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Ray & Justin Kim: “DO IT; You live once.”

The main takeaways we would advise to a twenty year old who is looking to found a business is that if you have an idea that you are truly passionate about then first do your research. Research the entrepreneurial side of starting a business, and whether there is a market to scale your potential business. […]

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The main takeaways we would advise to a twenty year old who is looking to found a business is that if you have an idea that you are truly passionate about then first do your research. Research the entrepreneurial side of starting a business, and whether there is a market to scale your potential business. Once all the initial research is done, next steps would be assessing if you can and are willing to put in the time and effort to take the risk; if so, then DO IT. You live once and you are only in your twenties for a short time period, that is truly the only time in your life that you will be as free to do whatever your heart desires. As people get older, there are more responsibilities including your family, which makes it that much more difficult to start a new business with all recurring costs that are associated with these responsibilities. Also, if you don’t do it, then someone down the road will do it. If we can do it, why not you?


As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ray & Justin Kim.

Ray and Justin Kim are Brothers and Co-Founders of The Plug, and all-natural anti-hangover drink established in 2019. Based in Los Angeles, CA, Ray and Justin also known as The Kim Bros both decided to take a leap of faith from their corporate jobs (Finance & Consulting) and enter the startup realm to create, The Plug. The Plug allows you to be confident during a night out with friends, knowing that you will wake up the following morning Hangover-Free.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Ray and Justin! What is your “backstory”?

Wewere both born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, primarily in the valley in the City of Calabasas. Baseball has been a huge part of both our lives from the early age of five and we were each recruited to play collegiate baseball. Ray graduated from The University of Chicago and Justin graduated from Northwestern University.

Upon graduation, Ray moved to New York City to work in Investment Banking, while Justin moved to Los Angeles to work in Technical Headhunting. Raised in an entrepreneurial household, we were inherently curious and always coming up with new business ventures. From a young age, we were always together and still do everything together, challenging and improving each other in sports or in school. With a work hard, play hard mentality, we both began to seek a healthier alternative to boost productivity to support our lifestyle choices while working corporate jobs. And it wasn’t until three years ago when we saw that there was a growing demand for a hangover solution, but a limited supply of truly effective hangover recovery products available in the U.S. This imbalance was an opportunity to bring a proven alternative from Korea and share it with the U.S. consumers. Together, we created The Plug.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?

The funniest story that happened to us since starting the Company was comparing our first initial brand designs to what our brand is today. When we look back and see the prototype renderings of our bottle label and color designs, we always laugh to think that we were dead set on this brand design. We have come a long way since the initial renderings. What we took away from this was to never be satisfied with the business. Things always change and evolve.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The Plug differentiates itself from all other anti-hangover drinks in two ways: our proprietary formula and our unbeatable taste. The Plug has 13 herbal plants and flowers that were carefully selected after years of research and development and millions of dollars invested not only in the proprietary formula but also in the proprietary state-of-the-art distillation process. For The Plug’s fantastic flavor, we honed down the taste for 8 months going back and forth with Korea to make sure it would be the best in the market. Additionally, we held clinical research studies done by teams of PhD professors to further reiterate that the proof is in The Plug.

It’s amazing to look back and see how we were able to take a proven product from Korea and bring it to the U.S. successfully. What started as just an idea, and now three years later has become a popular brand that consumers can use to boost their productivity is something we are very proud of.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Our Parents. Both our Dad and Mom have been a vital part of our lives from the beginning. Our Dad, being an entrepreneur himself, always instilled in us a strong work ethic and the mindset to adapt and pivot when things do not go as planned. He has always guided us towards striving for more whether it was in school, baseball, or our careers. Growing up and watching our Dad and the accomplishments he made with his numerous business ventures, made us strive to be just like him when we grew up. Even to this day, our Dad continues to work hard and whenever we come across a roadblock, it is nice to have him right by our side giving us advice.

