“Entrepreneurship is a continuous process of questioning"... Entrepreneurship Academy Special Le

2024.01.18 Views 1090 국제실

“Entrepreneurship is a continuous process of questioning"... Entrepreneurship Academy Special Lecture by Salady CEO Ahn Sangwon


On December 5th, the Entrepreneurship Academy for the second semester took place at the Business School (Dean=Kim Sang Yong) Startup Research Institute (Director=Moon Jung Bin). As the fourth speaker of the Entrepreneurship Academy Lecture series, CEO of Salady, Ahn Sang Won spoke on the topic of ‘F&B Entrepreneurship and Sustainability,’ providing insights and advice on the process of starting a F&B franchise business. Salady is a dining brand that started the market of salad, focuses on healthy fast food, and has expanded to operate over 300 locations nationwide since its opening in October 2013.  



Ahn Sang Won, the CEO of Salady, who is an alumnus of Korea University, nurtured his dream of becoming a CEO from a young age and actively engaged in entrepreneurship activities while participating in the joint entrepreneurship society 'Insiders' of Korea University and Yonsei University. Through a program organized by Insiders called 'Entrepreneur of Misunderstanding,' he initiated a business using disposable utensil hygiene products, laying the foundation for his firm passion for entrepreneurship. Reflecting on that time, Ahn mentioned, "Although I didn't achieve success back then, it was a moment that gave me great enjoyment and energy for entrepreneurship,” and “it greatly contributed to founding and leading Salady.” 


Later, Ahn dove into entrepreneurship with Lee Geon-ho, co-CEO of Salady, whom he met through his society activities. Ahn explained, "We connected well in terms of our values regarding entrepreneurship," and “we began ideation on various entrepreneurial concepts without limiting ourselves to a specific field.” The experience of visiting a salad restaurant during Lee Geon-ho's trip to the United States became the foundation for crystallizing their business idea. Ahn remarked, "Hearing about the active presence of salad specialty shops in the United States sparked a vision in my mind," describing the inspiration behind starting a salad restaurant. 



Despite lacking specialized culinary knowledge, the two CEOs ventured into the restaurant business, attending cooking academies and working part-time at McDonald's to personally learn the ins and outs of the food service industry. In October 2013, they opened the first Salady branch near Seolleung Station. Ahn explained, "We aimed to create a brand that felt like the imported shops from the United States. We adopted the ambiance and feel of American brands from the exterior design to the domain.” Facing initial low sales, Ahn immersed himself in customer feedback, actively seeking improvements by visiting customers and making adjustments.  


Ahn said, "Sales quickly increased as we modified menu composition and ordering methods based on customer feedback.” He also said, “I realized that considering customer demands delicately is important for survival in the restaurant business.” Building on the success of the first branch, Salady has grown into a franchise brand operating over 300 stores. 


Ahn introduced the background of Salady’s growth, highlighting how the brand found unexpected breakthroughs during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the surge in health-related demand and the expansion of the delivery market, Salady was able to accelerate its growth. Ahn stated, "Before COVID-19, delivery orders accounted for 20% of sales, but after COVID-19, it grew to around 50%.” He explained, “Franchise business became more active, leading to rapid growth in profits of both the head office and franchise stores.” 



Furthermore, Ahn provided realistic advice for those interested in F&B entrepreneurship. He noted that predicting customer reactions is the most challenging aspect of the F&B entrepreneurship process. Ahn shared cases where a menu created by chance became the top-selling item for the brand, while a menu crafted by experts recorded the lowest sales. Additionally, he pointed out that the unclear boundaries of the target market and low added value make success in F&B entrepreneurship not easily achievable. Ahn mentioned, "The F&B industry is a very challenging and competitive business, but at the same time, the difficulty presents numerous opportunities, making it attractive for entrepreneurship." 


Ahn emphasized the importance of decision-making and sustainability throughout the entrepreneurship process. He stated, "Sustainability is not limited to simple environmentally friendly elements," and “bold verification and challenges in sustainability are encouraged.” Ahn also underscored the significance of decision-making in entrepreneurship, comparing the process to the game of Baduk, where countless moments require decisions. 



Closing his lecture, Ahn sincerely advised aspiring entrepreneurs among the university attendees. He said, "When facing numerous challenges during the entrepreneurship journey, one may start questioning oneself and feel the desire to give up. You need to continuously question yourself about the reasons for pursuing entrepreneurship.” Ahn concluded, "Entrepreneurship is a dream that anyone can try and achieve," expressing his hope that individuals won't be discouraged by those who are ahead or have already achieved their goals. Lastly, he stressed the importance of having confidence while being humble. The lecture concluded with a Q&A session.