I have two businesses currently. One is the small English study room that my wife and I run called EK English. The other business is EK Fresh. This business provides fresh produce and herb options to Jeju Island. My wife and I also make some specialty items such as basil pesto and ricotta cheese. We deliver once a week around Shin Jeju and Gu Jeju based on pre-orders we receive in the previous week.
When did you begin your businesses?
We started EK English a little over a year ago and started EK Fresh about a couple of months ago.
What gave you the idea to start it?
The idea kind of came from seeing the demand for certain produce on the island. It seemed that certain items were always being asked about. Whenever I check the Jeju Island Social group on Facebook, I can see some of the same requests. My wife and I decided to try to find sources and offer those items at a reasonable price. We are still just getting started, so what we have to offer is still limited, but we hope to add more and better options in the future.
▲ Evan Keeler and his wife, Kate (Sangmi) Kim, enjoying dinner. Photo courtesy Evan Keeler
Where do you get your food?
We get most of our produce locally on the island. The produce that is grown on Jeju, we are able to get and offer at a price below the big stores' markups. The herbs we get from a farm on the mainland. They are completely organic. The apples we also get from a farm on the mainland because we haven't found them grown on the island. There are some limits to what is available locally, but everything we get is still from within Korea.
Do you have your own land?
At this point, we don't own any land, but we are looking into getting land in the next year. We want to expand by growing some other crops that are not readily available here. This may not happen right away, but it is our hope.
Why is local food better than other food?
Generally, local food is more natural with less done to modify it. This is also part of what makes local food more expensive because what is available on the island has to follow the seasons. Any produce that is not grown on Jeju or is not in season has to be obtained and imported either at a high price or genetically modified to create a bulk cheap product. Of course, it is also good to support the local farms, and we may just be doing some of our own farming soon, so we hope customers support us as well.
▲ The EK Fresh banner and product list from the Facebook page.
What are your best selling products?
Our best selling products are basil, apples, hummus, and basil pesto. Our full product list and some additional details can be found here. We are open to suggestions for new products in the future as well.
Who are your customers?
We have mostly put out the word out on Facebook so far. This means most of our customers are those who have come to Korea from other countries looking for things that they miss. We do not have a huge customer base yet, but we do get orders regularly and have people asking about other things they would like to see available. We have made a pretty good start. We seem to have some excited customers in Seogwipo as well. Customers can order anytime and see a list of our products at our Facebook page.
Would you like to make EK Fresh your main business?
I would like EK Fresh to become more full time, but that would just be a pleasant surprise to do something like this that my wife and I both enjoy and have less of our days taken up by teaching. Time will tell. For now we are just keeping a few pots on the fire, and if something does take off, that would be great. That is not our focus though. We are sticking around at least for a few years and have a baby coming soon, so hopefully we can use this business as a way to contribute to and be a part of the community.
Would you call yourself an entrepreneur?
I wouldn't call myself an entrepreneur. We are not making bundles of cash off of this idea. It is just something that provides what was not easily available before. It is a service and a side project that could become more. We make most of our living off of EK English, but we enjoy EK Fresh and are excited about continuing to offer more fresh produce and specialty products to Jeju in the future.
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