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Advice From A Non-Technical Founder

Document, Timeline & Communication Method

As an African American entrepreneur I have my fair share of challenges if I want to build a mobile application. For starters I can’t code, I don’t have a technical co-founder, and I don’t have personal connections with any software developers.  Yet, I still wanted to develop my mobile application to assist people with food allergies and dietary restrictions.

I started off with a simple strategy and a little bit of advice.  

“You don’t try to build a wall, you don’t set out to build a wall, you don’t start there, you say “I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid” and you do that every single day and soon you have a wall.”  ~ Will Smith 

Instead of focusing on how to build a wall I started with a task: Mobile App Flow.

Document Project 

I needed to perfectly describe my mobile application concept.  I decided to create a mockup of the app design flow.  In the past I’ve enrolled in an online course that taught Figma.  *Figma is a free online design tool that allows users to see prototypes of Android and iOS apps in real time.  However, I quickly realized that I would need a lot more instruction and hands-on training.  I decided to use a platform that I already used many times.


I researched the dimensions of a mobile phone application and I used the custom dimension feature on Canva.  Canva allows users to create designs using a drag and drop feature.  To create the mobile app screenshot designs I didn’t focus on colors, size or graphics.  Instead I created a generic layout of each screen.


I needed to pick a color palette for the developers to use as the primary and secondary app color.  Coolors allows users to generate various color combinations. You can use a photo to create a color palette or browse popular color combos that other artist have created. I used Coolors because it’s simple to use and you can download a pdf version of your palette.  *Canva also allows you to create a color palette for projects.


I created a style guide in Canva as well that provided the developers with information about the mobile app.  The most important information I provided was the mobile app purpose(mission statement), color scheme, font/image guidelines. *I used Google developer best practices for the font and image recommendations*  In total the style guide was fourteen pages with the last page consisting of my contact and social media information.

I was finally ready to find a software developer and begin the next task: Mobile App Development.


I researched similar projects on UpWork, I read their job descriptions and what they required (proposals) from developers.  Using the advice I mentioned before I decided to create a job posting for the screenshots.  Plus, I figured if I liked the company/individual that I chose then we could move forward with the project, but if I didn’t then at least I had other options. Five months ago I posted the job description below:

I am currently looking for an app developer/IT who can create a flow chart diagram and wireframe mockup for my mobile application using Figma.  The developer will source/create: stock images, illustrations, and or icons for the project and once complete will provide research/links from sourced materials. 

The developer will be able to use a style guideline and a rough sketch to determine the capabilities of the app and will be able to take this information to create a Flow Chart diagram, detailing data sequence simulating how the user would move within the app. The project will ultimately be used to develop/publish a mobile application.

You will be asked to answer the following questions when submitting a proposal:

Describe your recent experience with similar projects

Include a link to your profile and/or website    


The developer provided a contract that included the scope of the project, price, and timeline.  The most important items that I believe should be included:  

  • Employer and or individual owns all code + designs 
  • Developer will provide Code Library upon completion
  • The developer will provide their tax I.D., address, Contact info(Phone/Email) 
  • Timeline: Approx. dates for frontend, backend & testing
  • Project Requirements: Google developer account, cloud computing, email delivery service, dedicated email, etc.  
  • Payment Method – (i.e. Bank Transfer, Check, PayPal, etc. & Due Dates)
  • Signature (Print, Sign & Date)

*Before informing the developer in detail about your mobile app concept don’t forget to create and sign a non-disclosure agreement.


I selected a company on Upwork and we moved forward with the project. Using the screenshot designs I created using Canva the wireframes(screenshots) were completed.  I decided to continue working with the same company and we began developing the mobile application. 

The first week of October was set as the first deadline.  We had weekly check-ins to discuss what was needed to move the project forward.  After finalizing a logo design, the developers began developing the back/frontend of the app.  This was the hardest part of the process so far.  I had to trust someone else with my vision and learn to manage my expectations.    

While the developers worked on coding and creating the images/graphics I worked with the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program.  My small business counselor has been there on both the good and bad days.  On the days when I trusted the process and on the days when I thought I was in over my head and I wanted to throw in the towel.

Our initial timeline has been pushed back nearly two months.  I’ve learned a lot through the process, whether it was trying to connect with Korean food manufacturers, or speaking with the Ministry Of Food and Drug Safety.  But I always remember “brick by brick” and focus on tasks that I can complete.  Some of those tasks included: virtually attending webinars/conferences, volunteering, and connecting with other black entrepreneurs.

