Itaewon Class: Lessons for New Entrepreneurs

Itaewon Class Lessons for New Entrepreneurs

Our rundown of the best business advice from the popular K-drama Itaewon Class.

If you’ve been following K-dramas, Itaewon Class must be on your watchlist. While the show offers a dose of drama, compassion and perseverance, it is also peppered with noteworthy business advice to help you succeed. 

Itaewon Class is the story of Park Saeroyi, an ex-convict, who went to jail after attempting to kill a bully named Jang Geun-won—the son of well-known CEO Jang Dae-Hee, the owner of Jangga Co., a popular food chain in South Korea—in his high school. Geun-won, in an incident of reckless driving, killed Saeroyi’s father, who was employed at Jangga. However, Geun-won got away with it, as his influential father put the blame on someone else. Enraged, Saeroyi tried to kill Geun-won but was imprisoned for attempted murder. Once released, Saeroyi decides to open his own bar-restaurant called DanBam in Itaewon. With his staff and manager, he works hard to succeed and avenge his father’s death by overtaking Jangga Co. as the best food chain.

Prioritize people over profit

Throughout many scenes in the show, we can see how Saeroyi stands up for his staff and gives credit where it’s due. For instance, taking a stand for the LGBTQ community, Saeroyi refuses to fire Hyeon-yi—a transgender employee who requires money for her transition—after the manager says that her gender identity is driving people away. Instead, Saeroyi gives her double her salary, urging her to improve her cooking skills and show everyone why she belongs there. 

He eschews societal standards and prioritizes Hyeon-yi’s personal growth and needs. Eventually, Hyeon-yi goes on to win a cooking competition, thus proving Saeroyi’s point: gender doesn’t matter, the quality of work does. And the more you support your employees, the more your business will improve. After all, Hyeon-yi’s win got DanBam the investment they needed!

Invest in social media marketing

Though Saeroyi was determined to succeed, he couldn’t help but accept that the bar’s location and lack of popularity were not conducive to business success. Enter Jo Yi-Seo, a high school student and social media influencer who introduces Saeroyi to the power of social media. Once the business starts using social media generously, their sales increase and reach widens. In today’s day and age, there is simply no substituting the advertising potential of social media marketing for your business.

Don’t limit your financial avenues

Before launching his own pub, Saeroyi worked part-time at another restaurant for years. This helped him secure some capital to start his own business. Additionally, he invested his dad’s insurance into the business’s competitor Jangga Co. when their stock price dropped. That might seem counterintuitive; however, Saeroyi had bigger plans. For one, he knew that people would return to Jangga as their food boasted excellent quality. Secondly, his investment in his business’s competitor wasn’t a dig at his father; instead, it was a part of a bigger scheme to take that business over.

Learn from your fellow entrepreneurs

Saeroyi loathed Geun-won and his father for what they did, but he couldn’t deny that CEO Jang had achieved tremendous success in a field he was interested in. So, when in prison, Saeroyi decides to develop a plan to realize his father’s dream of owning a restaurant. For that, he reads the autobiography of Jang that details the journey of Jangga from a small pub to one of the top restaurants in Korea. His motto—“stick with the business basics”—became a driving force for Saeroyi. Finally, he developed a 15-year plan.

Take a chance on people 

Saeroyi knew that people had more potential than they displayed on the surface. So, he hired an ex-convict, his cellmate in prison, Choi Seung-kwon, CEO Jang’s illegitimate son Jang Geun-soo, Kim To-ni who can only speak Korean, Hyeon-yi and Yi-Seo who goes on to become the restaurant manager. He didn’t care about their background or education; he only cared if they could do their job well with determination. Safe to say, they did.

In the end, Saeroyi takes over Jangga and merges it with his business, Itaewon Class. What’s more? He found love in Yi-Seo while doing so. Launching a business is undoubtedly challenging. To succeed, you need drive, passion and a strategy that ensures you come out on top. And you never know; you might also find love while becoming a business magnate.

Header Image by Wallpaper Cave

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Alinda Gupta
I am a professional journalist and gourmand with an inexplicable love for caffeine. I admire old architecture and find comfort in fiction books. I am also an A1-level certified French speaker—bonne journée!

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