Myung “Andy” Kim is the KYCC Small Business Counselor. As part of KYCC’s Community Economic Development’s Small Business Program, Mr. Kim hits the streets of Koreatown three times a week, reaching up to 10 businesses a day. He knocks on doors and walks into restaurants, meeting the mom-and-pop owners that are the heart of K-Town’s business community. He also offers a Small Business workshop series, the Entrepreneur Training Program (ETP), where industry professionals, such as bankers, CPAs and attorneys, coach startup entrepreneurs and business owners on better operations and practices. Read more about Andy here.
Where is your hometown?
My hometown is Seoul, South Korea. But my other hometown is on the Central Coast—Santa Maria, California, where I lived for 25 years. I had my own business, a 7-11-style convenience store, from 1994 to 2012. For years, it was the same business, same hours, same place, same people. When my children left home and got married, my wife and I wanted to be closer to them. So in 2013, we moved to Bellflower, near Long Beach.
Do you live or work in Koreatown?
I work in Koreatown as a small business counselor. I meet Korean people, talk to them and help the Korean community grow by building new businesses and organizing workshops for entrepreneurs.
I go into each store and introduce myself and tell them about my program. They tell me their needs. Sometimes there’s a landlord-tenant dispute. Sometimes they need information on labor laws. We talk about changing business trends. Lately, I’ve been doing outreach with Prevention Education, going to Korean markets and liquor stores. I’ve also been working with Great Streets, where I ask business owners on Western Avenue if they want trees planted in front of their stores or their storefronts painted.
Sometimes there are issues between business partners. I can counsel them a few times, but I can’t tell them what to do. We can make recommendations and give better solutions, but there are no guarantees. Some stores close and that’s sad.
In the past two years, I’ve done workshops on social media; business, health department and city permits; business taxes; how to make capital; how to use credit; how to get SBA loans; accounting; and business insurance. Around 50-60 small business start-ups attend each year.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown?
I believe a lot of things are changing in Koreatown. This is natural—it has to change. But my generation has to change their mindset. They still think they can get by with five employees, and they just keep working to cover for positions that are needed. All they know is to work hard and make money, but they don’t know the system as well as the younger generation. Some Korean owners are closing because they cannot adapt to the new system.
The younger generation is opening coffee shops, fashionable boutiques and all the new restaurants. They are learning marketing and employee management. A lot of foreign—non-Koreans—come to their restaurants. Why should only Korean people eat bulgogi? Everyone should eat bulgogi. Now I see all types of people in Koreatown.
Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?
The Korean supermarket Hannam Chain. When my mother was alive, I would make an appointment with her there. I was living in Santa Maria and my mother was living downtown in a senior apartment, so I would drive three or four hours and she would either walk or take a five-dollar taxi to meet me in front of Hannam Chain. It was about 20 years ago, so long ago. I would visit twice a month to go to the L.A. wholesale market and buy toys, school backpacks and supplies to sell at my store. Then I would go to Koreatown, meet my mom for lunch and then I would drive back home.