A comforting café called not complete in Hye-hwa is well known to both Kingos and visitors for its delicious croiffle (croissant waffle) dessert. The warm sun shines on the incomplete place, and people are making their own stories in the sunshine. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) interviewed Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) graduate, Son Yea-won, the owner of not complete to listen to her stories about the café and her future plans.
Q1. Please introduce yourself.
Hello, I am Son Yea-won. I graduated from the Department of History at SKKU. I run a small café called not complete and a share house called Enough House.
Q2. After graduating from SKKU, what made you start a business?
Even if I had never started my own business before, I realized that a house is the most suitable place for me to design interiors and run a business. Since I also had to work for a company, I opened a share house that needed less capital. Meanwhile, I took a break from work and I realized that I should try to do what I wanted as soon as possible: I was young and powerful enough to make my dreams come true. As I always loved to look at interiors and spaces that fit my taste, I determined to open a café. Then I chose to open it next to SKKU since I knew Hye-hwa well and had memories of many cafés that became hideouts for me during my college life.
Q3. What has changed the most since you started your business?
I found out that I could live my life more independently. After graduation and getting a job, my life revolved around the company. I had to get my pay and evaluations under the company’s rules and had to go on vacation according to the company’s schedule. I even had to make my own goal under the company’s directions. However, now I am taking my own direction for my business by discussing it with my husband. Even if it is a small business, I realized that I could lead my life while achieving goals for myself.
|Son Yea-won in not complete (not cmplt Official Instagram)|
|not complete in Daylight (not cmplt Official Instagram)|
Meaning of an Incomplete place
Q4. I heard that the interior of your café was inspired by the movie Secret Garden of Madame Proust. Which part of the café did you pay most attention to?
When the customers come up the stairs to visit our café, they can only see an industrial-style building. Thus, I wanted to make a complete transition of the mood when customers first open the door of the café. I found a space designer who could realize my wants, and I was able to decorate the interior with a designer of whom I was a big fan. The designer changed the mood of the space completely by using bricks. Moreover, I also make the place mysterious and secret so that it can look like an attic when customers come deep inside. Although it is hard to take care of the bricks and the interior, my customers and I are hugely satisfied.
Q5. What is your favorite menu item at not complete?
I am simply in love with the item called ‘not croiffle.’ I believe that it has its own distinct feature since I tried hard to find the best combination of croiffle dough, ice cream, banana, and sauce. Also, I am more affectionate with this dish because I made it with younger colleagues of SKKU, collaborating with the business association C-ESI. It is meaningful since we recommended menu composition and discussed the promotion and marketing strategies together. In addition, ‘not croiffle’ also made not complete more famous for its tasty dessert. It is a lovely menu for me for various reasons.
Q6. What is the specialty of not complete?
When you hear a question asking, “What do you think about not complete?”, you cannot simply define it in one word. I think this feeling that people cannot define our concept is the most attractive point of the café. I was worried about where we should have a unique concept like others at first, but now I hope to make a comfortable place like a grandmother’s house. I think that is our own vibe that my husband and I designed, and a secret to keeping our business for a long time.
Q7. What kind of meaning could not complete give to the customers?
I want it to be a space like a hideout that only I want to know about. I want not complete to be the most comfortable place that people find whenever they want to be alone or with friends. I used to visit cafés alone when I was mentally exhausted in school or at work. Those cafés were small spaces but I could read my books and do anything that I wanted to do there. I wish not complete could be a space like that for the visitors too.
|Secret Place (not cmplt Official Instagram)|
Q8. When was the most memorable moment?
The most impressive and enjoyable moment was when I first opened the café. At first, we had no idea of what to do and even had to learn how to handle the cash register ourselves. It was a hard time to find all the information one by one. However, as soon as I opened the store, a man came and suddenly ordered every item in the café. It turned out that he was an influencer who tours various cafés and saw our preparation process on Instagram. I was moved by his eagerness to look at our postings and visit our café and felt that there are people who are curious about us and sympathize with our story. I gained confidence from that and started to promote our café through various channels. I felt like my efforts were finally recognized and accomplished through my hard work.
|not complete in Evening (not cmplt Official Instagram)|
Future Son Yea-won
Q9. After the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), online sales have also taken off. Please tell us more about the plans for the online service.
Due to the sales slump during COVID-19, I started selling online. Ironically when I was in a situation where I could not do anything, I thought that I should start anything to survive. I started the online market with a scone, which is the only item that could be sent by delivery. The online delivery service is running smoothly but simultaneously, I realize that it is better to meet customers in person in our space. I am planning to expand our line-up to deliver our own mood and taste of the café online.
Q10. What is your future goal as a café owner?
My goal is to run the café well. I think I did well to survive the pandemic. As Kingos, our main customers, are now coming back to school, my goal is to run the café in a lively manner and develop a new menu that can move peoples’ minds. I want this space to be a place where I could interact with the customers. Before COVID-19, my husband and I used to gather with the school’s jazz club Groove, and listen to jazz music together. We also had time to brew espresso with the coffee club in our space. I want to increase these opportunities to meet Kingos and consistently run a business with the students.
Q11. What is your personal future goal?
After I started the business, I realized that there is a wide range of choices that I could make. Now, my life motto became “Just go live your life.” I realized my past goals, and they caused me to have the bravery and capital to start what I want without hesitation. After starting the business, I thought that I would always be happy and feel like my dreams could come true. However, I still missed the company environment after all. Like this, people change a lot depending on the situation and their mindset. Trying everything and never limiting myself is the ultimate plan for my life.
Q12. Any advice for Kingos?
If you have a new product try it out in the market immediately. There are many opportunities including start-up subsidies from the government for people in their twenties. Even if a business feels far away, just try it once. Once you actually run one, you will realize that it is nothing. In my case, I chose Hye-hwa since it was the place I was familiar with. After I had a clear standard of a start-up, I could find a direction for expanding my business. If you get a job, the company takes the initiative but you will get the initiative in your own startup. Don’t think about it too hard and try as soon as possible. In addition, I am always thankful to Kingos who visit our café. I will try to make opportunities to meet my younger colleagues and be the café that can be close to you. Live your life!
|Son Yea-won and Her Husband (not cmplt Official Instagram)|
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