Young entrepreneur Ga-eun Gong’s business Lunatic Tea provides healthy tea products with a social mission to help women in South Korea alleviate menstrual cramps and reduce reliance on medication.
Ga-eun discovered her passion for tea during her time working as a tea sommelier at a Korean tea brand, where she researched both the history and properties of traditional Korean tea. This, combined with her own struggles with severe menstrual cramps, inspired Ga-eun to start Lunatic Tea. Ga-eun chose 'lunatic' for the company name as the word emerges from ancient negative perceptions of the moon. In modern times the moon is considered beautiful and natural; she saw this as a metaphor for women's rights and hopes to promote equality through her business.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market for start-ups in South Korea has been challenging, particularly for social enterprises like Ga-eun's. Many office spaces in Seoul dedicated to social enterprises have been given to IT companies instead and investment in new products remains limited. To get support with growing her business, Ga-eun joined our COVID-19 Recovery Programme for social entrepreneurs in South Korea, supported by Google.org, and implemented by our delivery partner Work Together Foundation. The programme focusses on in-depth training and support to build the skills, confidence and adaptability of social entrepreneurs.
Ga-eun received a range of support from Work Together Foundation as part of the programme, including 1:1 expert mentoring, training to strengthen her entrepreneurial capabilities and support with formally registering her business. Ga-eun found the 1:1 mentoring support she received particularly helpful as her mentor gave her confidence in her business strategy, alongside help on business operation and models. She says,
"Thanks to my mentor, I was able to stay aligned with my company’s mission, solidifying the female and local concept of our products."
Ga-eun believes she would benefit from more spaces specifically for female entrepreneurs. Her business was previously based in such a space, run by the Koren Ministry of Gender and Equality, but due to government budget cuts, it was closed. Ge-eun appreciated the mutual support the female entrepreneurs gave to each other and feels it is a pity that the space and support for them are disappearing. She says,
“It would be nice to have a community or space where female entrepreneurs can try out a lot of collaborative projects.”