In the summer of 2011 when I just graduated high school, I had a chance to help out my brother’s startup. The venture is called PATCHWORKS which manufactures and distributes handmade smartphone case all over the world. The cases are made of luxury materials such as gold, aircraft grade aluminum, titanium, wood, and silk that cost up to $300.

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When I first joined the company, nothing but the company itself was established. The company was not getting any revenue, not enough investors and lacked adequate prototypes. Only my brother and I were in the small office space. We did not have enough money so I had to paint wooden cases while my brother was reaching out to potential buyers. The office space was filled with urethane smell and was a mess because we did not afford factory separate from the main office. We usually worked from 10am to 3am, seven days a week. Before I worked at PATCHWORKS, I had a fantasy about startups. I would think startups grew exponentially every day.  When I actually started working in one, the fantasy shattered down. I was even skeptical about who would buy cell phone cases that cost several hundred dollars. Yet, my brother was persistent on the idea and did whatever it took. After working three months over the summer, I came to Babson as a freshman. As I met new people and caught up with school work, I was not able to interact with my brother as much. The first four months in freshman year flew by and I went back to Korea for winter break.

When I visited the PATCHWORKS, I was surprised by how much the company had grown. The office has expanded to eight full-time employees. Online shopping mall was renovated with various marketing programs. Offline shops were set up in Korea and Japan as well. PATCHWORKS was outsourcing manufacturing so that the office could concentrate on office work. The company was getting several million dollars in revenue from exporting to 18 different countries.

Looking back when the company first started three years ago, there were three lessons I learned from the experience.

  1. There is no immediate success. When people glance at successful startups, they tend to overlook the hard times. Most ventures experience complications throughout the operation especially in the beginning stage.
  2. Trust your idea. This does not mean blind faith. Research thoroughly and if you see an opportunity, keep pursuing it. My brother envisioned a niche market that most people would be skeptical about, which eventually worked well.
  3. Find reliable partnership. As I left the company for school, my brother soon recruited one of our cousins to work with him. He said that it is better working in team than working alone to overcome difficulties and make objective decisions.

Going to Babson means a lot to me. Although I am not affiliated as much as my brother’s company, I see many Babson students executing their ideas. Such inspiration stimulates entrepreneurial spirit that one day I also want to be a successful entrepreneur. The lessons I learned from PATCHWORKS will help me when I have own venture in the future, and I hope they help you too.