven’t got a background in know-how, I might rent all these folks.

Sukone Hong

founder and CEO, Olaga Studios

“My background as a CEO helped me,” he mentioned. “I realized that although I haven’t got a background in know-how, I might rent all these folks.”

Six months on, Paradox Computer systems’ $80 braille smartwatch has bought within the a whole bunch, with a 3,000 pre-order from China presently within the works. However amid his success, Hong mentioned he stays dedicated to maintaining together with his research.

“When the enterprise was rising quickly, I thought of dropping out of college. However I met numerous CEOs they usually all informed me that I ought to go to school,” he mentioned.

And who is aware of, as a visitor speaker and mentor at Harvard and Stanford, it might simply be well worth the effort.

Do not miss: 32-year-old founders of multimillion-dollar app share their No. 1 tip for beginning a enterprise

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