Koreans Women’s clothing stores 4.7 billion from the successful sales in New York-CEO, Kay Lee
2011년 05월 17일

Would you please say "Hello" to south korean young entrepreneurs & OnSuccess? and what's your feelings about korea?

Hello from New York!! Don’t know what to say first…. I am not a native American and but also as well as not a good Korean communicator and writing is bad too because English is not my first language and I can’t type in Korean either… but I will do my best.

What is your background story before running a company? Any career path? Major?

I got a fashion design BFA in Sung Kyun Kwan University in Seoul AAS in Parson School of Design. After finished parsons school I got a job which company did sponsor to me get a green card I was very lucky to have that job as an assistant designer and got a green card. After I had been worked Indian manufacturer as a fashion designer for 5yrs in mass marketing.

Please tell readers a bit about history of your company? What’s the concept of your company that you are trying to show to Visitors? And why did you start your own business?

I think my case will be similar to any job community, like I am a foreigner designer as high salary income employee in fashion industry wasn’t easy to survive and keep that job among the other American young designers, it was so much stress… always designers have big concerns for their job security…I started think to have my own business. All what I learned and have experienced was in fashion and I love fashion. Every thing about the fashion and have passion and have a soul in making beauty.

If you want to have your own business YOU HAVE TO HAVE PASSION AND YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOME KNOWLOGE ABOUT YOUR FUTURE BUSINESS . BUT THE MOST VALUABLE THING IS YOUR PASSION AND YOUR UNIQUE SOUL. I started my first flag shop 1999 in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Young hipsters and artist lives in Williamsburg. I started in that area because rent was affordable to start and it is not too saturated than Manhattan. It is hard to get the designers clothes because I have store in Brooklyn .

I said myself I will get the new store in 3yrs and that dream come true and I opened 2nd store year 2002 in heart of west village near the marc Jacob’s store in bleeker but I choose the a little off the bleeker Greenwich ave, because again rent was affordable than  bleeker street. All the media and magazine hit that  west village location, it was great. And a lot of celebrity have been shopped in west village store such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Julian Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow, super model Helena Christine, Christine tarlington, Kate Winslet, Liv Tyler much more….my store became so popular and then so many designer wants to be in my store. after I started online business tested in 2006. I wasn’t believed in online business by that time. Year 2008 opened in Madison ave store.

it is the most popular private schools area and called Carnegie hill. Richest people live around park ave, Madison and 5th ave. that is the smallest store but the most expensive rent. it is really challenging business there. They spent a lot of money it is chaos what they spending…after big recessions, my Brooklyn store is going down the business so much and hade to close that location and relocated in TriBeCa in year 2009. I realized that every retail store getting online store and that would be a future business. So I decided revamp  and relaunched our online business  Jan in 2009. It is surprisingly doing good I think people know our stores and they expecting to see our clothes in our online and what is happening at OTTE. They all want to check it out. I want to open the store as many I can but as a I am myself it is hard to expend more than this.

and one thing that I am curious is that how did you contact all the designers into your website? At first, there might be difficult to persuade designers to offer their clothes to your company.

Not sure how Korean multi brand boutiques buy or contact to the designer…. I carry all multi brand and depend on where I have stores designers can give me their line or not. They have very strict about distributions. Before you contact to the designers you must to have store concept. Whether you are going to contemporary or designers…. I mentioned previous that business is all about your soul , I am a normal women can’t afford Prada, Balenciaga, Balman, Marni, Rick Owens etc…

I want to have fewer prices but look a bit like those designers but not right off from the fashion magazine either, not super trendy… this is my customer and that is me as well. At the first time when I have one store in Williamsburg Brooklyn, it was really hard to get the brand that I like because designers never heard that my store name they willing to hesitate sell to my shop … but be aggressive and make a your own press book to advertise to the designer and magazine editors to get brand that you like into the store. and market research in your comparative store or your idol store. I don’t that meant that copy stores. Think about why those stores are doing well and check the brand….

and you bought the clothes directly from designers at retail price or made contract with every designers about the offering price? What's your business system? and let readers know the strength and weakness of your business system? and what kind of business system is good for online store?

