Do Won Chang is the famous face behind Forever 21, who much earlier immigrated to the United States from South Korea, in 1981. Before he founded Forever 21, he worked three jobs simultaneously, as a gas station clerk, a janitor and a coffee shop employee. That period lasted for three years before he founded the company and opened its first clothing store, in 1984.
This family business grew quickly by taking advantage of the benefits of “fast fashion.” Forever 21 is now multi-national and has 480 locations across the world. It has also managed to bring in $3 billion per year. And the next generation has been taken into the company, as Chang has brought his two daughters on board.
Here are the 5 success lessons from Do Won Chang – “Self-made Billionaire” for entrepreneurs,
1. Success takes time
‘Making it big’ in the retail business is especially difficult if you’re an immigrant. With the possibility of factors affecting your business like language barrier and culture difference, you may have a limited clientele.
Chang and his wife were patient enough and before long, they were able to gain loyal customers outside the American Korean population.
In the words of Do Won Chang, “You can’t go into business thinking that success will come to you in just one or two years.”
2. Big things start small
Do Won Chang was born from a low income family in a small district in Seoul. With little prospects and no indication of a better life, at 21, Do Won Chang and his wife decided to move to the US and seek more opportunities.
The couple arrived in the US with nothing. Armed only with a high school diploma from a foreign country, they had to work three jobs to make ends meet.
3. Always be one step ahead of your competitors
The husband and wife team did not let their limited academic background stop them from closely analyzing their competitors. The Changs understood that for their business to succeed, they had to standout from other retail stores.
First, they noticed that other retail shops sold too expensive garments and they saw this as an opportunity. Forever 21 remade high-end clothes into quality versions but at a much affordable price. People noticed this and soon the company gained a solid following of customers.
4. Get to know your target population
The fact that Jin Sook and Do Won Chang moved to the US at 21 may have influenced their business name but the thought behind the number is what’s more important.
One of the secrets to their success is a clear vision of who their target customers are. This is one of the most important things that most entrepreneurs forget about. Walking a thousand miles in their customer’s shoes.
5. Be persistent
Success for the Changs didn’t come without struggles. From the very beginning, they encountered a lot of hardships and even when they were already established, bigger problems came in.
Forever 21 has repeatedly been bombarded with copyright issues and lawsuits but the company has surpassed them all. An economic downturn also occurred as the company was still on the process of expansion and although they did have to trim down the number of stores, they survived the recession.