Jin Sook and Do Won “Don” Chang
Founders of Forever 21, Entrepreneurs and Philanthropists
Here’s a story about a young couple from Korea who turned the American Dream of going from rags to riches into a reality. Do Won “Don” Chang and his wife Jin Sook moved from South Korea to Los Angeles, California when they were both 26 years old.
In the United States, Chang worked very hard at three jobs: he was a janitor, a gas station attendant and he worked in a coffee shop. He noticed that the people who drove the nicest cars all worked in fashion, and so he and his wife scraped together enough money to open a small clothing store, called “Fashion 21,” that sold inexpensive, trendy clothing. It was very popular among their fellow Korean immigrants, and sales quickly increased from $35,000 to $700,000 in the first year.
In order to attract more American customers, they renamed the store “Forever 21” and were able to open 11 stores within five years. Now Chang and Jin Sook own over 600 Forever 21 stores around the world. Their daughters work for the company as well.
The couple are devout Christians and they run a charity called Fashion Delivers Charitable Foundation which gives money to churches and missionary work in third world countries. The foundation also supports several nonprofits: American Forest, which plants trees, Shoes That Fit, which supports underprivileged children in Los Angeles, and the Missing Persons’ Foundation, which raises awareness about child abductions.
The couple also donated over $5million in clothing to the people in Haiti who lost everything after the earthquake. Chang is proud of his story: “Forever 21 gives hope and inspiration to people who come here with almost nothing, and that is a reward that humbles me: the fact that immigrants coming to America, much like I did, can come into a Forever 21 and know that all of this was started by a simple Korean immigrant with a dream.”