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The Inspiring Rags-to-Riches Story of Forever 21, From Pumping Gas to $6-B Retail Giant

A true rags-to-riches tale!


Did you know that Forever 21, the world-famous American fashion retail chain, used to be called Fashion 21? Before becoming one of the highest valued retail companies in the world, Forever 21 started in a humble 900-square-feet space in Los Angeles. And the story of its success is a classic rags-to-riches tale.

When husband and wife Do Won “Don” Chang and Jin Sook emigrated to LA from South Korea in 1981, they were dead set on living the American dream. Despite being penniless, having no college degrees, and speaking broken English, the couple was determined to make it big in the coffee industry.

Unfortunately, their venture into the coffee business did not work out.

For three years, Don took odd jobs, so their family could survive. He worked as a janitor, pumped gas, and served coffee, but he didn’t give up on his and his wife’s dreams. One day while at work, he had a realization. In an LA Times interview, Don said:

“I noticed the people who drove the nicest cars were all in the garment business.”

This Eureka moment led Don and Jin Sook to open a 900-square-feet clothing store in LA in 1984, which they called Fashion 21.


The space housed three failed business in the past, but Don and Jin Sook’s venture had a different fate. Fashion 21, with its offering of fashion-forward yet affordable pieces, raked in $700,000 in sales in its first year. The couple took advantage of this momentum and started opening new stores every six months. They also changed the name to Forever 21, the brand we all know today.

Forever 21 remains a family business today.

Don serves as CEO, while Jin Sook takes the role of chief merchandising officer. Their two daughters, who joined the family business in 2009, also hold key positions in the company. Linda manages marketing, while Esther takes charge of the brand’s visual elements.

Don told the LA Times:

“It’s important my daughters learn from the hard work my wife and I put into this company. Who better to look out for your best interests than family?

“Forever 21 gives hope 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.”

Today, Forever 21 has over 600 stores in the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and the UK.

Forever 21 is also the fifth largest specialty retailer in the US. The retail giant brings in roughly $4.4 billion in sales, while the Changs have an estimated net worth of $6.1 billion, according to Forbes.

The couple behind Forever 21 is an inspiration!

This husband-and-wife duo is definitely an inspiration to those who want to make it big in life.


Meryl Streep Was Once Called Too ‘Ugly’ to Star in King Kong

She went on to prove everybody wrong.

Before Meryl Streep became the greatest actress of her generation and set the record for the most number of Academy Award nominations (total of 20) for any actor or actress to date, she had to face rejection, too. The American superstar and philanthropist is known for excellently playing versatile roles across different genres, but during the early years of her career, not everybody saw her potential.

In one famous talk show, Streep told the story of her failed audition for the 1976 King Kong film with renowned producer Dino De Laurentiis. According to Streep, the producer's son, Federico, had seen her in a play and brought her in to audition for the role of Dwan. Streep, who was 26 then and had yet to make a film debut, was thrilled, but it didn't turn out well.

Streep tells the story of how she was called 'ugly' by a famous director.

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Autistic Man Called Stupid By Gym Staff Teaches Himself Law, Sues The Company And Wins

He was called ‘stupid’ and, clearly, he’s not.

When Londoner Ketan Aggarwal's official complaint stating he was discriminated against by a spin class instructor at his local gym was ignored, he decided to take matters into his own hands. The 30-year-old man with autism spent two years diligently learning the law, so he could take the international Virgin Active company to court. The best part: He won.

In May 2015, Aggarwal was reportedly humiliated and berated by an instructor at the gym during a spin class. Aggarwal was called 'stupid' twice and was scolded after he requested a change in music.

Aggarwal filed a formal complaint to the company, but he was ignored.

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The Parable Of A Helpful Man And The Vicious Snake

How would you handle the situation? Your answer reveals your true nature.

People are usually good by nature. They want to do good things; they want to help other people whenever they can. Some will even go beyond their means to help someone in need. However all too often we often want recognition and applause for doing something good and that's when we get sidetracked.

You see ego is a dangerous thing; it can overcome you to the point where you'd be blinded by selfishness. When doing good deeds, you shouldn't be thinking about what you're going to get in return. The moment you put an expectation to a good deed, it ruins the beauty of it. It's not the same anymore, it's been stained with selfish motives. It's not a good thing anymore, it's a disguise to a benefit you want to reap afterwards.

When you do good, you need to have sincerity in your heart. You have to be honest with yourself. You need to be thinking genuinely about helping that other person and not have any thoughts whatsoever about you at all. You put that needy person before you.

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