Communication Method


I’ve become proficient at scheduling and attending virtual zoom sessions.  I find that it’s easier than going back and forth via email when you’re trying to communicate mobile app issues.  Zoom has been the fly on the wall as we submitted the mobile app for testing on both Android and iOS.


Create a new email specifically for the mobile app project.  If your resources permit it’s better to buy a business email such as Google Workspace and use it for all communications concerning the app.  


Before the developer begins work on your mobile app it’s important to clearly understand the software and platforms the developer will use to build the app.  This step can be a little confusing at times creating, and assigning administrator roles.  

However, it’s important to gauge the full price of developing the mobile app.  Ask for the price of each software requirement and initially try to use as many free versions as possible.  *Create each account and have the developer use the accounts you created*  This is important because eventually you might decide to scale your business.  Possible choices include hiring a dedicated software engineer or partnering with a technical co-founder.  Whichever path you choose for the next phase of your product growth they will need full access.      

We’re in the final stages of developing and publishing the mobile app.  I can’t wait to share with everyone what I’ve been working on.  These are just some of the initial obstacles I faced in the development process.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Any advice for non-technical founders?

If so, please share your comments below, and what valuable lessons you learned as a non-technical founder who built a mobile application or developed a product.  I plan to continue sharing my experience with additional posts after I’ve published the Korean Convenience app.

Additionally, I would love to hear what you found in the post the most helpful and why?

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Entrepreneur Korea Interview

Part of my ongoing effort to keep up to date on events occurring in South Korea, I joined Entrepreneurs In Seoul Facebook group. Tony is another member within the group and he recently launched a new venture Entrepreneur Korea.

I asked if he would be willing to share with Korean Convenience readers about his experiences? The following interview was written by Tony about his experiences owning two businesses in South Korea.

Editor’s note: The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Small Business Interview: Tony Choi, Entrepreneur Korea

1. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background? What made you initially want to come to South Korea?

My name is Tony Choi and I was born in Toronto, Canada. I came to Korea after finishing my undergraduate degree in 2007 and taught English for a year in the Chungnam Province with the EPIK program.

Then I came back to Korea in 2010 and have been in Korea since. I went from teaching at an English hagwon, to working at a Korean company, to teaching in a Public School, to starting my own English Gyosoopso, to starting my own Flowers and Gifts business, to selling my Flowers and Gifts business.

I initially wanted to come to Korea because I wanted to learn more about my roots and understand the perspective of my Korean family members. Also, there was something tugging at my heart to come to Korea and I honestly didn’t know what it was.

2. Can you describe what Hagwons are for the readers who are not familiar with the South Korean school system?

A hagwon is a business that people pay money to attend to either learn a particular set of skills or to enhance their skills to help them get higher scores on a test. The most common example is an English hagwon business.

A lot of students attend an English hagwon to learn English or to improve their overall English ability. Also, there are English hagwons that specialize in helping people past certain tests.

Tony and Brandy At Flower Gift Korea South Korea Business

Related Article: Marketing Amidst COVID-19

3. Can you tell me about your business and or businesses?

a. How long were you in business?

IGL English was an English Gyosoopso that my wife and I started in April 2013 and closed in February 2017. A Gyosoopso is pretty much a one-man run English hagwon.

Flower Gift Korea is a gifts and flowers business that I started in April 2016 as a side business while running my English Gyosoopso. We sold the business in September 2018 and it is currently being run by new owners.

b. What service (s) and or product (s) do you offer/manufacture?

IGL English was an English teaching business, and we focused on teaching elementary and middle school students overall English. Flower Gift Korea was a business that mainly sold flowers, but we also sold gift boxes, chocolates, stuffed toys, and a few other products. You can check out the flower Gift Korea website to see what is currently being sold.

c. The process of getting product and or service to customers? (i.e. Mail, Email, or Amazon, etc.)

IGL English: We basically relied on personally handing flyers to parents in front of schools and striking up conversations. Also, it helped that I was a Native English teacher at an elementary school not too far from where we opened up our English Gyosoopso, so most of our first few students attended because their parents heard from a friend or a colleague that I was a good teacher.

