When the World Says No to Your Invention

Romi Haan couldn’t get anyone to buy into her steam-cleaner invention. But she pushed through failure—and now runs a thriving global business 

by Alison Overholt
haan image
When Haan, shown here at her Seoul, South Korea, warehouse, introduced her steam cleaners in the U.S. on QVC, they sold out in six minutes.
Photograph: An Ji-sup

In South Korea, her status as the country’s most successful female entrepreneur and one of its few female inventors makes her a sought-after speaker. That perch helped Haan raise awareness about her experiences applying for loans and grants in her native country and trying to sell to an all-male retail establishment. There are now more female evaluators for business-lending programs and more women buyers in the country’s retail sector. A South Korean professor and consumer advocate has gone so far as to say that since the introduction of the Western kitchen, Haan has done more to improve gender equity in Korea than any other person. But perhaps the thing Haan is happiest about: Thanks to her steam cleaners, now even husbands are scrubbing the floors.   


Alison Overholthas written for Fortune, Fast Company and O: The Oprah Magazine.

Learn more about HAAN products here.

Next: Spinning a Business Out of Nothing

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First published in the February 2013 issue

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