I buy wholesale price directly from designers for my retail store and online store. In US, online business history is only about 6-8yrs. When shop.com hit in online store a lot of e-commerce(online stores) came out. As my case I have 3retail stores in NYC, this is awakening business challenging to expend online business and it is good for PR for retail stores too for out side of US and outside of NY. Because more people will shop on line as well so it is important to have online business. But still especially for women’s cloths, people want to try on their body before their purchase… online business strength is if we have good popular item the chance we can sell tremendous hits compare to retail store. But weakness is online average return is 25-35% from the sales and credit card fraud happens often too because it is off line sales. I think having a retail store and online combined is good system for inventory control.

In korea, nowadays there are many young people who try to open the online store selling fashion clothes. In your experience, what are the tips to run the successful online stores?

You have to have unique items. If online customer can get anywhere they will not go to your online store.

and we, koreans need to sell market globally, so that we can widen the market to global.

That is good questions…. But not sure what is good answer for this… I have demanded designers brand such as 3.1 by Phillip lim, Alexander wang, Vanessa Bruno… because of this when they googled key word we have in search engine optimization and I think also water mouth too….

after you launch your website, you might feel nervous cause the sales didn't boost up immediately. how could you control yourself? And how did you endure the times before you begin to feel that you are succeeding!

It will never feel that I am succeeding! Retail business is always ups and downs….and it is very seasonal and sensitive in weather. Depend on weather also as well stock market. I used get nervous but now I get used after I have learned these retail patterns or cycle.

what are the common mistakes that people made when they start their business? why do you think like that? and how can we prevent that?

This is very important that you have to have your own strong finance at least for one year, for me I have to have two jobs have business and kept the designer job. All my income goes into this business. After a year I have to work in my business 7days a week for almost 8month to know all my customers and what people want….

When you first launch your brand. It must be hard to PR your company and generate revenue. How long did it take you to become profitable? What has been your most effective marketing strategy? and why do you think like that?

This is a little related above answer. I think about year and half I start to have getting profit in my business. As a small business you have to do everything and you can do everything. Your business, your shop is your face. I did PR myself. I made a press kit and mailed them out or drop myself in PR company, and you know always the location location location….  picking the store location is really important. I think I was lucky. Anywhere I opened all magazine editors came to see me too.

What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?  And What is it like to be an entrepreneur?  It may look fascinating. but there must be so many obstacles to overcome, What's the real life as an entrepreneur?

I am still single, I think I marry to my business OTTE. OTTE is my husband and my child

I have to work almost 7days a week non-stop….

Who is one person that most changed your life and why?

It may kind of silly answer….my mom is…

She and I are not getting along and I always want to stay away from her. Don’t get me wrong I love my mom… we just have to live separated…. My mom sent me to go the parsons. Since after that my life is start to changing and get strong and find myself, building up my dream in NY

What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

I mentioned to previous, I used get so much stress  and work crazy hours. But these are for all someone else not for my business or myself.

I am working crazy after I have my business but this is for my business and I feel accomplishment and happy. REAL HAPPY!!

And What advise do you give to people who have a conflict mind whether to get a job or challenge for starting their own business?

I advise you get a job at least 2-3yrs that may be related in your future business. It is also good experienced that you had worked in company to be a good CEO. When your company gets big, then it is not only you, you have people work for you and those peoples are making your money and grow your business. So become a good CEO you have to in other shoes means be an employee before you become an employer.

And would you please say the things that you want to say to Korean readers especially to online store entrepreneurs, which I haven't thought of as questions?

I am still leaning even though I have my own business for 10yrs.

I think the most hard shell things are control the people and hiring people. When I have 1-2 stores didn’t thought about these issues. Now I have 3stores and plus online store… so I have many people work for me. Between employer and employee’s relationship is very important.


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