Flower Gift Korea: I created an e-commerce website (online shop) on the WordPress blog platform that acted as my homepage. I then worked hard to spread the news about my flower business via my own personal network. And we heavily relied on social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram to make people aware of what we offered.

When I first started Flower Gift Korea, I made a social media post almost every day. Through social media, I was able to draw people to my website and I was also able to close sales on the different sns platforms I was utilizing.

d. What made your business unique?

The only thing that made IGL English unique was that I was a unique teacher. It’s not to say that I’m extra special, but for a small hagwon type businesses like a study room or a Gyosoopso, you are pretty much selling yourself as the product.


IGL English Gyosoopso Main Classroom

Related Article: Creating Products Customers Want

However, Flower Gift Korea was very unique because we were the first online English speaking flower service in Korea that had a face to our name. We were present on social media and I made sure people saw t hat there were real people behind the business. That helped build our reputation and many people began to trust us. Also, it helped that I could speak fluent English, so people often felt more comfortable dealing with us than with our competitors.

4. On your business page it states there are 3 main business components. They’re money, law, and marketing can you explain why an entrepreneur needs all three?

In short, you need to know how much things cost and how much money you can make because without any money coming in, you aren’t a business. And though you won’t know all of the laws, you do need to understand that you will legally have to pay taxes and know some major things not to do, because then you will need to pay some hefty fines.

And if you can’t market your product or service, no one will buy it. So in the end, I guess everything about business revolves around money and how much money you have left over after all of your expenses. Also, if you are weak in one aspect, then there’s always the possibility of partnering with someone.

5. How much preparation do you believe an entrepreneur should have before opening a business in South Korea? (i.e. Capital, Investors, Business Visa, and Social Media)

It really depends on what kind of business you want to start. My wife and I started Flower Gift Korea as a side business with less than 3 million won. I just had to pay for a decent server, a good website theme, some floral education, and flowers to make our initial products.

If you are looking to start a restaurant in Seoul, then you may need to have 100-300 million won saved up (or have some investors lined-up). In the end, you need to make sure you have the right Visa, so you should research first on getting the right Visa. There is a new F2-7 visa, which is probably a good Visa to consider for people who don’t have 100 million Won lying around.

And the best time to start a business is now.

You’ll never be fully ready, so my advice is to start with getting the right visa. As you go through the process of getting the right visa, network with as many people as you can, and take action so that you get closer and closer to actually starting your business.

I know people who say they would start a business if they had more money, or if they learned more Korean, or if they didn’t have to do this and that. In the end, this all just means that they are just afraid to get the ball rolling. And being afraid is normal, but my advice is set a timeline and stick to it because you’ll never be fully ready.

If you are working a job and are waiting to start your business, then learn some skills and increase your knowledge. Read up on doing business in Korea, network, and learn Korean.

6. You partnered with Korean business owners to purchase flowers for Flower Gift Korea can you tell me more about that process? Ex: How did you meet and form your business agreements?

Note: I speak somewhat fluent Korean and was able to build relationships with Koreans.

Simple, I built relationships with them over time. I invested money and time to create great relationships with flower merchants. I basically shopped around till I found a flower merchant I thought had great quality flowers and then just kept buying flowers from them.

Over time they knew we meant business, and once we increased our orders, they would give us discounts here and there. Another partner we had, we just went to the area where a bunch of merchants were and found one and just tried them.

Over time they saw we meant business and then slowly gave us better prices. I basically approached people quietly and showed them that I could be a great customer or that I could bring some value to them.

There’s no secret way of finding the best manufactures or suppliers in Korea. If you are just starting out, chances are that you won’t get any great deals or people may even just ignore you since you will most likely be a small fry.

You need to prove yourself in Korea to people and show them that it is worth their while to partner with you. And you will need to approach them or be introduced to them. The new owners of Flower Gift Korea inherited all of our contacts for the business, so they don’t need to go through the whole process of finding partners. But if you have no one to introduce you, then you’ll have to find them and approach them yourself.

So in short, you need to offer something to them. You need to be of value. We actually did not write any agreements or anything like that, so though I had a lot of “partners”, I never had a partner where I shared my profits with. Unless you count my wife. And again, you or one of our partners needs to be fluent in Korean if you are looking to partner with Korean merchants and manufacturers.

Related Article: Free Korean Language Classes Online

7. Who where your target customers? (i.e. South Korea, Abroad or both)

IGL English targeted the parents in the neighborhood since most parents like to send their children to hagwons that are easily accessible.

