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Brewing Empowerment among Young Baristas

27 Nov 2018

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Jae Won Suk believes that the key to an enjoyable and happy work life is having something that drives you to strive forward. “The very first thoughts I had in my mind when I joined this company are my biggest motivation and what allow me to continue working without losing a sense of purpose.”

From 2013 to 2017, Jae served as the CEO and representative director of M’s Seed Co., Ltd. which has two brands, Paul Basset, a premium coffee shop franchise, and Sangha Milk ice cream shop. During the company’s beginning seven years ago, Jae served as the brand manager and started with only two shops and fifteen staff members. The company’s estimated sales figures for 2017 were KRW 76.5 billion (SGD 93.9 million) with operating profit at 3.2%. M’s Seed Co., Ltd. currently employs 790 full-time employees.

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In Jae’s views, the most important aspects of M’s Seed Co., Ltd. are “Quality,” “Personnel,” and “Interior”. Under the “Personnel” aspect, he explains that in Korea, many of the shop staff working at coffee shops are part-timers, most of them young people. Realizing an opportunity to contribute to society, he decided to turn “Barista” into a professional job and help instill young people working as baristas with a good set of values that they could use to live a stable life in their own futures. Speaking of the company’s mission, Jae says, “We are trying to make a sustainable business and striving to create new jobs and establish the next steps for our employees.”

Despite the challenges, Jae has garnered several accomplishments under his belt. The business has created new jobs for 790 people and helped socially disadvantaged employees grow as members of society. “It is the most rewarding feeling when I see employees beginning to recognize the fruits of their efforts.” He is also proud of having shaped a brand that is beloved by many people. The coffee brand Paul Bassett ranked 4th place in Korea Brand Awards of The Institute for Industrial Policy Studies in December 2017.

Jae wondered about the next step after working as a CEO. “Would it be the CEO of a larger company or would it be another vocation? I’ve been thinking of this since last year and I haven’t learned the answer yet.” He is currently pursuing a PhD in business management at Seoul School of Integrated Sciences & Technologies, which he says is part of the preparation “to become a person who can receive such an opportunity when the time is given.” He recently published an article on “Public-Private Partnership and the Evolution of a Social Mission” in the Journal of Strategic Management.

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In true LKYSPP spirit, Jae lists three valuable experiences during his time at LKYSPP. “First, it helped me broaden my knowledge and perspective to see the same theme from a business point of view to a policy and national perspective.

Second, the interactions and exchanges with students from diverse backgrounds have contributed greatly to broadening his experience. He adds that his experience with students of LKYSPP has overall helped him have a more global perspective.

Third, Jae cites Singapore’s geographic characteristics as contributing to informative, real-world experiences. “The business I work with must be able to understand and control very diverse elements,” he comments. “Furthermore, understanding national development policies, understanding people and understanding diversity are essential to those who work with a social mission like me.” According to Jae, the greatest takeaway from his experience at LKYSPP is finding his vocation.

Speaking of what he misses most about LKYSPP, Jae recalls his dormitory life at College Green. “This is where I became a student and made precious relationships and memories.” He adds that although it has already been seven years ago, he still enjoys hearing news from friends on social media from time to time. “Every time I see many friends living as they dream, I admire them indeed. Sometimes, my friends visit Korea and we have the chance to share stories of our lives together. My life in College Green is something precious to me and can never be forgotten.”

This piece is contributed by Jae Won SUK(MPA 2011), President/CEO of M’s Seed Co., Ltd (2013 – 2017)

Midori Nishida

Master in Public Policy (2018)