The Success Story of Do Won Chang, Founder of Forever 21

On March 20 in the year 1954, one of the famous entrepreneurs who found fortune in clothing business was born in Seoul, South Korea. His name is Do Won Chang, the co-founder of Forever 21 chain of retail stores. According to forbes.com, he has accumulated a fortune of $1.6 billion as of August, 2021, down from $2.7 billion in October, 2017.

Do Won Chang
Do Won Chang Biography (Photo Credit: Carnegie.org)

Do Won Chang was the son of a Korean couple of modest means. With limited formal education, he and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1981. There, he started working in the kitchen of a coffee shop, earning $3 an hour. Later, he found additional income by working in a gas station in the evening. Still not content, he took on cleaning jobs until a little past midnight. Meanwhile, Jin Sook Chang, his wife, did manicuring job, a skill he learned in Korea.

After three years in America, the couple was able to save $11,000. They bought a 900-square-foot bankrupt clothing store in Los Angeles and started their own apparel business called Fashion 21. Later, it was renamed Forever 21. As before, they worked hard until the evening and the business registered sales of $700,000 during the first year. They used the profit to establish another store. After 6 months, they put up a third branch. Subsequently, they expanded the business aggressively to cover the country from coast to coast. By 2010, they had 457 stores in 15 countries. By 2016, the company made $4.4 billion in sales, had 43,000 employees in 790 stores in 48 countries including his native South Korea.

In an interview, Do Won credited his initial success to his low price strategy. He was able to do this by buying in bulk directly from manufacturers at heavily discounted prices. He also cited his very religious background. In fact, a Bible verse is printed at the bottom of every Forever 21 bag.

References
https://www.forbes.com/profile/do-won-jin-sook-chang/
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/31/business/la-fi-himi-chang-20100731
https://www.forbes.com/sites/gracechung/2016/10/05/exclusive-interview-with-one-of-americas-most-successful-immigrants-forever-21s-do-won-chang/#11f282d642ab

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