Flower Gift Korea targeted English speaking people who had a reason to send flowers and gifts to people in Korea. So it was a worldwide market. Flower Gift Korea had a lot of English speaking customers living in Korea and received orders from over 75 different countries.

8. How did you go about marketing your product (s) and or service (s)? What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Our most successful form of marketing is word of mouth. If someone tells someone your business is good, then they will believe it. That is why I focused my efforts on trying to get reviews from as many people possible when first starting Flower Gift Korea.

Flower Shop in Seoul South-Korea

If you are just first starting off and don’t have many reviews, then I think another form of social proof is important. You can just post some really nice photos of your product or service, or provide some really helpful advice. Then it is important to engage the customer and ask them how you can help them.

9. Describe your typical workday?

For IGL English it was different depending on the day. I basically arrived at my Gyosoopso by 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. and then taught till about 9pm-10pm. I taught mostly from Monday-Friday but also taught on Saturdays on certain years.

Once I got to my third year of business, I had very little to prepare since I was usually teaching the exact same curriculum and material as the year prior. If I had six different classes, then I might have done some preparation for one of the classes, but it was very systemized. However, year one was a lot of work.

For Flower Gift Korea, I would wake up in the morning, check the orders, see what flowers need to be bought, buy necessary flowers and supplies, go to our shop to make the flowers and gifts, deliver the gifts for the day, check social media and customer service, and then do some marketing. Honestly, every day was different because the number of orders was never consistent throughout the week. Some days we had just 1 and on super busy days we could have 100 plus. But super busy days weren’t very common.

Now, I will most likely go to a coffee shop to create content based on my experience as an entrepreneur / small businessman in Korea.

10. Where did your organization’s funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?

We never used money from investors. Besides money we had saved up, we did get some business loans through some government programs that no longer exist. For IGL English, we got a 10 million won business line of credit, which we paid off within a year.

And for Flower Gift Korea, we got a 20 million won business loan through a government program when we shifted from online business to brick and mortar shop. My wife went through the process of getting the loan.

If you aren’t Korean, then the loans we got would not be possible for you. We basically had to show how much money we were currently making, how much rent we would be paying, and submit some other financial information. I, unfortunately, cannot go into detail about the whole loan process because I’m not very familiar with it.

11. What are your goals for your company?

I currently do not own a business, but I am currently focusing my efforts on creating helpful content for I’ve always wanted to teach others how to do business in Korea and share my experiences as well. I plan on writing a book or a few on doing business in Korea and life as an entrepreneur in Korea. For now, I will focus on content creation and if anyone wants me to create content on something specific, I welcome the suggestion.

12. What advice would you give to individuals who want to launch a startup in South Korea?

Start small and start right now. If you fail, learn from it and adjust. Don’t be one of those guys that talks about your idea for years and then complain that someone stole your idea and then uses that as an excuse to feel sorry for yourself.

If you are still scared, learn more about doing business in Korea and learn some helpful skills. Learning Korean is a very useful skill to have. Depending on the startup you launch, you may not need Korean, but the ability to use Korean when necessary can only be a benefit.

To learn more about Tony Choi and read additional business advice check out his website Entrepreneur Korea

Written by: Tony Choi

Interviewed by: Erica Dozier

If you plan on opening a business in South Korea check out the Facebook group Entrepreneurs In Seoul.

If you liked this interview check out similar posts:

#1. Starting A Business In Korea

#2. Path To Obtaining A Startup Visa

#3. A Platform For Entrepreneurs: Seoul Startups

#4. Startup Assistance In Seoul

#5. Startup Visa Intellectual Property Rights Presentation

#6. Small Business Interveiw: Brandon Walcutt, Kohsi Design Centre

#7. Black Business Owner In South Korea Interview

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A Platform For Entrepreneurs: Seoul Startups

Startup image

Seoul Startups Informational Interview

In my continuous search to connect and highlight entrepreneurs involved in the startup scene in South Korea, I was referred to Seoul Startups.

Seoul Startups is administered by Marta, a native from Poland, who has lived in Korea for 14 years. After years of working in a corporation, she has transitioned to a freelancer with the goal of assisting entrepreneurs in Korea.

Recently, I spoke to Marta about the Seoul Startups and the community she’s building. Here’s a summary of the tips and advice she gave for entrepreneurs.

