“Whenever I go to Bonggousse Bapburger for lunch, I always have to wait because every time I go, there are already many people,” said Lee Jung-kwon, a Junior in the Division of Economics at Hanyang University. Near both the Seoul and ERICA campuses, Bonggousse Bapburger is always full of Hanyangians who go there to enjoy a light meal at very reasonable prices. Most Hanyangians are probably familiar with the franchise Bonggousse through the shop’s Facebook page.
Oh Se-rin is the young CEO of Bonggousse Bapburger, which is a successful business that began with only a little capital. Oh is a perfect example of the old proverb, A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again. The Hanyang Journal met him to learn more about his success.
Q. Why do you choose the nickname, Bonggou?
A. When I ran a snack bar near Dongwon High School in Suwon, I used the nickname Bonggou as a fun way to appeal to high school students. I did not think much about it but later I learned that Bonggousse has a meaning in French; ‘delicious bite-size pieces’. After I found that out, I decided to use it as my own brand, combining my nickname and the meaning of Bonggousse in French.
Q. How did you get started with the Bapburger business?
A. The motivation was actually very simple. I knew a neighbor who sold odeng-guk(fish cake soup) on the street. His business seemed easy to me, and I thought such a business would not be difficult nor require a lot of starting capital. So I began my business on the street following what he did so obstinately. One day, he stopped his working, leaving a note saying that he was going overseas for a few days. The reason was not due to a trip but rather his difficulties sustaining his business due to problems including a lack of money and the difficult work for him. Establishing a business might seem like an easy and fun idea, but sustaining it is a very hard task. For me however, such difficulties were attractive factors and I wanted to jump into business even more.
Q. Did you have any difficulties beginning your business at such a young age?
A. I have never regarded establishing my business as a challenge because it was just a matter of choice which any young person could make. Originally, I was supposed to go to university, just like other students in Korea. However, I wanted to start a business rather than to study so I just chose what I wanted to do. So I do not feel like it is accurate calling my choice of establishing a business a challenge even now.
Q. Where do you place value on the most with regard to establishing a business?
A. I had a hard time when I first started my Bapburger business due to a lack of funds. To make matters worse, I broke up with my girlfriend and started to compare myself with friends who were getting jobs. All the while, I could not sell a single Bapburger at all. Then one day, a high school student came into my shop and asked, “How much is it?” I was so grateful to him that I almost cried.
Since then, I have tried to really get to know my customers and I began to express my feelings of gratitude. Getting closer to my customers, I came to recognize one of my greatest strengths: I can really sympathize with other and thus communicate well with them. I place more value on open communication with my customers than on business strategies or items until this day.
Q. When did you feel most satisfied during your struggles to establish your own business?
A. I was very pleased to see cheering and words of encouragement from friends when I started the business. Also, I was glad to see that people who were struggling economically improve their finances after getting into my franchise business.