Monday, October 6, 2014

Our Korea Technopreneur Study Trip - Day 01


This is PART 1 of a  7-part series of blog entries written by our DBIT / DIT studentsabout their experiences on a recent Study Trip to Korea.

Nine Diploma in Business Information Technology (DBIT) and one Diploma in Information Technology (DIT) student participated in a Technopreneurship Study Trip to the cities of Seoul and Daejeon in Korea from 14 September to 22 September 2014.

Stayed tuned to each part of this series of articles to find out where we went / did!

The authors of this blog entry!

Hello peeps!

We are one of the 10 students who went on the Korea Technopreneurship Trip from 14 September to 22 September and our names are Yvonne Koh and Yang Ping respectively.

In this blog entry, we will share with you some highlights of our experiences on Day 01 of our Technopreneurship trip to Korea.

Here is the itinerary of Day 01 (14 Sep 2014) of our trip:

01:10 am – Departed Changi Airport for Korea
08:30 am – Arrived at Incheon international Airport
09:45 am – Checked into May’s Guest House
11:00 am – Lunch
12:00 pm – Explored Hongdae district
03:00 pm – Meeting with Ms Hwang, Co-founder of How2Company
06:00 pm – Dinner
07:00 pm – Korea culture lecture
09:00 pm – Free time
11:00 pm – End of Day 1

Though our flight was supposed to depart at 1.10 am on 14 Sep 2014, our accompanying lecturer, Ms Dora, told us all to report at 10.00 pm on 13 Sep 2014 to play safe.

After everyone had reported at about 10.30 pm, we proceeded to take a group photo with the banner designed by our fellow study-trip mate, Syafiq. I must say, he did a really good job designing the banner!

Mandatory group photo
with the beautiful banner
designed by Syafiq!

After we had checked in our luggage and bid our goodbyes to our family and friends, we then headed past the Immigration Checkpoint!

Showing our passports
at the Checkpoint in Changi Airport!

As we had arrived too early, we had some free time to do some duty-free shopping.  Even so, it was still too early to board the plane, so a few of us sat down at Delifrance to have a drink and rest a little before the flight.  There are plenty of things to do at Changi Airport actually.  For example, Jie Yi, Tianqi, Htet and Yi Fang had fun making their own woodblock print with icons such as Changi Aiport, Merlion etc.

Yi Fang, Htet, Tianqi and Jieyi
doing woodblock printing
at Changi Airport

Finally, at about 12.50 pm, we got a call from Ms Dora to head towards the boarding gate! We hurried to send our last goodbye text and call and off we went!

Once we got on the plane, it was a non-stop 6 hours flight and we tried to get as much rest as possible. However, some of us did not really get much sleep because we ended up being occupied by the inflight-entertainment, watching movies such as Maleficent and playing the in-flight games!

See how happy
Yang Ping is playing
the in-flight games!

At about 6am, we had our breakfast served on the plane.  We took Korean Airlines, and for the meals, we had scrambled eggs and Korean porridge as well as beef noodles to choose from.

Korean porridge,
one of the meal choices for breakfast

Finally, at 8:30 am we arrived at Incheon International Airport!

View from the plane
just minutes before we landed in Korea

Yong Wei and James
on the travellator after
we reached Incheon Airport

At the airport, we were warmly greeted by Mr Budher Song, the organiser of our awesome 9-day trip in Korea!

Mr Budher Song

The lot of us
waiting at the airport
for the transport
to take us to the guesthouse

After meeting Mr Budher, we proceeded to travel to our accomodation in Seoul.  The time taken to travel to the guesthouse was around one and a half hours,  and for those who hardly got any rest on the plane, we were mostly dozing off in sleep during the entire journey.

After settling in our heavy luggage at May Guesthouse, Mr Budher brought us to have our lunch at a nearby Korean traditional restaurant.

Lugging our luggage
to May Guesthouse

At the restaurant, we had rice + soy chicken with earthy potatoes and glass noodles. Not to forget KIMCHI of course! Htet and Ms Dora loved the glass noodles and kept raving about it.  We enjoyed the dish too, tried to eat as much as could.  But as much as we tried, we could not finish it as the portion was too big.

After our lunch, we went on an adventure to explore the Hongdae district which was very near to the guesthouse we were staying at.

Mr Budher took us on a longer route to Hongdae which resulted in us constantly walking uphill and climbing long flights of stairs. Almost everyone complained because we felt so exhausted from all that walking, but Yang Ping was enjoying every moment of it!  It was demoralising, yet interesting to see that many of the Korean elderly folk were climbing faster than us! After about 30 minutes of walking, we finally reached Hongdae!

Long flights of stairs
like these are everywhere in Korea!

At Hongdae, we split into two groups and spent about an hour and half exploring the district.

One of the groups parked themselves at a "Cats Cafe" and indulged in stroking and playing with the cats and kittens at the cafe for the entire time.  The other group just walked around the "Hope Market" in Hongdae district and took in the sights of the area.

Cat Cafe - come visit us!
(Photo credits to Htet)

Inside the Cat Cafe
(Photo credits to Htet)

Hongdae area has
a Flea market on every Saturday and Sunday

The scene at the Flea market

Trinkets for sale

Korea Dessert Cafe

Digital Book cafe

After exploring Hongdae, it was time for SERIOUS WORK!

The objective of our study trip was after all, to understand more about the start-up scene in Korea and what better way to learn by meeting up Korean natives who have started their own companies!

Mr Budher had arranged for us to meet his friend, Ms Hyekyung Hwang  at the nearby Café La Bueno.

Miss Hwang

Ms Hwang is the one of the co-founders of How2Company and we had a discussion about her entrepreneurial journey and what inspired her to start this business.

