Few undergraduate students can say that they’ve started their own businesses. It’s not enough to just have a good idea; you have to find people who are willing to invest, find teammates with complementary skill sets, and drag your grand idea back to earth with a realistic business model. Re-Born, an organization founded and run by a group of Underwood International College (UIC) students, shows that all of these can be accomplished if you take advantage of the resources and opportunities that are available.
The first step to starting a business is finding an idea. You can’t have an organization without a sense of what you want that organization to accomplish. Re-Born cofounder Daye Song, a sophomore currently majoring in Sustainable Development and Cooperation (SDC), found inspiration for the Youth Diary Book when she was in high school. She saw that people would print out an excess of one-sided newsletters and exam papers at her school’s printing station, with most of them being thrown out, despite how perfectly good the unused side was. “I thought this was a huge waste,” says Daye. “I wanted to do something about it.”
Eager to find a way to put this waste to good use, Daye began binding the paper together to create notebooks to sell at her high school. Her homemade exercise books were met with explosive popularity, selling out all ten times they were put up for sale. When Daye arrived at the Yonsei International Campus in Songdo, she was hit by a feeling of déjà vu when she witnessed the same issue with unnecessary paper waste. She met like-minded people at the UIC-exclusive Social Innovation Creators Academia (SICA) who sympathized with her concerns, and thus, Re-Born was born.
Re-Born’s founders decided they wanted to create a recycled notebook to help youths navigate the complexities of self-actualization. Now that the team had a solid idea, it needed to draft a business model that would appeal to potential investors. Using a business model canvas, it mapped out its cost structure, key activities, target market, etc., and keeping all these factors in mind, got to work on a prototype for the Youth Diary Book.
The first prototype was created in late 2018 and distributed to 80 people. Due to quality issues and risk of copyright infringement, Re-Born was unable to use one-sided paper in its prototype, but, as it still wanted to stay true to its environment-friendly message, it replaced pages with the slightly more conventional recycled paper. The Re-Born team took the feedback it received and created a final version of the diary, which focused on both environmental sustainability and helping people to find success in their life journeys.
With hard work and the loss of countless hours of sleep, Re-Born was able to win first place at the 2018 SICA exhibition, where it was then converted into an umbrella project for further development. SICA and its parent organization, Yonsei Center for Social Innovation (YCSI), provided Re-Born with mentoring and advice for nearly every step of the way. Even after YCSI was shut down, Re-Born managed to stay on track through funding from Yonsei’s Institute for Higher Education Innovation (IHEI).
Arguably the most important part of a business is to generate profit; for startups, the best way to do this is through crowdfunding. Re-Born decided to use the Korean crowdfunding site Tumblbug to increase public interest and distribute the final prototype of the Youth Diary Book, and it successfully raised 106% of its target goal. Copies were also distributed for free to high school students participating in the Korea Scholar’s Conference for Youth (KSCY), further spreading brand awareness. Re-Born diary books are currently available for purchase via Re-Born’s official Instagram page (@svreborn) and are also pending launch in several offline locations, such as Moonwoodang Bookshop in Sokcho.
The moral of the story is simple: make the most out of what you have. Re-Born’s success was largely thanks to its founders taking advantage of UIC-exclusive resources and platforms, such as SICA. Especially with the closing of YCSI, it is important for UIC to create new programs to guide and foster entrepreneurship among its students.