Businesswoman Svetlana Kim: her story for One Red Lipstick documentary to inspire female entrepreneurs

What does it take to be successful female entrepreneur? Twenty-two year old filmmaker, Spenser Chapple is focusing her lens on the lives of successful women entrepreneurs in Canada and across North America. Through her project, One Red Lipstick, Chapple hopes to inspire a younger generation of business women to be bold.

Chapple says she was motivated to make this film after meeting a number of incredible talented women—many dealing with their own challenges—while building a business. One of the women Chapple will be interviewing is U.S. based business woman, Svetlana Kim. Kim is also author of White Pearl and I, a memoir based on her Grandmother, “White Pearl” and Kim’s journey from penniless political refugee to Presidential fundraiser.

Kim’s great-grand parents were the first Koryo-Saram (“Korean person”) – people who came to Russia during the Joseon dynasty. Her family came to Russia in 1900, after a poor harvest and famine in Korea, to pursue a better life. “These are the people I am descended from—people of courage, of tenacity,” Kim says.

Kim escaped from the former USSR in December of 1991, just three months before the collapse of the USSR. She arrived in New York City with one dollar and not a word of English. “I had every odd stacked against me,” she says. “But I literally emerged from disaster to success.” Since arriving in the U.S., Kim says, “I have gone places I ever imagined I would. For me, it has been a great journey, with struggles, challenges, sorrows, and joys.”

We spoke to Kim about her involvement in One Red Lipstick and her advice to other Asian business women.

10269497_238768789647825_4726498747782758469_nHow did you become involved in One Red Lipstick project?

I was introduced to One Red Lipstick Executive Producer, Suzanne Smith CEO of Pinkprenuers in Oakville through a mutual friend, Linda Sztanko. Pinkpreneurs provides opportunities for women entrepreneurs to make deeper and more meaningful connections. So when they asked me to join as one of the women interviewed for One Red Lipstick, I immediately thought, Yes! It would be honored to be among some of remarkable women who give back and continue to make a difference.

What kind of qualities do you think your own struggles fostered and therefore contributed to your future success?

I would say that having faith, optimism, and hope is necessary for living a purposeful life.

My greatest inspiration through every difficulty I’ve faced is my paternal grandmother, Bya-ok, which is Korean for “White Pearl.” She has always believed that I can do, be, and have anything I want if I dream big, and pursue those dreams.

The word “failure” did not exist in White Pearl’s vocabulary. Instead, she called life’s difficulties and challenges “life lessons.” Every single pearl evolves from a central core. This core is simply an irritant—a fragment of shell or fishbone, a grain of sand. I think of this process when I think of my grandmother: she experienced some very difficult events in her own life, but despite it all, she became one of the rarest and most beautiful of pearls.

As White Pearl would say, “Face every situation with faith, hope, and love. Embrace all that life throws at you, good or bad; neither will last forever. Life is a gift from God, and it’s up to you how to use it.”

What of your own personal journey do you want to share in the documentary?

I believe that opportunities exist everywhere. Even today’s global recession represents unprecedented opportunity for growth and innovation. Behind a crisis is the greatest opportunity, and endless possibility. One of my all-time favorite quotes by John F. Kennedy is, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke is for ‘danger;’ the other is for ‘opportunity.’ In a crisis, be aware of the danger, but recognize the opportunity.”

My father taught me to see and seize opportunities, even the small ones. And sometimes perhaps a small one will lead to a larger one.

Do you have any advice for young Asian entrepreneurs?

Discover your purpose in life.

In December of 1991 I arrived in New York City with one dollar in my pocket and not a word of English. That moment in New York, when I arrived in a foreign place with no one to rely on and nowhere to turn—that was the turning point of my life. I call that moment, and moments like that one, “seren-destiny.”

Psychotherapist Carl Jung said, “When you are up against a wall, be still and put down deep roots like a tree, until clarity comes from deeper sources to see over the wall.”

When I was up against a wall, the challenges I faced matured me and made me realize that there are no shortcuts in life. Discovering your purpose isn’t about changing who you are; it’s about focusing on bringing out more of who you are.

You have been quoted as saying, “The happier you are, the more productive you are.” Can you tell us more about that?

Employees are far more likely to have new ideas on days when they feel happier. The Warwick economists noted: “Happier workers, our research found, were 12% more productive. Unhappier workers were 10% less productive.”

When you truly enjoy what you do is a gift to yourself and others. You’re far more productive than those who don’t have passion for their work. You accomplish more. And feel much happier!

Chapple starts principal filming this summer. A website and book will also accompany the project. For more information, visit or follow on Twitter @oneredlipstick.



 About Our Guest Writer

Amanda writes about travel, parenting, culture and that thing called “life”.  Amanda has contributed to Toronto Star, Toronto Standard, Cottage Life, and Bunch Family. Amanda lives in Toronto and although she has mastered the art of the snow shovel, she still calls Australia home.





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