From A Petrol Pump Employee To A Net Worth Of Rs 2,472 crore – The Story Of Rise And Fall Of This Small-Town Boy Is A Lesson For All


There is an old saying – Where there’s a will, there’s a way. There are many success stories in India and across the world that show that if you dream big and work hard towards that direction, you are bound to get success. There may be hiccups, and there may be failures, but that should not stop you to dream big, that should not let you concede defeat. It’s often said that the path to success is through failures. Today, we are going to tell you the story of a small town boy who became a billionaire not through luck but through his sheer hard work and smart mind.

Migrated For Better Opportunity

This story is of a man whose journey is an inspirational success story that resonates with people around the world. This story is of Do Won Chang. Born in South Korea in 1954, Chang’s rise to prominence began with humble beginnings and countless challenges. In 1981, Chang immigrated to the United States with his wife, Jin Sook. They faced numerous financial difficulties, struggling to make ends meet. Despite these hardships, they remained determined to succeed and pursued the American dream. 

Worked At Petrol Pump, Coffee Shop

Chang was just 22 years old when he worked multiple low-paying jobs, including gas station (petrol pump) attendant, janitor and coffee shop employee, to support his family. While working at a clothing store, he noticed the high demand for affordable, trendy fashion. This observation sparked an idea and inspired him to venture into the cloth retail industry.

Birth Of Billion Dollars Retail Brand

With little retail experience, Chang and his wife decided to take a risk and open their first store in Los Angeles, California with $11,000 in 1984. They named it “Fashion 21,” later rebranding it as “Forever 21.” Yes, the Chang family is the owner of Forever 21- one of the most successful clothing brands. 

Chang’s keen business sense, combined with his wife’s eye for fashion, proved to be a winning formula. Their store quickly gained popularity, and they expanded their business, opening multiple locations across the United States. Forever 21 became a global fashion retailer, catering to a wide range of customers. Won Chang and his wife Jin Sook’s estimated combined net worth is around $3 billion or over Rs 2472 crore. The couple features in Forbes as well at their peak.

Fall Of Forever 21

Forever 21, once a thriving global fashion retailer, faced a rapid decline after an ambitious expansion plan and collection of missteps. The company aimed to reach an $8 billion valuation by 2017 but instead encountered financial troubles. The aggressive expansion drained its cash flow, leading to delayed payments to suppliers and the closure of two major stores in Los Angeles to settle a $150 million debt.  The changing preferences of customers also contributed to Forever 21’s downfall. People began shifting their focus from cheap prices to higher quality products. Additionally, the rise of online retailers who could quickly produce new designs posed a challenge for the fast-fashion giant. Forever 21 also faced accusations of copyright infringement, adding to its troubles. As a result, the founders, Do Won Chang and his wife Jin Sook, experienced a significant decline in their combined fortune, dropping to $1.6 billion, and they lost their billionaire status. In 2019, Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy, and later, it was sold to Authentic Brands Group for $81 million, marking a significant change in ownership.

Testament Of Hard Work, Preservance

Chang’s success story is a testament to hard work, perseverance, and the pursuit of opportunities. His story resonates with Indian readers, who are also familiar with the challenges and dreams of immigrant families. It serves as an inspiration to many aspiring entrepreneurs in India, encouraging them to embrace their dreams and take calculated risks. Chang’s journey from a struggling immigrant to a successful entrepreneur demonstrates that with dedication, resilience, and a vision, anyone can achieve their goals. His story showcases the power of determination and the potential for success, irrespective of one’s background or circumstances. However, it also teaches that either you should evolve with changing times or suffer. 

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