How2Company is a social enterprise started by Ms Hwang and her co-founders Jongjin and Younyun.  Her company creates innovative educational programs using a variety of IT tools and their goal is to build a community of creators (creators such as developers, designers, makers, entrepreneurs etc).

When our lecturer, Ms Dora heard that How2Company was a social enterprise, she got very excited and shared with Miss Hwang that Singapore Polytechnic too, nurtures and supports students to start their own social enterprise initiatives through a Year 2 module called "Social Innovation Project (SIP)".

As Year 1 students, both of us have not taken SIP before, so at first, we were not exactly clear what is a social enterprise.  Later, we learnt from Miss Hwang that in simple terms, a social enterprise is a company that balance both business and social objectives.

Like a typical business, a social enterprise aims to make profits.  Unlike typical businesses however, social enterprises have an additional primary goal -- to help to solve social problems or to help the less advantaged members of the society.  What differentiates social enterprises from charitable organisations which also aim to do good, is that social enterprises thrive without donations or funding from external organisations.  Social enterprises have their own viable business models that generate profits and yet, at the same time, the business is able to give back to society by empowering and helping the needy or disadvantaged integrate back into the community through training and employing the needy or disadvantaged.

Singapore encourages social enterprises too

Anyway, back to Ms Hwang and her start-up story!

Ms Hwang had been working for the global conglomerate “LG” before she started her own business. Working in a big company is what many people dream of in Korea, but when she was working in LG she was not happy as she had to work for at least 10 hours a day.  Apparently, this is the typical working hours of a normal worker life in Korea!

However, this is not the key reason why she decided to start her own company.  The main driving force that made her start her own company is her brother.  Miss Hwang has a brother with a learning disability. At that time, she felt that there was not much resources to help enpower people with disabilities like her brother, and she wanted to do something that could change the lives of this group of people. The Korean government did promote social enterprise initiatives that encouraged job creation, but what was missing are programs that equip the disabled with skills that enabled them to increase their market value in finding jobs.

After the thought was planted in her mind, she started looking for people who had the same vision and goals as her.  Fortunately, she found them in her partners Jongjin and Young Yun Heo.

Ms Hwang sharing stories of
how she and her co-founders started
the company

Before collaborating with Ms Hwang, Jongjin owned his own construction business while Young Yun used to work in Human Resources in Samsung.

She shared the story of how her partner Jongjin was inspired to join in her mission.  On one occasion, Jongjin's temporary worker had an accident and required hospitalization which chalked up a very high medical bill that the temporary worker could ill afford.  That incident made Jongjin investigate the range of the wages that temporary workers typically earn, and he was shocked that the money that they earned was many times lesser than what he, as a businessman earned.  He felt that this phenomenon was very unfair and he wanted to do something that can help more people become their own bosses, as this would then help them to improve their livelihood.

Miss Hwang also shared some interesting snippets of information such as explaining to us that in Korea, social enterprises are classified into five categories:
  1.  Job-creation Type: The main purpose of the enterprise is to offer jobs to vulnerable social groups
  2. Social Service Provision Types: The main purpose of the enterprise is to provide vulnerable social groups with social services
  3. Mixed Type: Job-creation Type + Social Service Provision Type
  4. Other Types: A social enterprise of which realization of social purposes is difficult to judge on the basis of the ratio of employment or provision of social service
  5. Local Community Contribution Type: An enterprise which contribute to the improvement i nthe quality of life of the local community (newly defined in 2011)
She also mentioned about "Toms Shoes" as an inspirational model of how companies can be profitable, and yet do social good.  For those who are not aware, Toms is a for-profit company that also operates the non-profit subsidiary, Friends of Toms.  The company designs and sells shoes as well as eyewear.When Toms sells a pair of shoes, a pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child. When Toms sells a pair of eyewear, part of the profit is used to save or restore the eyesight for people in developing countries.

My learning points from our interview with Miss Hwang are:

  1. Starting a company does not always means earning big bucks, we can come out with ideas that help the community or special groups of people. 
  2. If you have a passion for something, do not be afraid to try.
Group Photo with Ms Hwang after our interview with her

After our insightful meeting with Miss hwang, we went to have dinner at a traditional Korean restaurant. We even had our own private room! I must say, I am really loving traditional Korean food.

Dinner at traditional Korean restaurant
with our own private room!

Our last stop of the day is a special Korean Culture lecture.  In this lecture, we learnt more about the traditional Korean "Fan" dance culture and how, it has been integrated into modern dance culture by using the movie “Black Swan” as an example.  The old is 'renewed' and becomes relevant.  This lesson also teaches us that doing business is similar, we must constantly innovate so that we are able to adapt to the changing needs and trends of society.

Korean culture lecture

Group photo

After all the company visits, it was free n easy time! We went back to the Hongdae shopping district and did a quick shopping spree as there was a time limit to be back!

This blog entry is written by two Diploma in Business Information Technology (DBIT) Year 1 students, Yvonne and Yang Ping.

Yvonne has a strong interest in web coding  and archery.  During her free time, Yvonne loves to  hang out with her friends to watch movies or to karaoke.  Yvonne is a food lover and exploring Singapore for delicious food.  Her ambition is to become an entrepreneur. Since young, she always wanted to have her own fashion line.  She also dreams of becoming an air stewardess because she really admires their job!  What keeps her motivated is this quote: “Dream big and dare to fail".

Yang Ping has a keen interest in sports and she is currently an active member at SP Dragon Boat club. During her free time, Yang Ping likes to read and spend quality time with her family and friends. Her ambition is to become an entrepreneur focusing on social innovation. She strongly believes in this saying “It's never too late to start over. If you weren't happy with yesterday, try something different today. Don't stay stuck. Do better.”

Connect with Yvonne and Yang Ping at their Facebook profiles to talk to them!

No comments: