We are always thrilled to meet our retailers in person. When we had the chance to travel to South Korea this past month, we knew we had to get together with Jaeho and Minjoo, a married couple who owns a small lifestyle brand and shop in Seoul, Hannam-dong, called Plus 82 Project. Aside from their beautiful shop and well curated products, they had a deeper story that they wanted to share with us about starting a business in a busy city like Seoul.
Kiriko Made: How did you start Plus 82 Project?
Jae Ho: It’s been about two years since we moved from New York to Seoul. My wife and I were looking for something that we could do together, and we thought about what we have experienced while living in New York such as the various lifestyle trends and the local culture created by small retailers. And we wanted to create that for Seoul. The fact that we each studied fashion merchandising management and industrial design was a big influence in the creation of PLUS82 PROJECT as well. +82 is Korea’s area code, and our goal is to grow into a store that reflects the various lifestyles of Korea.
Kiriko Made: You're based out of Seoul, South Korea. What about this city helps you creatively in your day to day work?
Jae Ho: Seoul is known to be a city that never sleeps. Supermarkets, restaurants, and bars that are open 24 hours can be seen everywhere, and various culture and trends are rapidly changing to be generally more modernistic with many places in Seoul being crowded with people all the night through. However, there is a sentiment and vibe that is unique to Seoul and this is something that has not been changed and will never change. For example, in the center of Seoul’s office town where the population is concentrated, there is a royal palace that was built in the Chosun dynasty. Another charming element that can only be found in Seoul is that you can take a crowded subway during rush hour to a mountain located within the urban area. Just by going to different places in Seoul, I can observe diverse ways of living, and I become inspired in many ways.
Kiriko Made: Where do you see yourself/your brand in the next 5 years?
Jae Ho: Currently, we are introducing small brands lead by Korean designers and popular overseas brands to Korean consumers. In five years, I see PLUS82 PROJECT introducing various Korean products to diverse overseas markets.
Kiriko Made: Who/what is your greatest influence?
Jae Ho: Family. Our largest influencer is our 21-month-old daughter, who we spend most of our time with during the day.
Kiriko Made: How effective do you think social media is in helping small businesses grow and how has it applied to your brand?
Jae Ho: The early stages of social media were like small communities where you could only communicate within a certain group, but now I think that social media has become an effective business tool for various fields. Many companies created the position of “Social communicator”, something that didn’t exist in the past, and this shows that social media has now become a large part of our daily lives. As for small businesses, the fact that social media can create various images for a company I think has become a crucial part of branding. PLUS82 PROJECT creates communication between diverse people through Instagram, Facebook, and our blog, and we are establishing our own unique archive as well. Social media also allows for quick feedback from customers before launching a new product, so we’re trying to utilize this in different directions.
Kiriko Made: Is there any advice you would give to someone who wants to start a small business?
Jae Ho: Confidence is the most important factor. I think that if you believe in yourself and you are sure of your goals, you can find your way out of any obstacle. PLUS82 PROJECT has experienced many hardships, but we were able to overcome each obstacle, and we were able to grow a lot from that process. I believe that we will continue to lead PLUS82 PROJECT in the direction headed to achieving our goals.