As an early stage investor, I have had the fortune of seeing the power of personal determination in entrepreneurs many times over. In this blog, I want to talk about the story of Korean entrepreneur Jay Park.
If you haven’t heard of him, Park was once a Korean superstar singer. Then, at the end of last year, he resigned from two separate music labels. He was in the headlines again a few months later, but this time as the founder of the Won Soju brand of Korean liquor.
It turns out that deep down, Park’s dream had always been to introduce Korean soju culture to the rest of the world (his first single to enter the US market in 2018 was called “Soju”). But it wasn’t until recently that he finally decided to pivot into entrepreneurism and bring his dream to life.
For reasons I’ll keep private, I had the opportunity to participate in Park’s entrepreneurial journey as a first-check investor. What sold me on his endeavor? His extraordinary determination.
Park’s achievements as a singer were already beyond what most of us could imagine accomplishing. But he was willing to give it all up and leave his comfort zone to do the difficult work of starting a new business. That takes real courage! It also shows that his dream was so important to him that he was willing to roll up his sleeves and do the work.
And founding Won Soju was definitely not an easy process. This was largely because Park eschewed making the more affordable and therefore more popular kind of diluted soju and instead sold soju distilled in the traditional style. This made one bottle of his brand’s soju 10 times pricier than the diluted kind. Korean netizens took to the forums, criticizing Won Soju as being overpriced. Some companies even made overtures to buy the company out, but Park was unfazed. He declared he would not give up easily on his goal of making Korean soju as well known as Japanese sake and bringing its unique taste to people around the world.
Park’s extraordinary determination has yielded extraordinary results. Nowadays, the Won Soju brand has already hit the amazing milestone of one million bottles sold per month! The secretary general of the Korean Traditional Liquor Association, Joo Bong Suk even commented that it was the highest-selling historical figure in the traditional Korean liquor market.
These achievements have emboldened Park to bring the Won Soju brand overseas and take the next step in realizing his dream. And I believe that when someone has enough vision and extraordinary determination, nothing in the universe can stand in their way. What does your extraordinary determination look like?