The 17-year-old has become a billionaire and CEO of a company. This young man managed to build two businesses that made him a billionaire at a young age. He is Sukone Hong. This 17-year-old youth from South Korea is engaged in fashion and smart watches or braille smartwatches for the blind. From the fashion business, Sukone Hong pocketed sales of more than USD 1 million or Rp. 14.2 billion this year. While the braille smartwatch business recorded orders reaching thousands of units.
However, there is an inspiring story behind Hong"s success at the age of 17. Prior to getting into business, Hong had a rough time. He is a victim of bullying by his friends. "I was bullied. I had to find something that could change my life," Hong said as quoted by CNBC, Sunday (19/9/2021).
Hong started his business four years ago, when he was still in the second grade of junior high school. At that time, she had to struggle to fit in with her classmates by looking for other activities, and decided to sell branded clothes through the South Korean search engine, Naver.
But the money he had of USD150 was not enough to run a business, so he had to change his strategy. He ended up borrowing $5,000 from his grandparents and getting into the printing business. Hong started his own clothing site, which offers unisex casual wear with simple and cheerful designs. From here was born Olaga Studio.
"Nothing happened for a week. Then on Monday morning, there were about 15 orders. Fifty orders at lunch. Eighty at night. That week I sold 300 shirts," Hong said. Three years after its founding, the product was a regional success and recorded annual sales of USD1.2 million or IDR17.12 billion from six Asian markets. It even ranked first in the Style Share t-shirt category.
While the braille smartwatch business was founded with the aim of helping the visually impaired receive information, such as texts and messages from their cell phones. Paradox Computers is the company behind its braille smartwatch. Actually watches like this have been on the market for several years.
But they are expensive, usually over USD300 making it difficult to access for many visually impaired people. After working on a school project on disability, Hong realized inequality and decided there had to be other, more affordable options. "I find that this is very unfair. And, at the same time, it is a great opportunity for business," Hong said.
So, he began to understand the market, talking to blind people to find out their needs, and technicians to find solutions. Then, with the network owned by his fashion business, Hong managed to get a funding of USD 300,000.
"My background as a CEO helped me. I learned that even if I didn"t have a tech background, I could hire all these people," he said. Six months on, Paradox Computers is selling a smartwatch for $80 and has sold hundreds of units.
There are currently 3,000 pre-orders from China. And despite his success, Hong is committed to completing his education. "When the business was booming, I thought about dropping out of school. But I met a lot of CEOs and they all told me that I should go to college," Hong said.