What MSME’s can learn from Itaewon Class

Lessons from Itaewon Class that can be learn by start-ups and MSME’s

Itaewon Class is about a bunch of young entrepreneurs in their 20’s and early 30’s. Sae Ro Yi (the entrepreneur) created a team out of social class, regardless of age, educational attainment, gender, skin color, character, and mediocre skill as well as multi-talent and high IQ level.

What MSME’s can learn from Itaewon Class

Accepting individual’s differences
A sociopath. An ex-convict. A transgender. A high school dropout. And a dark-skinned biracial guy.

All the social misfits one can think of in South Korea have come together in Itaewon Class, a drama that celebrates diversity and the underdogs in a country widely seen as homogenous.
Set against the backdrop of Seoul’s “most international” neighborhood of Itaewon, the drama has won praise for its realistic portrayal of subjects such as prejudice against foreigners, misbehaving scions of the chaebol (Korean for conglomerate), and discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.” (Chang M.C. 2020)

Armed with sheer luck and determination, Sae Ro Yi gained the trust and alliance of these ordinary people. Together, they aim to succeed by expanding DanBam business into franchise and defeating its food-brand competitor, Jangga Group. They founded Itaewon Class Inc. (IC Inc.) to manage the business concept and management.

What MSME’s can learn from Itaewon Class?

Business strategy plan. Sae Ro Yi planned a maximum of 15-year business goal. as a middle school dropout, he managed to study business models of big names in different industries. He capitalized on his willpower. Later on, by supporting (believing/trusting) on the skills of his employees. He execute this plan with precise “timing and coordination” as soon as he was surrounded by dependable friends that came along with him, while they continously learning the process.

After investing his funds to Jangga Group, his set a timeframe to do labor work for seven years. This has given him enough time to acquire financial resources for his soon to be enterprise, the DanBam Pub.

Risk-taker. During the plunge of stocks by the Jangga Group, Sae Ro Yi seize the opportunity to invest and buy company shares of Jangga Co., the money he used after his prison release came from his father’s death insurance and his college education funds. A stroke of luck, this was ‘his right timing.’ Lee Ho-jin his former classmate and now his investment manager. After seven years, his company share multiply by the dozen.

When his business is already doing great, here comes the new landlord. Leasing rent was increased and they were told to vacate the place once the contract expires. He look for another location and decided to buy a building by pulling off part of his company shares.

His personal decision comes with a great uncertainty. Until today, stocks and investments are one of the best passive income for risk-takers.

Invest in people. Sae Ro Yi believes that the secret to successful business is to value Its people, Jangga Group chairman laugh it off as he was convince that a success in business is quantify by means of high yields.

When Jo Yi-seo (DanBam manager) wanted to fire Ma Hyeon-yi (DanBam cook) for being an incompetent cook. Sae Ro Yi didn’t think the way his manager suggested. Instead, he offered Ma Hyeon-yi twice the amount of salary she makes to improve her output and work even harder to achieve the company goal. There’s always room for improvement and second chances. In the long run, Ma Hyeon-yi was able to leverage her skills set in accordance to the taste of DanBam.

Marketing strategy. DanBam being a new player in the food and leisure industry hires Jo Yi-seo, a social media power blogger and influencer, multi-talented 20 year old with an IQ of 162, rejected her studies at Harvard University. She choose not to study and preferred to be a manager of DanBam. She was the in-house influencer marketing, in charge of the image of the brand. She knows well her craft through channeling her digital marketing skills to her followers on various social media platforms. DanBam emerge as an interesting brand because of an asset builder.

Social media is not just for increasing brand awareness, it is also a driving website traffic as well as direct sales. Social media also gives your brand an opportunity to be discovered by your future customers… generate engagement around your brand, create a community, and serve as a customer support channel for your customers.” (EchoManila, 2020)

Strategizing on your business by means of analytics and adopting the digital concept helps in improving the brand identity – integrating the content creation, the improving the look and ambiance of the shop, and highlights of the products and services.

