By Aishah Mahmood, 707 Hub intern, student in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences
Eugene Kim, a senior in the College of Business Administration and founder of NABI, an online sneaker resale business, will travel to New York City this week to represent Marquette at the Big East Startup Challenge.
Launched in 2019, the Big East Startup Challenge invites undergraduate entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and compete for funding. Each Big East institution is invited to select one team of undergraduate entrepreneurs to represent them in the competition.
For the second straight year, the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship has sponsored an undergraduate entrepreneur at the competition. Eligible student entrepreneurs must have incorporated their businesses within the last two years, received less than $50,000 in investment and have less than $50,000 in revenue. Three finalists were invited to the 707 Hub to pitch their business and a chance to represent Marquette at the competition.
Megan Carver, associate director for the Kohler Center, says Kim’s unique fit in the marketplace and his incredible passion made him the ideal candidate to represent Marquette. “Eugene has made great strides in his business in a short amount of time. He really embodies what it means to be the difference,” Carver says.
For Kim, what started off as a hobby turned into a profitable small business, and then quickly became something more. He began his business in August 2018 after winning a free pair of sneakers in a raffle. The experience sparked a business idea: create a company that resells sneakers.
NABI, or Neo Asians Bringing Influence, uses a “buy low, sell high” business model. Kim conducts most of his sales through social media and app based selling platforms, such as Stockx.com.
“At first it was a way to sustain my college living expenses, and then I recognized the demand for it,” Kim says.
“Nabi” in Korean means butterfly. Kim says he liked the name because butterflies must migrate and adapt to new environments, which he can relate to.
At the heart of Kim’s business is a desire to grow, promote representation, encourage and help others to succeed, and advocate for others. These values can be seen not only in his own business, but also in his support and advice to other Asian Americans who share his dream of being an entrepreneur.
Kim hopes that his success story encourages other Asian Americans to pursue less conventional yet profitable entrepreneurial pursuits.
“I think it’s very common for Asian Americans to be pressured or guided into being an accountant or something…But I want to be a part of the movement away from that,” Kim says. “I want to be the voice for those that need encouraging. That’s my vision.”
Asked what has been important to his success and growth, Kim cites the support of his friends and family, as well as the mentorship of Tom Avery, the 707 Hub’s entrepreneur-in-residence. “I’ve been meeting with Tom every week; he’s been really supportive and offered me great advice,” Kim says, adding that Avery’s recognition of his success and potential has been crucial to his confidence and continued success.
For Kim, the Big East Challenge is about more than just winning — it’s about the opportunity to grow and develop his business. “My mentality going in isn’t just to win the competition, but to practice my pitch and get my name out there. I want this to be an opportunity,” he says.
Two Marquette alumni will serve on the panel of judges at the competition in New York: Maggie Ring, senior associate of Third Bridge Group Limited; and Bridget Williams, senior vice president of strategy and operations at Hearst.
The top prize is $5,000 and recognition at the Big East Conference Championship game.