1. What problem is Seoul Startups solving and who is your target audience?

Seoul Startups is an online and offline platform for foreigners and Koreans to connect with others on the startup scene in South Korea. It’s a place where people can share tips, advice, and information about doing business in Korea.

2. What is your role in Seoul Startups? Can you tell me about other people involved and their roles?

I’m the administrator of the community and I organize our meetings/networking events. Right now, the community has about 460 active people who include students, native Koreans, Government employees, and startup entrepreneurs.

3. How do you get your product or service to entrepreneurs? I.e. Marketing, Partnerships, etc.

● Word Of Mouth

● Co-working spaces at Google for Startups Seoul & We-Work

● Post On Social Media

● Press

4. Seoul Startups funding is provided by the Government, nonprofit incorporated or self-funded?

I took Seoul Startups over from two foreigners who previously implemented the idea and were leaving South Korea. Right now, it’s entirely on a volunteer basis from other entrepreneurs in the community who want to get involved and help organize the community.

5. Seoul Startups had an event in February can you tell me a little bit about that event and its purpose? In addition, are there any upcoming events and or projects planned that you can share?

The purpose of the event was to have people in the industry meet with each other to discuss the startup scene in Korea. After an initial ice breaking introductions, I broke the attendees into teams of three and had them write 5 things they don’t like about the Korean startup scene, 5 things they do like and 5 things they can do to change the environment.

Another meeting is planned later this month at another co-working space.

6. What is the long-term vision for Seoul Startups?

Be a voice on the Korea startups scene, be respected in the local Startup Scene. For Koreans and foreigners to share with one another and have the mentality that we can help each other and really become a global hub for innovation.

7. What are the biggest mistakes you believe are made by startup entrepreneurs in Korea?

The two biggest mistakes are: Entrepreneurs come to Korea without researching and they don’t have a network base. They will struggle a lot if they don’t speak Korean or have a Korean business partner to do the administrative and cultural part of the business.

Korean Business Tip: I believe that it’s better to hire a Korean employee so that they can assist your business while helping you obtain cultural awareness of Korean society. In addition, entrepreneurs should attend Korean business events even if the program is only in Korean so that they can network.

8. Can you tell me what are some online resources you believe are helpful for learning more about starting a business overseas?

I believe that Seoul Startups is a great resource for learning about starting a business. Also, check out National IT Promotion Agency (NIPA) and my own website Angry Polish Girl for information on the Korean Startup Scene.

9. Can you tell me about your freelance consultancy business in S. Korea? How do you market/promote your business?

My freelance consultancy business offer: Localized business development and marketing strategies, plan and design investor pitches, for startups & SMEs in Korea.

I market my business through referrals I obtain while networking and attending events within Korea.

10. What advice would you give aspiring Entrepreneurs who want to make it in Korea?

Don’t be afraid of failing, failure is not the end result it’s a process. Develop your soft skills and be able to go in a room and explain in one sentence your business and what problem it solves.

*Soft skills def: personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.

Marta Linkedin Bio: Combining experience in high tech and telecommunications (Samsung, isit fresh), knowledge in Korean and corporate cultures and the enthusiasm of a forever-young zen-terpreneur.

– In-depth knowledge and ‘feeling’ for Korean business culture – Experienced public speaker and presenter, both in business and motivational, community building settings – Diverse network in technology and entrepreneur communities in Korea and Poland

Passionate about the empowerment of those starting from a less privileged position in the business and technology industries.

Read more information about Marta on her website Angry Polish Girl for stories on Startups, cocktails, and life in Seoul.

Written By: Erica Dozier | Interviewed: March 15, 2019, KST

Erica is a freelance writer, entrepreneur, and creator of Korean Convenience.

Disclaimer: This blog/website is made available by Korean Convenience for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the business scene in South Korea, not to provide specific business advice. This blog/website should not be used as a substitute for competent business advice from a licensed professional in your state/country.

Looking for more information on starting a business in Korea? Check out these articles:

  1. Starting A Business In Korea
  2. Startup Assistance in Seoul
  3. Entrepreneur Korea Interview
  4. Small Business Interview: Brandon Walcutt, Kohsi Design Centre
  5. Path To Obtaining A Startup Visa In South Korea
  6. Twelve Tips For E-commerce Startups

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