From the beginning of this academic year, there have been many difficulties created by the COVID-19. The start of classes has been delayed for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and the campus' energy is nowhere to be found. This time of the year, the university grounds would have been crowded with students showing off their individuality and idiosyncrasies. In particular, Hannam University’s Start Up Zone has gotten a direct hit by COVID-19. Let's find out what problems some Start Up Zone stores faced because of the epidemic. We went to talk to the owners of two outlets –DAON and Ondamwall.
Q1. What is the meaning of your store’s name and what do you sell?
DAON:The name means that all good things will eventually come. We sell interior products such as flowers and scents.
Ondamwall: The stonewall of a hanok (traditional Korean house) is called ‘ondam’. We named our store ‘Ondamwall’ to create a warm atmosphere for visiting customers, like the moon floating on the stonewall of a hanok. Another meaning of the name refers to ‘bringing in warmth’. We sell coffee, drinks and homemade cookies.
Q2. Do you experience difficulties not being able to attract customers due to COVID-19?
DAON: We sell most products during the semester and have off-season sales during vacations because the university population decreases. So, nearly all the stores around the University do little business now.
Ondamwall: The most difficult thing for us is that coffee and cookies are not being sold. If we try to organize an event, it does not work well because there is student population. We have tried to overcome the difficulty, but we have not found a good solution, yet. Also, there are limits to selling online due to the nature of the food.
Q3. Has the university cut your rents to help you overcome these difficulties?
DAON: The rent and electric charges is low because it’s a public institution. The university has reduced the rent by 50 percent considering COVID-19. I wish the contract period will be extended, but there is no notice to this effect until now.
Ondamwall: Thankfully, the university has reduced the rent by 50 percent. But it is not a great help to our store as the rent is originally cheap. With other stores of the Start Up Zone we are scheduled to ask for the extension of the contract period.
Q4. Are you selling online to generate revenue? Which is more profitable, online or offline?
DAON: It is necessary to trade online because the off-season and the peak-season are divided in university districts. The revenue is almost all generated online.
Ondamwall: We started a delivery service three days ago and we sell 10 cups of beverages a day on average.
Q5. Did you set a goal when you started your own business? Did COVID-19 make that goal difficult to achieve?
DAON: The goal when I start my own business was to raise a lot of capital and set up my own store. However, little revenue has been generated, so it will take longer to achieve the goal.
Ondamwall: We can operate this store for two years, so it remains only nine months to generate revenues. It will be so difficult to generate revenues during such a short period of time. I think this will cause problems in expanding the business or maintain the existing stores.
Both stores generate little revenue because there was no student population. The owners gave the same answer to the last question. They started their own business with the dream and hope of setting up their own store because they really like coffee and love flowers and scents. Although they have planned savings to build the capital to set up their own store, it became difficult to achieve their targets because the small revenue that can be generated in a time of COVID-19. The only thing we can do during these challenging times is keep warm relationships and show continued interests in each other. Let’s hope that students will visit the Start-Up Zone stores in the second semester, so their owners will be able to overcome the difficulties.