On the other hand, our Mom is our point person for everything. She knows what is going on and is consistently one step ahead. Since we were young, she always ingrained in us to be on time. Time management and never being late is a natural habit to us thanks to her. Both of our parents are not only supportive but have instilled in us to never give up and strive for more, pushing both of us to get to the next level. Both of us would not be where we are today without the strong support system of our parents.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

We are always working on projects. The exciting project we are working on right now is building out The Plug merch. It is fun to see the different designs we have coming through for T-shirts, Socks, Sweatshirts and Hats. Very fun and creative project to work on, while running the business.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We are both Founding Board Members for the Los Angeles Police Foundation Young Professionals Group (LAPF YPG) and Founding Board Members for the Korean American Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Group (KACCLA YPG), which both help to serve the Los Angeles community for the youth, whether it is in a mentorship program or a career building program. We are also members of the FIAT Foundation and actively volunteer at the St. Francis Center for the homeless community.

Through the years we have realized more and more how fortunate we both are. Giving back has always been part of our family’s motto and we plan to continue to give back as we grow as individuals.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Our favorite book that made an impact on our lives and our business is Moneyball by Michael Lewis. Being both collegiate baseball athletes, Moneyball was a book that impacted our lives in real-time. The use of statistics and analytics that teams started implementing in their strategy changed the game of baseball. From a young age, we learned the importance of analytics that we now use in our business on a daily basis.

Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “TwentySomething founder”. Please share an example or story for each

  1. Turning an Idea into a Company: Starting with just an idea on whiteboard and turning it into a company was one of the most difficult and rewarding accomplishments of both of our lives. Most people talk about creating something, but actually putting in the effort, late nights, and hard work is something only a few can do.
  2. Maximizing/Touching Other People’s Lives: It is very rewarding to see how a product that we created is positively impacting our customers. The best part of being in our business is seeing all the positive reviews from consumers stating that they woke up the next morning with “No Hangover!” and were able to feel great and be productive the next day.
  3. Learning to say No: In the beginning, we were saying yes to every in-bound event that we received for a product donation and hopping on the phone with everyone that wanted to collaborate with our Company. As time went on, we realized that certain events did not translate into sales nor brand awareness and that overall, this wasn’t the best use of our time. It was difficult to turn people, events, and potential collaborations away, but over time-based on our experiences, we were able to be a bit more “smart” in handpicking and investing our time and energy into certain events rather than saying yes to everything.
  4. Learning to Adapt/Pivot: Starting a business, especially an E-Commerce Direct-to-Consumer Company, comes with a lot of unforeseen obstacles and last-minute changes. One story we clearly remember was when we had an outside agency work on our website and accidentally saved their work on top of our current live website. That day, we lost about 10 days worth of development work and instead of blaming each other, we got back to it and developed the website back to where it was in less than two days. From that day forward, we have multiple copies of our current live website, in case anything happens as we realized how one minor change can impact our business overnight.
  5. Being one of the forefront visionary leaders of bringing awareness to a new industry: One of the most rewarding parts of being in our industry is that we are entering a fairly new industry. Our motto that we live by is that if we don’t do it, then someone else will do it. No one will wait and give you handouts in life. If you want to change the world and disrupt an industry, it is up to you to learn quickly, put in the time and effort, and create those desired results.

What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty year old who is looking to found a business?

The main takeaways we would advise to a twenty year old who is looking to found a business is that if you have an idea that you are truly passionate about then first do your research. Research the entrepreneurial side of starting a business, and whether there is a market to scale your potential business. Once all the initial research is done, next steps would be assessing if you can and are willing to put in the time and effort to take the risk; if so, then DO IT. You live once and you are only in your twenties for a short time period, that is truly the only time in your life that you will be as free to do whatever your heart desires. As people get older, there are more responsibilities including your family, which makes it that much more difficult to start a new business with all recurring costs that are associated with these responsibilities. Also, if you don’t do it, then someone down the road will do it. If we can do it, why not you?

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

One person we would love to have a meal with would be Dietrich Mateschitz the Founder of Red Bull. We have always been fascinated with his story on how he traveled to Thailand and brought a drink from Thailand to Europe and westernized it. His success and story of leaving the corporate world and taking a leap of faith into starting his own company is similar to the situation we are currently in. These similarities along with how he made Red Bull into a staple image of the energy drink market is something we value.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

The best way your readers can follow us on social media will be through our Company’s Instagram: @theplugdrink. We are constantly uploading new posts and stories that we create and are tagged in. It is quite engaging and we hope you enjoy as well.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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