Friday, November 7, 2014

God Made Billionaires; Do Won Chang & Jin Sook Chang

This is the continuation of a series titled 'God made Billionaires',we have shared the story of John D. Rockefeller, the richest man ever after King Solomon; read here and  Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, the richest black woman in the world, read here. We bring you the story of Jin Sook and Do Won Chang. Enjoy...

Jin Sook and Do Won Chang

“When we came to America, I went to the top of a mountain to pray – God told me that we should open a store and that it would be successful”- Jin Sook Chang
 Today, Mr Chang is famous for keeping a Bible open on his desk, and the bottom of every Forever 21 carrier bag reads "John 3:16", the core Christian message”

How did an immigrant who was a cleaner, dishwasher and gas station attendant become one of the richest men in the world? 
It is hard to believe that just 30 years ago, the first Forever 21 store was launched; today Do Won Chang and Jin Sook Chang are one of the richest people in the world. According to Forbes Magazine, they are worth $5.3 billion. There are close to 500 Forever 21 stores all over the world and in 2012 alone, they made a profit of $3.4 billion.

Their story
Do Won Chang was born sixty years ago on March 20, 1954, he is a Korean-born American businessman. Chang grew up in South Korea and moved to California in 1981. Chang was working three jobs; he was a dishwasher, a cleaner and also an attendant at a gas station. It was while working at the gas station that he observed that all those who drove nice cars were in the garment/ fashion business.
He and his wife, Jin Sook, opened a clothing store with their savings in 1984 at Highland Park, Los Angeles and named it Fashion 21. The store took off making a profit of $700,000 in the first year alone and as they expanded to other locations, the store's name was changed to its current title Forever 21. The number of stores grew to 457 by 2010. Forever 21 is amazing because none of the clothes in the store costs more than $65 and it is ranked number 121 on Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies.

The Changs are born again Christians, they dedicate most of their free time to spiritual pursuits. They attend pre dawn services everyday at 5am at Ttokamsa Mission Church when they're in town; he also leads Bible study, and she's a deacon. "I think they get a lot of business ideas and insight during early morning  prayer time," Pastor Ken Choe says in an e-mail.

 According to him, they've contributed millions of dollars to missions around the world and regularly go on missions themselves, including to Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. They've told their daughters that when they retire, they want to devote themselves fully to the church. "Mr. Chang said he would have been a missionary if this hadn't worked out," says Linda. "This (Forever 21) supports that. This is part of their missionary vision." Do Won Chang and his wife run the Chang 21 Foundation, which donates money to churches and other faith groups. MR Chang cites the Bible as his favourite book.

Mrs Chang also supports and encourages Christians in the fashion industry as well. Rowena Rodriguez, a 33-year-old fashion consultant and one-time unbeliever who was born again with Mrs. Chang's help, may be one of those lucky designers. "In the short time I worked with Mrs. Chang, my life was transformed, and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior," she recalls in an email interview. "Mrs. Chang prayed me into the Kingdom! Rodriguez says she has been approached by executives looking for the secret to Forever 21's phenomenal success. "I usually say, 'If you really want to know, I'll tell you. But you won't believe me...The Changs love Jesus!"

At the bottom of every Forever 21 carrier bag is written John 3;16 ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’. Their eldest daughter Linda credits God’s Hand as the major factor for their success. “Every decision made has been with thoughtful prayer”.

The Changs also keep the business in the family; Mr Chang is the CEO, Mrs Chang approves the designs,  their two children are also in the business; their first daughter Linda heads marketing while Esther, is in charge of visual elements of the chain, such as graphics and window displays. "It's important my daughters learn from the hard work my wife and I put into this company," said Chang, who said a stock offering isn't likely any time soon. "Who better to look out for your best interests than family?"

The Changs have had their fair share of controversies; according to Forbes 50 copyright violation lawsuits have been placed against Forever 21 by both well known designers and smaller ones including Diane Von Furstenberg, Gwen Stefani and Trovata are among the numerous designers that have also taken action against the retailer. However they have never been found guilty and have always made peace with their accusers.

There are vital lessons from the life of the Changs; they have taught me to
  • ·         Put God first
  • ·         Own your business and keep it in the family
  • ·         Stay faithful to your wife/ husband
  • ·         Make peace with those who hate you

God bless the Changs, I celebrate and love them


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