We had the good fortune of connecting with Grace Lee, Haena Kim and Lina Park and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Grace, Haena and Lina, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
We, the Unknown and Unfamiliar co-founders, came up with this business idea while trying to set up a different kind of business. We are Korean-American women who met working in the fashion industry years ago. We wanted to start an apparel brand to put our knowledge and skills into what we all loved, which were clothes. However, in the process of starting to build our brand, we were seeing the number of small businesses growing from the global pandemic. We were all avid supporters of small businesses and loved seeing these small business owners putting in the work to start their brand. Then we came to a moment of our hearts going out to them, a moment that changed the entire direction of our business.
We saw that it was extremely hard for a lot of these businesses to be seen or recognized due to there being so many businesses both big and small. We also realized that the mainstream marketplaces such as Etsy or Amazon had way too many sellers and way too many products that many times these businesses didn’t get to see light, We wanted to help these small businesses by being their voice. So we geared up to change the direction entirely into making our business a marketplace, a platform for small businesses to be found, exposed, and heard. Each brand and business has their own story and we wanted to show that along with the different goods they offered.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
As briefly mentioned earlier, we are a marketplace for small/independent/local businesses and artists. We are different from the mainstream marketplaces in that we partner with small businesses and not big, already well known ones. We curate each individual item that is listed and sold on our marketplace website meaning it’s not an open platform for any and all sellers. We limit the amount of sellers we work with at a time to make sure that each of our partnering brands get the spotlight they deserve and their items don’t end up at the end of an insanely long list and never get found.
We are extremely excited to move forward with UNK+UNF Marketplace as we believe that this gives us an opportunity to serve the community and work in an area that we all have passion in. UNK+UNF Marketplace gives our partnering brands an opportunity or even an additional opportunity to reach audiences that they may not have yet reached or would be hard to reach on their own. We see so much potential in our marketplace to become an intimate, tight-knit community that not only supports financially by purchasing these small businesses’ goods but a community that will be able to encourage and uplift one another morally as well.
We believe that UNK+UNF Marketplace’s existence is possible because of each and every one of our team members’ hard work. We put so much time, research and effort into the preparation and the launching of this amazing platform and we believe that anyone can accomplish their goals and dreams if they have a positive mind and put in the work necessary to make it possible. We are super grateful as a team that none of us have let anyone down in the process and we have so much hope for the future for us as individuals and as a team. It is truly a blessing that we are able to work together so well and be so compatible in our personal lives and our work lives. We are able to cover for each other in areas that one may lack more than the other, which we find extremely important in a partnership.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Some of our team’s favorite spots in the city would be cafes and coffee shops. We all enjoy taking the time to grab a sip of coffee or tea, and we also enjoy meeting up at cafes around town to hang out or to get work done. Some of our absolute favorite go-to spots in the recent months have been One More Kitchen in Koreatown, Los Angeles. It is a fairly new place that may have even opened up during the pandemic and we have been enjoying the atmosphere, the food and the dessert. You can get some fresh air by sitting out in their outdoor patio. Another place has been a restaurant/bar/cafe called Cafe The Barn also in Koreatown, Los Angeles. It’s mostly an outdoor space and this place has everything to make it a restaurant, a bar and even a cafe. There are so many places to go around Los Angeles that it’s hard to list them all, but we love anything with good food/drinks, and even better if the place is super cute!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It would be hard to name every single person who has given us an opportunity to dream, to grow and to come to where we are now. Of course, family and friends are without doubt one of our biggest supporters mentally and emotionally, encouraging us to keep pushing through even when we feel stuck or are overwhelmed by the process of building a business. We would like to actually pick one person out of that crowd to recognize here. Hills Beauty Skin Care, a skin care shop owned and operated by a Korean-American licensed esthetician, would be it. The lady is actually one of our moms, who has really supported our ideas from the beginning, giving us time to let our brains think but also giving us insight on things that were really helpful to us coming this far. Her shop is a small business in its own and she has many, many years of experience in the field. Even though the area of expertise may be different, there are things she already went through establishing her small business that we had to go through establishing ours and she never hesitated to be that extra ear for all of us. We appreciate her and her work ethics very much, and her willingness to not see us as “her children” but grown women who are taking big steps and even leaps of faith to build our future and our vision.
Other: Tik Tok: www.tiktok.com/@unknownunfamiliar