Interview with a teenage entrepreneur Sanghun Lee who sold one of his companies for 5-figures

[Below is the interview conversation with Sanghun Lee that was held on April 10th, 2021.]

(Interviewer): “It’s an honor to speak with you today. Please tell me about yourself and the things that you have done or accomplished. I know you recently sold one of your companies, and I want to hear some stories of how you started this journey and how you got to where you are today? Let’s have some storytime!”

(Sanghun): “Hello, thank you for having me today. My name is Sanghun Lee, and I am an international student in the USA attending a high school as a junior. It is impossible to tell you the entire story of my life, but I will try my best to pinpoint some of the important timelines of my designer/entrepreneur journey, and I want to be detailed for some events, so hang with me!”

(Sanghun): “I think my journey started right after the pandemic occurred. My high school turned the education system to virtual learning, and because of that, I had to go back to my aunt’s house to stay until the Summer break. Of course, I was excited to take my classes in the comfort of my bed, but that fantasy soon disappeared. As time went by, I could not keep up with my school work as well as my productive daily life. I gained tons of weight, and there was no balance in my life; it was tough.” 

(Sanghun): “One day I went to a local convenience store to buy some masks, and I was literally shocked at how expensive they were selling. The price for a single surgical mask was $12. It made no sense. I went to other stores, including pharmacies, big retailers, but they were all sold out. I ended up buying that $12 mask, and it felt completely wrong because the mask should be cheap enough that everyone can afford it. So that was when I decided to do something about it.”

(Sanghun): “Long story short, for three days straight, I researched and contacted more than 65 factories that manufactured masks. I think I slept 2 hours each day, but it was a very new and valuable experience because just by contacting the factories, I have learned so many things. For example, I learned some fundamental business terms such as MOQ, FOB, COG, profit margin, tax, importing, Postponement Strategies, etc. I had to negotiate the deals by doing Zoom calls with the owners and also do my research to figure out the proper manufacturer, and it was really hard because I did everything by myself.” 

(Sanghun): “I finally chose one factory that offered a great deal compared to other factories. Since I was short on my initial money, I had to go with the least MOQ. I ended up importing 2000 masks, and including the shipping, one mask was around $1. The enormous boxes of masks arrived at the house, and the one question that hit me was… Now what? How can I even sell all these?” 

(Sanghun): “Long story short, I knocked on many local businesses, including small stores, convenience stores, retailers, pharmacies, etc., that were opened. I asked the owners or managers if they could sell the masks in their store and get a commission. Most of them refused, but luckily, the owner of a laundry center accepted, and we signed a contract. I utilized the concept of private labeling and did the packaging. I decided to sell the mask for $2 each, which was cheaper than any other local store.” 

(Sanghun): “After a week of selling, surprisingly, we sold all of them. Then I gave 40% of the profit to the store owner. I ended up earning a small amount of money compared to my effort. Still, I was just so happy and moving because I realized that I made hundreds of people wear masks at an affordable price, unlike other stores that, in my opinion, utilized the pandemic immortally. And this was the starting point of my journey.” 

(Sanghun): “After completing that first project, I knew that my ultimate passions were art/design and entrepreneurship. I realized, just like how I do my art, I loved every process of the business. The Summer break started, and I actually delayed the flight to my home country to continue studying and learning this entrepreneurship. For weeks, I literally spent around 18 hours each day to self-teach all of the fundamentals to advanced business knowledge by reading multiple books, taking courses, and watching youtube videos. I touched base on various industries, but I focused on the e-commerce business and marketing strategies such as CTA, SEO, LLA, reTargeting, up/cross-sells, just a lot of things. Really. After a month, I was confident that I could start my successful businesses by myself.”  

(Sanghun): “I dived right in and founded my first brand. It was a product-based brand. Similar to the mask, I contacted manufacturers, made a deal, and launched the brand. I marketed pretty well. I used my own SNS ad strategy, hired a freelancer that will place orders, and does CS in case tons of people would purchase at the same time.” 

(Sanghun): “I was wrong. The business failed. Like completely. I lost around $1000, which is the usual expense to test out a product or service to see its potential on a small scale. I studied what I did wrong, and based on the experience, I launched the 2nd business within a week – It takes far much time to launch a business, but with my limited money, that was enough. The 2nd one also failed. I started 3rd one, also failed. Long story short, I failed a total of 6 businesses and lost around $6000, which was my life-saving. The words might sound simple here, but literally, imagine failing six businesses and losing every single penny of my savings just like that. It was more than a depression. It’s funny to me now, but my parents thought I was gambling or something at that time. They were extremely upset.” 

