Meet Dennis Ngin. He was the former president of the Asian Youth group at his high school and from there founded the Asian American Greek Interest Group at the University of Florida. Dennis joined the Asian Student Union where he became the first Asian American to hold an executive position at a campus with over 50, 000 students! He always kept an open door policy while working with at-risk students through the university’s Free Enterprise outreach program. Dennis continually encourages them to to pursue higher education and excel in their college endeavors. He proves that if you work hard, you can do anything you set your mind to.
“My name is Dennis Ngin and I graduated from the University of Florida in May 2007 with degrees in Political Science and Marketing. I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, FL. To the best of my knowledge, I’m 100% Cambodian but have yet to visit Cambodia. I can speak and understand Khmer well, but cannot write. I would like to participate in a Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip to Cambodia when time permits.” – Dennis
Since you have a Greek Store dedicated to serve Fraternities and Sororities, which Fraternity do you actually belong to, and which University did you attend?
Dennis: I am a brother of Pi Delta Psi Fraternity, Inc. (www.pideltapsi.com). I was a charter member (which means I helped established the Fraternity) at the University of Florida. We were established at UF in November 2004 and now have three chapters across the state over 100 members combined in Florida.
What made you decide to start your own business serving college students and alumni?
Dennis: I’ve always been entrepreneurial growing up and wanted to start a business throughout high school / college. However, I never had the time, capital, or idea to make anything happen.
This all changed during the summer before my senior year at UF. That summer, I had accumulated some extra cash from scholarships and an internship. I also had time without a full academic load. And, most importantly, I recognized a need to provide Asian American Greeks, along with Multi-Cultural Greeks in general, a retail outlet for their merchandise.
With all the stars seemingly aligned, two partners and I pursued our business idea. We recognized that the timing was right and the opportunity was there. Originally, we planned to simply establish a website to resell customized apparel and merchandise produced by a third-party vendor. Our intention was to only be responsible for online marketing and website maintenance. We were students; we didn’t have time to do anything else.
However, our original idea was met with resistance. We failed to find a vendor that would allow us to resell their merchandise. Who could blame them? We were a bunch of college kids with no business experience.
Despite our initial obstacle, we persevered. Eventually, we partnered with a home-based business to manufacture our products. This was truly a humble operation. Fortunately, business grew. In fact, we grew so well that we decided to manufacture our own products. After just 6 months in business, my partners and I pulled all of our savings, signed up for some credit cards, and we “let it ride.”
We have been extremely blessed and lucky to watch our business steadily grow over the last 4 years. Today, we operate a retail location just two blocks from campus and a warehouse/office facility about 10 miles away. Our website at www.onegreekstore.com attracts customers from all across the country and keeps us busy throughout the year.
You can read one of my very first interviews here: http://www.mymoneyblog.com/young-entrepreneur-interview-dennis-of-young-money-blog.html
You can also see a video interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjoiABgdnts
We always ask this question…what is your favorite Khmer dish?
Dennis: Anything my mama cooks! :) I love “Ka-thieu” or Pho and anything sweet!! I’m allergic to shell-fish too, so no crab, lobster, or shrimp for me :(
I wasn’t involved much into the Sorority culture myself, but is there actually a Cambodian fraternity/sorority?
Dennis: Unfortunately, there isn’t one that I know of :( . This point actually reflects an issue in Khmer-America. There is a lack of first generation Cambodian Americans in higher education. There were maybe a handful of other Cambodian students I knew of out of a campus of 50,000 students at the University of Florida. That’s a problem!
So what type of clothing or merchandise do you actually sell? Name some of the things you sell on your site.
Dennis: We specialize in highly customized merchandise. Our most popular item is customized line jackets with unique images/emblems all around. These jackets retail between $200 – $300 each. You can see some here: http://onegreekstore.com/greek-gallery
One Greek Store also manufactures and retails other apparel items such as shirts and hoodies, as well as gift items such as license frames and dog tags.
I like how you can customize your orders. We have lots of readers around the world. Are your orders available for worldwide shipping?
Dennis: Sure, we can absolutely ship around the world! :) However, since college Fraternities and Sororities are primarily an American institution, the majority of our clients are from the United States.
Being a young entrepreneur what advice can you give to others who are interested in starting their own business?
Dennis: My biggest advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is this: Don’t start a business if you don’t know how to make money from it. Our generation has been exposed to some remarkable businesses that have transformed our everyday lives. Companies like facebook and twitter have inspired a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to make the next big thing. As a result, many young entrepreneurs have started businesses with the hope that sales will materialized. Although I don’t want to discredit these ambitions, I admit that I’m more of a realist – a careful entrepreneur.
And as a realist, I believe in the traditional business model. You provide a product or service that someone wants and is willing to pay for. You should identify the buyer/customer before you make your product or offer your service. As long as what their willing to pay is greater than how much it costs you to produce that product or service, then you’re in business. I don’t believe in producing a product or service without knowing IF someone will actually pay for it.
Do you do this all on your own, or do you have a supportive team behind you?
Dennis: If I did this on my own I would die :P Currently, we have 7 full time employees, including myself and my partners, and 5 part-time employees. I hope to hire more people as our business grows.
At CAA, we’re all about giving back to the community. Have you done anything recently as far as any charity events for a good cause? If so, name some. If not, name what you would like to participate in if given the chance.
Dennis: I am particularly interested in working with Asian American youth to provide them with the tools necessary to succeed.
There is a cultural expectation for Asian Americans to be the smartest students in the classroom. This “Model Minority” myth has plagued me for the majority of my life. In reality, there exist substantial communities of Asian Americans that are impoverished and under educated. For example, among all Asian ethnic groups, Cambodians are among the least likely to obtain higher education. As a result, opportunities for Cambodians are limited.
I’m actually coordinating a leadership workshop this weekend at the Level-Up Conference in Orlando, FL (http://levelup.phpnet.us/index.php). In the past, I’ve coordinated workshops on entrepreneurship, student leadership, Asian American stereotypes, and the Khmer American experience.
I also serve as the National Expansion Chair for my fraternity. I am responsible for bringing Pi Delta Psi to a campus near you! I sincerely believe in the core values of my organization and our ability to positively impact the Asian American community nationwide.
For more about Dennis Ngin:
Originally Posted by Tyan Y.
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