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How a Korean Housewife Mortgaged Her Home and Built a Multimillion Dollar Company

Romi Haan on why entrepreneurs need to understand sales, and how she succeeded anyway.

What’s the Big Idea? 

It’s always a little hard to swallow when someone staggeringly successful tells you not to follow in their footsteps. Yet the risk-seeking tendencies and delusion-grade optimism that characterize many successful entrepreneurs can also easily lead to personal and professional disaster.  

If Romi Haan, the founder and CEO of South Korea’s Haan Corp could start over again, she (says she) would spend at least two years learning about home appliance sales before trying to create and market a home steam cleaner. What she did, in fact, do, was to mortgage her home for $100,000, which she thought would be enough to develop the product and run the company. $100,000 later, she still didn’t have a product. 

Once the product was developed, she thought it would sell itself – who wouldn’t want an efficient home floor cleaner that sanitizes without harsh chemicals? Then she learned that pretty much nobody wants anything until you spend a great deal of time and money putting it in front of them.  

Romi Haan on why entrepreneurs need to understand sales, and how she succeeded anyway

What’s the Significance? 

In spite of jumping into business with everything at stake and armed with little more than faith in a product that didn’t yet exist, Haan was able to build a successful company. How? She cites her own natural stubbornness. Although it might have saved her a good deal of time and trouble to acquire some marketing knowledge in advance, she quickly recognized her limitations and set about remedying them. In other words, she learned on the job because she had to – and pushed through the challenges she’d created for herself where others might have given up.  

Haan is living proof that it’s not impossible to succeed in business without a strong (business) foundation, but she’s learned from experience that no matter how brilliant, driven, and optimistic you are, a little preparation couldn’t hurt.

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