(Sanghun): “I had two options. I could either stop everything and just go back to normal from that point or have more risk and try again. In order to choose the 2nd option, I had to borrow money from my aunt. And I ended up borrowing 1k from her. This time I approached differently. I chose to combine my business knowledge and experience with my art/design skills. I decided to found a company named “LuiShield” that only imports and manufactures unique and fashionable hats, beanies, scarves, sporting gears, etc. In the past, I tried to select a product or a service that I thought the customer would like, but that time, I only imported and personally selected the design that I loved. I utilized that concept in the marketing, and also, this time, I used influencer affiliate marketing rather than 100% depending on SMM. After launching that business, sales were rolling in. In that month, I had my first over $1000 in revenue.” 

(Sanghun): “From there, I scaled up the business with LLA & Snap Ad strategy. I recently got an offer from an angel investor who wanted to buy the company for 5-figures, and I decided to let go of the business.” 

(Sanghun): “I am currently putting 100% of the money into the new project that I am doing, which is creating a company whose mission is to support kids and teens in receiving creative-based education such as art and music, regardless of their financial situation or environmental difficulties.” 

(Sanghun): “Looking back, I realized this was why I started in the first place. I recognized that I have this intense passion not only for art/design and entrepreneurship but also, utilizing my skills and knowledge to support society to make a better place to live in, regardless of the scale. One of the philosophies that I always keep in mind is that if I am making one person’s life better or happier, that’s a success-probably the most meaningful and valuable success. I will keep on grinding to make that happen, and this is the game that I’ve chosen to play throughout my life.” 

(Interviewer): “First of all, congratulation on the accomplishments that you made. I’m just wondering, how did you feel after closing up the deal of selling the company?”

(Sanghun): “Building a company is like raising a child. I mean, of course, I’ve never had a baby before, but it just feels like raising a baby. I think Elon Musk also said a similar thing, and this is totally true. If you don’t put a substantial amount of love and effort into a company, it is very hard to make that great. Also, in the process of growing a company, the CEO falls in love with the company, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. When it is time to let go of that, a lot of emotion comes up.” 

(Interviewer): “I’m sure, especially as a high school student, you have encountered numerous difficulties along the way. What challenges have you had to overcome?”

(Sanghun): “Yes, you got that right. It is actually almost impossible to catch two rabbits which are, in my case, the school GPA (classes) and the business. It was extremely hard. It truly is, but I think my time management skills and ability to stay awake and be focused even after I skipped sleep really contributed to catching those two rabbits. And I don’t recommend this to anyone, especially for students, because it will hurt your health, as there is no work-life balance in this game, plus, you might lose two rabbits which can possibly ruin some parts of your life.” 

(Interviewer): “This is the question that I wanted to ask you the most. What is next for you? What are you planning to do from now on? What is your future goal and dream?”

(Sanghun): “Like I mentioned previously, I am now developing a company whose mission is to support kids and teens in receiving creative-based education such as art and music, regardless of their financial situation or environmental difficulties. Art should be affordable for every kid just like the mask during Covid. My ultimate goal and dream is to become a serial entrepreneur/designer that has contributed to society in a positive way and improved people’s lives.”

(Interviewer): “What’s your best piece of advice for your generation of students?”

(Sanghun): “This is the thing that I personally give advice to my generation of students. It is that we have to keep on giving up. Yes, I know you are confused with that phrase, but it is really true. We have to keep on failing until we find something that our passion can exceed the wants to give up. The phrase, “don’t give up” is too abstract and could actually make students go in the wrong way because imagine a student started something that they do not like but still not giving up until the end. In the future, the student will regret the fact that he/she did not give up nor try different things. Students have to experience a lot of things before they make a life decision. To do that, you just have to keep on giving up until your gut says “yes, I want to do this for the rest of my life, and even when I have to encounter difficult things, my passion will defeat the wanting to give up.”

(Interviewer): “Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?”

(Sanghun): “Creating your dream, then specific goals, and taking every step that can move you closer to your dream. Every step that you take is a success. These abstract terms: success and happiness is not an outcome. It is the process itself.”

(Interviewer): “I heard you have been providing consulting, would you explain what exactly that you provide?”

(Sanghun): “I have been providing free consulting for teens or students with some kind of businesses that they are working on. I give them some advice based on my experience, and also sometimes we brainstorm together on business aspects. I am also helping local businesses to go online or just simply help them to start online marketing so they can continue to prosper. I understand one or two things about marketing and SNS ad strategies. And yes, for local businesses, I get paid.”

(Interviewer): “Finally, how can people connect with you if they want to contact you?”

Instagram: @Designer_Sanghun

Media Contact
Contact Person: Sanghun Lee
Email: Send Email
City: Charlottesville
State: VA
Country: United States