Connecting the Dots

When you hear the word “Supply Chain”, you may think of the manufacturing industry, Amazon, or may not be familiar what that word even entails. Rarely do people think of “entrepreneurship” within the same context of supply chain. I am a Korean-American, 24-year old, female restauranteur in Charlotte, North Carolina who is enthralled by the integrated processes of supply chain.

Rewinding back to when I was 12 years old, I vividly recall my mother handing me a blank sheet of paper to write down what we needed to purchase for the restaurant. I would go through the restaurant jotting down what was low in stock. The restaurant was nestled in the heart of downtown Anchorage where thousands of tourists would flock to the center city to experience the adventures of Alaska. This meant that I had to be aware of the various needs of a dynamic customer base in order for the operations to be prosperous. By the age of 16, I decided to renovate and update the restaurant’s interior design, concept, and menu. I was fully involved in the renovation process from the beginning to the end. I understood that the project required adaptation to the evolving needs of our customers. Shortly thereafter the renovation, sales increased three-fold.

By age 18, I left my hometown with my life in two heavy suitcases headed for Pennsylvania. The alchemy of my entrepreneurial history and my strong interest in supply chain led me to my next endeavor of pursuing a Project & Supply Chain degree at Pennsylvania State University. After four years of overnighters, creating new relationships, and always working towards my next opportunity, I evolved into a young adult ready to tackle on the world with my inspiration and motivation. I graduated with a Project & Supply Chain Management degree, a Management Information Systems minor, a Political Science minor, an SAP with ERP certificate, and a Bloomberg Terminal certificate.

By the time I graduated, my parents had already resided in Charlotte for a couple of years. We decided to open up a cafe in Charlotte. As my first project out of college, I was determined to apply my knowledge in the pursuit of a new business. I immediately started to formulate a business plan that would accurately depict my strategy and the competitive advantage to my business. The challenges I encountered during this project had a similar outline, but possessed a different texture. For months I was on a mission to familiarize myself with Charlotte’s neighborhoods and real estate market. I relentlessly researched and cold-called various property managers and brokers with limited resources. After months of searching, I was in a bidding war with some of my competitors for a prime space. I was communicating and negotiating back and forth with a property manager who worked directly with an owner of a high-rise in uptown Charlotte looking to improve the mixed-media space. The agreement had very attractive and lucrative conditions where my competitors seized upon the opportunity aggressively. Despite the odds in my favor, I managed to “level-up” to a higher bracket, beating out the well-known franchise: Starbucks.

After months of relentless effort and energy invested into this opportunity, I experienced my first defeat when I had lost against a local coffeehouse franchise that ultimately ended up securing the space. With the knowledge I had accumulated from the experience, I shifted my route and continued on with my search. With an altered business plan and with a more constrained time frame, I proactively sought out my next target location. Soon after, I had come across a preexisting space I had a strong interest in and had asked the restaurant owner if he would consider selling. Needless to say, I am now operating and managing my own restaurant with the help of my supportive family.

I gained a true appreciation in how supply chain had affected my endeavors throughout my development as an entrepreneur. From an early age, I was around an environment where I learned how to source goods, create my own efficient system that catered towards my customer base, and analyzed my competitor’s advantages and disadvantages. Operating a business on the consumer end helped me gain a deeper understanding of the interconnectivity of the processes. Once I knew how to align the processes effectively, I had a system where I would perpetually try to improve thereafter. I quickly realized that giving keen attention to detail is always a great idea. Being an entrepreneur helps you see how Supply Chain has a strong presence in other functional areas such as finance, marketing, etc. Also, being an entrepreneur and applying Supply Chain techniques, I enjoy having the creative freedom. When the two factors are fused, the possibilities seem endless. I understood that the restaurant industry is sensitive to social and economic trends. Catering to tourists from around the world helped me operate a versatile business while still adhering to the business concept. Global trends and technology will also vastly change the terrain of challenges.

Currently, I am trying to improve the operations of the restaurant so that it is more systematic and functions more seamlessly. Because the restaurant is still very new, I am simultaneously trying to find ways to advertise while building a dependable team. The restaurant industry always has unpredictable surprises and am currently working on the necessary ways to respond to any given situation. The logistics of knowing how to balance finance, hiring, operations, & marketing with the resources of a small business has been a challenging yet rewarding journey. Applying my knowledge in Supply Chain has helped me to exercise and expand my creativity. As Steve Jobs once said at Stanford University’s commencement ceremony, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward.” As I reflect upon my past experiences and milestone events, supply chain has always been woven into the fabric of my life. I am excited to see what the future has in store as I have long-term plans to be involved in Supply Chain.

Chris Kim
March 18, 2017
Face of Supply Chain – MHI

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