Hoon Choi, Eller MBA ’10
Managing Partner, Savvy Computers
By Liz Warren-Pederson
At 17 years old, Hoon Choi moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, from his native Korea. “My uncle owned a restaurant downtown,” Choi said. “He suggested that I come work for him and go to school in the U.S.”
Choi finished high school in Flagstaff and earned a degree in finance from Northern Arizona University. He then began a varied career that started with Arizona Martial Arts, which trains fighters for the UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship. He then joined Prudential Insurance Brokers, where he spent nearly three years.
“At that point, I decided to move to Tucson,” he said. He spent six years with Canyon Ranch, first as a hiking guide, then as a financial analyst, and then spa manager.
“Then I decided to try something new,” he said. He accepted a position in planning and development with TM International, the world’s largest producer of temporary tattoos. “I was there for two and a half years, but then the economy turned and I was downsized,” Choi said.
He looked at it as an opportunity for growth. “I realized that I needed new tools to position myself for the next stage of my career,” he said. He entered the Eller MBA program. “The networking was fantastic, and the program really makes one think,” he said. “You leave the program with the tools to do what you want to do, and the courage and confidence to go after it.”
After completing the program, he spent a couple months looking for traditional MBA jobs. “Most employers were looking for people with industry specialization, and my background was really diversified,” he explained. “I wasn’t fitting into the mold.”
He didn’t let that stop him: “I realized that no one was going to make the effort for me. I talked to a few of my friends, and we decided to open up our own business, Savvy Computers.”
The company opened in fall 2011. In addition to serving individuals, the Savvy Computers team serves small to medium businesses. “It’s definitely been challenging, because there is a lot of competition in the market for computer repair,” he said, “But we are carving out a niche, and the first thing is that we really care about is the customer.”
It’s the latest step on his diversified path. “When I was young, I wanted to be a businessman and I thought that meant working for a company for a long time and then retiring,” he said. “After I got downsized, I felt like there is no sure thing anymore. It doesn’t matter what kind of job you have, it might be in jeopardy — but running my own small business, it’s all up to me. We can stay small or choose to grow. I like the responsibility and control that gives me.”
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