Breaking Out: How I Created A Company Against My Mother’s Wishes

Breaking Out:

How I Created A Company Against My Mother Wishes

I consider my mom one of my best friends. I used to have an irrational fear of losing her because of how close we are. At five years old, my parents divorced, leaving my mother as a single mom to raise my older brother and me. I think that really shaped me as a child and more importantly as a woman. Seeing how hard she worked, raising us without any child support from my father, it set a profound precedent in my life. She worked multiple jobs to get us the tutoring, piano, clarinet, art, Taekwondo, swimming, and any lesson you can think of. My brother is eight years older, but by the time I was ten he was out of the house and off to college so more often than not, it has always been just mom and me.

My mom and I have very similar personality. Ever since I was a baby, she’d indoctrinate me like any other stereotypical Asian mom, to become either a doctor or a lawyer. When I enrolled at UCSD, she realized that neither math nor science was my forte, so she was set on me going to law school. She had convinced me as well, so I ended up taking LSAT courses after my second year of college. That’s when I couldn’t stop daydreaming about my true passion: my own clothing line and swimwear. When I told her about this dream, she scoffed at me and told me that it was a fantasy – that there would be no way to make a career out of selling “underwear”.

All my mom ever wanted for my brother and I was financial security so that we would never have to suffer like she did working multiple jobs such as a bank teller, caregiver, and paralegal. The perspective of an immigrant is different from first generation. My mom did most of the hard work, changing her lifestyle completely, moving to a foreign country, and learning a new language. To my mom, the only pathway to success is getting more licenses by going to graduate school.

Being the stubborn person that I am, I argued with her, that I wanted to pursue my dream. I told her if this clothing brand did not work out then I could go back for more schooling. She finally succumbed and we made a promise that I would only get one year to see how it would go.  She felt a little more at ease because I graduated college within three years, and I told her to think of this as my “fourth year”.

I’m not going to lie, the path to starting a brand is not easy. It’s challenging and there were many tears along the road. I cried whenever things got tough. I didn’t know how to create clothes or what the process was to start it. I cried from loneliness when I went to Bali, Indonesia to find manufacturers alone. 

I cried when retailers went bankrupt and couldn’t pay me back for my merchandise. All these times that I was sad and expressed these challenges to my mom, she took these moments to persuade me “Sophia, just go back to school. Become a nurse or go to law school.. Stop suffering. It hurts me to see you suffer.”

But that’s life. You will go through challenges no matter which path you take – whether it is law school, nursing school, or trying to start your own business. Even after having two successful years of Siempre Golden, where the revenue multiplied each year, my mom convinced me to go to community college and take a class that would be required for nursing school. I agreed to take the class to appease her—anything to get her off my back. She used to call me a “baby CEO” because she thought I wasn’t making enough money.  It was very difficult the first two years of the business – I felt conflicted. I wanted to be an obedient daughter and make my mom proud. I wanted to provide for her how she did for my brother and me but the way she wanted me to did not align with my dreams.

However, things gradually changed. By 2017, my mom stopped mentioning graduate school and stopped calling me a “baby CEO”. She realized that after my second year, I was doing great revenue wise, and that my products were selling. Being my mother, she was hard on me, she simply assumed that a brand should blow up within the first year, but these things take time. Although, she wasn’t fully on board with this idea, now she’s happy to see me doing what I love. From this experience, I taught her that it’s possible to pursue something you love.  Lastly, Siempre Golden allows me to work remotely; I’m not restricted to one area, so this gives me more time to be with my mom – who lives in Northern California. Now we are on the same page, and she hopes that I grow this business bigger each year. Almost three years later, she fully supports Siempre Golden and doesn’t question my passion.

Siempre Golden is more than just a brand. It’s a state of mind that you choose to live by, to constantly pursue golden moments or “goals” in order to live your best – golden life. When women wear my collection, I want them to feel empowered to be able to do whatever they dream of. If there is a will, there is a way. If I could persevere and persuade my stubborn, traditional Korean mother, anyone is capable of pursuing his or her dream as well.

Sophia Kim

Sophia graduated from UC San Diego within three years and got inspired to start the line around that time. After graduating, she tried looking for manufacturers in Los Angeles, but everyone turned her away because the bikinis she wanted to make required a lot of handwork.

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