I grew up poor in South Korea and life there was extremely tough. My father was physically abusive to my mother,
sister and me —we were homeless for many years, sleeping in random places like storage containers and abandoned
houses. Despite my home life, I excelled in art and was eventually able to migrate to the United States on a
student visa. I arrived with zero use of the English language, zero friends, zero family and $80 in my pocket,
but I was determined to make it. I didn’t know how to do nails but I convinced a shop owner to hire me. I got the
job same day when I landed. I started my own business because I was tired of being manipulated, paid unfairly and/or
sexually harassed. One day, I was down and wandering around the city and saw a sign, that said
“Tattoos” and felt like it was a sign from God. I went in and and took a cleaning job to secretly learn the business
and eventually I rented a small shared space in the back of a store. At both places, I was threatened by the owners and had to constantly ignore their unwanted sexual advances. It was horrible and I knew I had to become the boss and open up my own place.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I named my business “Diamond Tattoos” because like diamonds my inner-strength and business was built under
pressure and now it’s a beautiful thing.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The tattoo industry is a male dominated industry and I didn’t have mentors or anyone I trusted to ask for help.
I struggled through most of the paperwork…in the beginning it was an expensive trial and error process.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
No, I’ve also been very independent and was on my own when I started and didn’t have many friends back then. But even if there were any naysayers I would 100% ignore them. I took care of me therefore I made all the decisions.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
My commitment to customer service and providing excellent work.
My clients were the one’s who helped to grow my business.
They would tell people about my work and bubbly personality.
Word of mouth was definitely key.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish I would have taken advantage of the many free resources and workshops out there because
I needed help but didn’t know these programs existed.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Do what you love, work in the industry first before you open up your own business and like Nike, “Just Do It.” The hardest part
is usually starting and if I can come to the United States and make it, so can you!