RAGS TO RICHES SERIES: DO WON CHANG
In 1981, Do Won Chang and his wife, Jin Sook, moved to America from Korea. To support them both, Do Wan was forced to work 3 jobs, as a janitor, a gas station attendant, and a coffee shop assistant.
Back in Korea, the Chang’s lived a low-key life with Do Won working mainly in coffee shops, but he knew he wanted to start his own business. While working at the gas station, he decided that this business was going to be in retail, as it was these people he saw driving the nicest cars.
Eventually, they managed to save the money to open their first clothing store in 1984, eventually becoming Forever 21.
Forever 21 pioneered fast fashion and within one-year sales had soared to $700,000 and they opened a new store after every 6 months.
Their success can perhaps be attributed to the perfect partnership they have when it comes to running the clothing empire. Mrs. Chang approves the designs of the merchandise, while Mr. Chang focuses on turning Forever 21 into the fastest fast-fashion chain in the business.
The brand is privately held and family-run, comprising more than 700 stores across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Annual revenue is at around $4.4 billion and the brand has been boosted by the addition of Chang’s two Ivy League-educated daughters helping to drive the company’s direction.
“I’m always challenged. Passion has always driven me. As an entrepreneur you also have to change always.” – Do Wan Chang
Apart from being devoted and passionate business people, the Chang’s are also ardent believers in Christianity. This is the reason why the verse ‘John 3:16’ is inscribed on every Forever 21 bag. They also do a lot of charity work with causes across the world.
Do Won Chang and Jin Sook perfectly encapsulate the American Dream, reaching incredible levels of success in a short space of time.
“Forever 21 gives hope to people who come here with almost nothing, and that is a reward that humbles me: The fact that immigrants coming to America, much like I did, can come into a Forever 21 and know that all of this was started by a simple Korean immigrant with a dream.” Do Won told the LA Times.
Not bad for a couple who started their lives with nothing in order to make their dream a reality.