Entrepreneurship lessons from Itaweon Class.

Sometimes inspiration can come from watching a Netflix series

Rudy Muzah
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Blood, sweat and tears finally paying off : Park Seo-joon playing the resilient Park Saeroyi in Itaweon Class.

It is true that in order to be successful there are certain measures that we need to take into account to help us get a step closer to the life of our dreams. Most successful individuals often talk about their daily routines which include the books they read, the number of times they visit the gym and the type of friends they hang around with, but many of them hardly talk about inspirational movies, documentaries or Netflix series to look out for if you are an ambitious individual on a pursuit to greatness.

In fact some successful individuals associate watching Netflix with laziness. The modern hustle is more about working and grinding than actually taking time off to reflect and enjoy what life has to offer, the rat race has become so toxic that mental health has become a major concern for most entrepreneurs.

According to a study by Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are 50 percent more likely to report having a mental health condition, with some specific conditions being incredibly prevalent amongst founders. Founders are: 2X more likely to suffer from depression. … 3X more likely to suffer from substance abuse.

Watching inspirational movies and documentaries is often overlooked but when entrepreneurs make a conscious decision to add this aspect into their self care routine it can be beneficial to their mental well-being, it releases cortisol (the stress hormone) in the brain, followed by dopamine, which produces feelings of pleasure. Recently I completed watching the K-drama “Itaweon Class” on Neflix. I learnt a lot of valuable entrepreneurship lessons whilst relaxing and enjoying the drama at the same time. It simply felt like killing two birds with one stone and if you haven’t watched Itaweon Class yet, I urge you to do so.

Itaweon Class is a K-drama series about a high school dropout and ex-convict who makes his ambitious dreams for making his street bar to be number one in South Korea. It emphasises that our future shouldn’t be determined by our past mistakes and it also teaches us not to compromise our values regardless of our circumstances.

  1. Stick to your values and never give up.

In the beginning of the series Park Saeroyi got expelled from school which even led to his father’s unemployment simply because he decided to do what was right by sticking to his values. He chose to forge his own path instead of taking shortcuts and giving in to what other people expected of him.

Sticking to his values also led him to getting arrested and made him face the harsh reality of him not being able to pursue his dream of becoming a policeman, but that didn’t deter him from dreaming big even while he was in prison. He knew that in spite of the challenges he faced due to injustice he had to hold his head up high and believe in himself.

During his time in prison he decided to build his father’s dream of owning a restaurant by reading Chairman Jang’s autobiography and developing a 15-year plan. He even got into a fight with one of his prison mates who made fun of him while he was studying, he refused to let other people’s opinions determine his future and later in the series we discover that the same prison mate later became one of his employees. Reflecting on our values always leads us back to why we started anything from our businesses to anything we are passionate about.

2. Value your people over profit.

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Park Saeroyi with his team of outcasts.

Invest in your people to the degree that your competitor will want to pirate them — as Saeroyi’s nemesis Chairman Jang tries to do — and support them to the degree that they will always want to stay.

Richard Branson once mentioned that its crucial to take care of employees in order for them to be able to take care of your business. We are all familiar with the phrase, ‘Customer is king,’ and even though I agree with this phrase, I also believe that employees are also key to the growth of any business because your people will help you to achieve your dreams and without them it is difficult to achieve your goal.

In Itaweon Class, Park Saeroyi takes pride in his employees and he is seen on different episodes mentioning how he values his employees over money. This was also portrayed when he hired his friend as a chef, Ma Hyeon-yi who struggled with cooking. When the manager fired her, Park Saeroyi stopped the chef from getting unemployed. Instead, he put his faith in the chef by giving her an additional month’s pay and telling the chef to work harder to get better. He believed in his friend and surely the friend did get better over time and even ended up winning a cooking competition with one of the country’s best chefs.

3. Invest in Social Media Marketing.

Study says 90% of people buy from brands they follow on social media. It is crucial for any business to invest heavily on social media marketing in order for it to be successful in this digital era. The main important factor is to be where your customers are and in this day and age many customers spend their time on social media.

Park Saeroyi struggled to raise awareness for his business because he was still a novice and he simply implemented the traditional method of marketing handing out flyers of his pub. Fortunately enough he managed to meet Yiseo, a high school student (who later became the restaurant’s manager) who suggested that he should try advertising his restaurant on social media since it was the trend in the current business world.

Park Saeroyi’s restaurant, “DanBam,” increased its sales and widened its reach after implementing a great social media strategy for its customers.

4. Behind most successful individuals there is a supportive partner.

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Power couple: Park Saeroyi and Yiseo working towards the success of DanBam

It is important to have a partner who believes in your dreams because there will be hardships along the way and the last thing you want is a negative unsupportive partner.

In the beginning of the series Park Saeroyi falls in love with Soo-ah, his first love. However as the drama progresses we see that Soo-ah doesn’t believe in Park Saeroyi’s dreams, she constantly reminds him of his past, how small he is in the business world and how he should just give up and live an ordinary life.

Fortunately for Saeroyi, he manages to meet Yiseo who falls deeply in love with him and even sacrifices her own career to make DanBam a success. Yiseo believes in Park Saeroyi’s dreams and her goal is to see him happy and successful. She is wiling to fight with anyone who tries to mess around with Saeroyi. Although they start of as friends and business partners we witness their friendship turn into a power couple as Park Saeroyi manages to achieve his dreams and finally realising how important Yiseo has been throughout his journey of making his restaurant the most successful in South Korea.

Park Saeroyi sharing his fears with Yiseo

5. Stocks and Investments.

Stocks and investments are mentioned a lot in Itaewon Class. After his father passes away, Park Saeroyi invests his father’s insurance into Jangga Group when the company faces a crisis and drops its stock price. After years of investment, his money grows a lot and he later buys his own building. We also witness Pareto law getting real as DanBam gets a snowball effect from an investment from a big firm, JM Holding. After the news of the investment spread, other investment firms follow the step because they believe in JM Holding moves.

When it comes to stock market investing, buy low and sell high and do it for the long term.

6. Final thoughts

Itaweon class oozes with inspiration as it is graced with a plethora of entrepreneurial lessons. I could go on and on writing about what I learnt from this interesting K-Drama but I don’t think that would give justice to the thousands of important lessons the drama tries to express, from not giving up on your dreams, trusting your gut, picking the right location for your business to giving people second chances. If you haven’t watched this amazing drama and you are looking for some inspiration, what are you waiting for ? You won’t regret it. If you have watched this amazing drama please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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