Traditional advertising. Tri-media (print, televsion, and radio) still plays a big role when marketing a brand. DanBam secure a spot to join the reality TV cooking series ‘The Best Pub’. It circles around the famous pubs along Itaewon district. Eventually, DanBam came out as the winner after the three-part competition. As a result, their media exposure captures a number of investors interested to offer a franchise deal.

Support local community. A small business on a new location with less foot traffic, literally means starting from point zero. Sae Ro Yi thought of a solution to revive street together with other small businesses. Initially, he approach his neighboring business owners to help them out with their signage repair, menu suggestions, and business consultations. With good intentions, the local businesses within DanBam proximity regain customer attention and at the same time gathered word-of-mouth marketing for DanBam. This collaboration effort made an impact without spending a dime – just pure generosity.

Know your worth. When the franchise deal was offered, Sae Ro Yi demanded (amount)____, a take it or leave it counter-offer. He believes the brand he created, is not just any ordinary brand. With combined efforts from his team, a business with so much energy conveyed and keeps on progressing with more ideas to offer, is bound to generate valuable assets. Set your own standards.

Think across the borders. Sae Ro Yi knows the possibility of failing (and loosing to Jangga Group) under a 15-year goal plan. He may have awaken the business giants with his determination. But to secure his place to become number one is next to impossible. Now that he has only 5 years left, and the market competition is high. Sae Ro Yi needs to become the big fish. With the franchise/investors coming in on the right track. He device a plan to go global by joining overseas expo, likewise, attracting business proposals to International market.

What MSME’s can learn from Itaewon Class

Lessons learned from Itaewon Class

Becoming an entrepreneur. For start-ups without enough capital, there’s no excuse – allocate time to produce the money (savings) then move towards your goal by starting the business, slowly, surely.

For existing entrepreneurs. With secured finances and capacity to expand, do it the Sae Ro Yi style. Businesses worthy of expansion should not be idle, move forward with the right strategy. When you have more resources, get into stock investment. Sae Ro Yi started without knowledge in acquisition. This shortfall made him interested in the subject. He trusted his fund manager to steer the wheel.

Be the leader. Sae Ro Yi was a natural leader, able to manage his people well. Happiness comes when you surround yourself with good people. Happiness connects to contentment, contentment projects peace of mind. Sae Ro Yi believes in the value of people. Teamwork is one of the major ingredients of business success.

If you lack these qualities as an entrepreneur – you, your managers, your workforce need to upgrade to fill in the gap. The methods is readily available in your most preferred approaches: face-to-face learning, online, blended or flexible learning.

Capacitate your people with: Leadership skills, management skills, marketing skills, technical skills, communication skills, creative and effective selling techniques, etc. can be enhance through MSME’s retro-fitted short courses. Invest your time to be productive, hone your skills, improves that skills, or acquire new skills. Choose credible institution or organization where you can learn how to apply your new and improve self. Your employees capability mirrors the worth of your business.

There are  course that “aims to produce technology-driven leaders or managers who quickly learn, evaluate, apply and disseminate management information and practices… Become a professional managers who are knowledgeable, technology-driven, honor-bound and best of all, sensitive and responsive to their company’s needs.” (Advanced Leadership and Management.UP ISSI)

Every successful entrepreneur started small. The growth success is measured by you and your team’s drive and innovation. ‘Learning never stops’, new business ideas and strategies come. It’s about time – you create your own luck!

How to Cite This Web Page
Villena, Daryll. “What MSME’s can learn from Itaewon Class”. Accessed [put the date when you accessed this page]. Available from https://www.deiville.com/what-msme’s-can-learn-from-itaewon-class


Chang, M.C. March 30, 2020. The Strait Times/Asia News Network. “Social taboos unveiled in hit South Korean drama ‘Itaewon Class’
EchoManila.com. May 10, 2020. Accessed May 18, 2020. Available from https://www.echomanila.com/2020/05/how-social-media-marketing-help-your.html
University of the Philippines Institute for Small Scale Industries. Accessed May 18, 2020. Available from http://beta.entrepreneurship.org.ph/advanced-leadership-and-management-course/ 


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