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06/25/2013 10:23 am ET

Losing Lessons: How One Korean Housewife Failed Her Way To Business Success

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The moment Romi Haan knew her business had become a success came on a sweltering evening in 2004 when a shady business partner opened his briefcase and threatened her life.

“It was a hatchet this big,” Haan says, spreading her hands roughly a foot apart as she recalls the evening. For months the man had been a loyal customer, buying the steam-powered floor cleaners Haan spent five years developing for resale online. But when she discovered he was taking advantage of a corporate discount and cutting her out of the profits, Haan called a meeting to settle a $300,000 debt at a café in downtown Seoul. Only instead of bringing a check, the swindler bought a weapon.

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