Joanne Park has come a long way since being that shy, introverted little girl who made clothes for her dolls out of paper.
"As a child, I remember making stuff with little blocks. I didn’t have toys, so I had to use my creative mind. I’d make clothes for dolls with paper. I was shy," Park said.
The modern-day Park, 45, is now the owner of Interior Touches at 1500 St. Mary’s Rd. in St. Vital. The business specializes in floor-to-ceiling design, home furnishings, window treatments and décor renovations.
Speaking on the 36th anniversary of her family’s immigration to Winnipeg from South Korea, Park reflected on her personal development and road to entrepreneurial success and the key role the St. Vital community has played in shaping her heart and mind.
Interior Touches was started by Park’s father and a business partner more than 20 years ago and Park, now the sole owner, said the cornerstone of its success is the close relationship she fosters with her clients.
"You have to get to know your clients and build a relationship and get to know their needs and tastes and personality. The most important factor in my business is that I can’t do my job properly unless I know their space. It’s a relationship built on trust," Park said, noting a large percentage of her business is based on her designers making home visits.
Reflecting on her early childhood memories of Winnipeg after arriving with her parents and three siblings in 1977, Park emphasized the challenges and cultural differences faced by new Canadians acclimatizing to North American life.
"I still remember the piles of snow on the boulevard and us playing in it. It was a culture shock. Back, then, South Korea was almost a third-world country. Not now, but back then it was a different time," she said, noting that she and her brother, Jae, a martial arts expert and co-owner of Tae Ryong Park Academy in Whyte Ridge were successful speed skaters before they both took the entrepreneurial path.
"We’re only 18 months apart, so we grew up together on a parallel. We’re almost like twins and have the same mindset. I think we pushed each other subconsciously. We were competitive speed skaters at a national level and we trained in Calgary. We trained together, skated together and lived together and eventually hung up our skates to pursue our careers," Park said, noting her father was "a huge influence in our success."
And despite all the twists and turns along the way, Park feels most at home in the St. Vital community in which she lives and works.
"I really appreciate my community. I volunteer a lot of time and speak to church communities and women’s clubs. I’m also a big St. Vital supporter regarding shopping, as the area has made me who I am today," Park said.
"I also like to encourage all the kids, especially new immigrants, to follow their dreams, work hard, jump high with their hearts and everything else will follow. Success comes in so many different forms," Park said.
"I hear stories about immigrants struggling and not being part of their community, but they have to get involved. It can be difficult and takes bravery. I went through so much to fit in. You have to persevere."
To learn more, visit www.interiortouches.ca.
Read about Jae Park’s story in next week’s Lance.