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My first full-time job was as an accounting assistant at a small wholesale beverage company in the South Korean village in which I was raised. As a high school student I took classes on how to use an abacus. At that time, calculators weren’t readily available to most Koreans and my proficiency in its use enabled me to get this job. The commute, about an hour-long walk, and 12-hour days were a challenge, but I was happy to be working with two former classmates from the same all-girl’s high school that I attended.
This story first appeared in the March 8, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In addition to honing my abacus skills, I was exposed to the importance of record keeping and monitoring cash flow in shaping and organizing one’s business. I also learned how to work with other people in a business setting.
Gradually, I came to realize that bookkeeping wasn’t my calling and my ambition was to leave my small town to pursue something more creative. A year later I moved to Seoul and sold my own clothing designs from a small booth in a wholesale market. In 1989, I moved to the U.S. and 10 years later, I opened my first nail salon. Today, I have three salons with over 20 employees, as well as a nail lacquer line. To this day, I apply what I learned in my early experience to running my business— except for the abacus, of course!