We started to film some of our Shot of Soju interviews and couldn’t be happier to launch this new project by chatting to the Jay-Z & Beyoncé of the Seoul expat community: Erik Moynihan and Tiffany Needham. They’re known for being the TV hosts of kick-ass Arirang documentary series, , and for being co-owners of one of Chincha’s favorite bars, . , a men’s clothing store, can also be found on their golden resume of entrepreneurship.
Yep, the ultimate power couple. We can’t even pull the “they’re too-cool-for-school” card because they’re one of the nicest couples we’ve ever met. They’re the type of people that would be more than delighted to let you borrow a cup of sugar from them if they were your neighbors. But they would be even better than that couple because, just for kicks, they would probably throw in an ice-cold Magpie beer, straight out of their fridge.
Watch our first Shot of Soju video to see if Erik and Tiffany are the PDA type and then check out the full interview to discover if we hear wedding bells ringing soon for these busy, busy lovebirds.
Chincha: You’re pretty well known in the expat community whether it’s for hosting the Semipermanent TV series, being Magpie Brewing owners, or running Decade Shop. But what also makes you two special is that together you’re the ultimate power couple in Seoul. How exactly did it all begin?
Tiff: We went out for drinks and dancing and there used to be these parties called Mixtape parties.
Erik: Yeah, and what’s that party called now? Ah, I feel like an old man…
Erik & Tiff: Shindig! [Laughs]
Erik: Yeah, Shindig. Shindig is what’s up right now, right? And before there was Shake. And before Shake there was Mixtape. That was the jam that everybody was going to and that was one of our first dates.
Tiff: Afterwards we started talking and we realized that we both just wanted to start our own business. We didn’t want to go back home and work for someone else. We just wanted to do our own thing and we bonded over that fact. I think realizing you want to share the same lifestyle with someone who has that same idea as you is so important.
Chincha: It’s what makes you two compatible. You can like someone so much, but if you’re just not compatible with them or don’t have the same goal it just won’t work out in the end.
Tiff: Exactly. And it’s what makes this whole thing possible. I don’t think I could run a small business by myself.
Erik: It’s funny because people say entrepreneurship is this dream but we’ve gone through maybe eight or nine projects that we scrapped before we got to Magpie, Decade Shop, and Semipermanent. They take years to develop. It took us a while to get it.
Tiff: I think when you start anything from a grassroots level and you don’t have a lot of money or a huge budget, it will definitely take a while. But if you stick with it, something will pay off. Either another opportunity will open up or what you’re working on will blossom. Things will go somewhere.
Erik: I think the key here with Magpie is that beer came first. We started home brewing here not as a business but as a hobby because we just missed beer from back home. Magpie’s always been about the beer that we miss from home.
Tiff: The most exciting thing about Magpie is that when we started out our friends would come and support us. And then it went from friends, to other expats, and then Koreans started discovering us. Like tonight, there are so many Koreans in here and that’s so exciting because we’re being embraced by the local scene.
Chincha: It is really busy tonight. And it must feel great to know it’s not just your friends or the circles you run with that’s inside, its other people who know about Magpie that’s coming in, buying your beer, and supporting you.
Erik: If the local people don’t support what you’re doing then you’re really preaching to a small audience. If you’re preaching to the expat audience then it becomes really fragmented. If you’re focused on the local audience and you’re trying to give them something that they want or something from back home that you could offer them it’s a much more rewarding experience. I think people embrace it a lot more.
Chincha: You two work so closely together at a constant basis. How do you handle your businesses and your relationship at the same time?
Erik: It’s one of those things that you just have to set aside time for, like, even just making breakfast.
Chincha: Oh! Who’s making breakfast over here?
Tiff: Erik makes breakfast.
Erik: I’ll say “I’m making breakfast today!” And I’ll hit the blogs and find the recipes and be like “this is the hot shit right now and I’m going to put this together!” The biggest thing right now is tomato sauce and poached eggs. That’s the jam. Everyone needs that.
Chincha: So Erik’s glue is the breakfast. What’s your glue, Tiffany? What do you do for Erik?
Tiff: I make messes that Erik can clean up. [Laughs] No, I feel recently I’ve been doing laundry more.
Erik: You are a laundry queen these days.
Chincha: Since I’ve started watching Semipermanent I started to wonder if you guys learned anything new, not exactly career wise, but about Korea itself? Especially after living here already for six years.
Erik: I think with Semipermanent we really try to step into someone’s life. We really try to get in there. Even though we can only see a tid-bit on TV, we actually spend over a day with them usually. Two days sometimes. Like the food episode in Daegu, we were there for so long. So yeah, we learn a lot. About different neighborhoods. And because we’re so busy these days we don’t really get a chance to really travel around so much. We’re kind of confined to our projects and that’s all we get to explore. So with the TV show we get to really get into a lot of new neighborhoods.
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Chincha: So would you say that Semipermanent is exclusively for foreigners or do you think that you would bridge out towards the Koreans that are living here?
Erik: No. It’s funny, because the concept we originally made, it was for Koreans. It’s what we wanted to do.
Chincha: Oh wow, I didn’t know that.
Erik: Arirang is the one who caught hold of it and really liked it. Arirang is more about taking Korean culture and spreading it abroad. We kind of had to shift our focus a bit and say it’s not about showing Koreans “Hey we’re all not just teaching English and getting drunk in Itaewon, we’re all doing a lot of really cool stuff here.” We had to shift the focus on targeting international people, and to show that there are a lot of opportunities and a lot going on here that you should know about Korea. You’re not coming to some backwoods country that has no idea what’s up with anything.
Tiff: We also just want to show that you can have your day job but you can also do something else on the side. That’s why we started brewing. We were both teaching and then we started making beer for fun and it kind of evolved and turned into a business. There’s a lot of opportunity here in Korea, it gives you that flexibility. You have work that pays the bills and then you can do your passion project.
Chincha: I usually ask this on every Shot of Soju interview: what is your golden piece of advice for our readers who want to jump into your industry, in your case, whether it’s hosting for a TV show or owning a bar.
Erik: Do it for the right reasons. Do anything that you do because you love doing it. Do it because you want to make the best product that you can. If you make shitty products, no one will ever buy them. And, yeah, you can market it or you can try to get people to buy it or put it on life support for a long time but it just won’t happen. and if people aren’t interested in it and if you don’t even stand behind that product, something you wouldn’t even consume yourself, then you shouldn’t do it. We have that outlook with the TV show, with Magpie, and with Decade.
Tiff: I definitely second that. We first started projects that were definitely money focused. We were like “this is going to make us so much money!” and it failed, every single time. It’s because you don’t put 100% into it. If you’re not interested in it completely to the core, then it won’t follow suit.
Chincha: Ok, before we wrap things up, I have to ask, are there wedding bells in the near future for you two?
Tiff: I think because we live together and have a business together, marriage is not necessary for us. We are already married in a lot of ways. Erik’s Canadian. I’m American. There’s a lot of visa questions when you’re in a foreign country. And immediately when you first start dating someone you have that question “When is he going back home?” or “Am I going back home?” So you have to think about it. You’re forced to think about it at an early standpoint. And I forced it upon Erik because I was actually being kicked out of my apartment. I was like “So, I don’t have a place to live…” only six months after we started dating. And that moved things along pretty quickly I think.
Erik: Our relationship has changed a lot since then. The conversation isn’t “Are you going to go home or am I going to go home?” its “What are we going to do next?” or “Are we going to go and travel more?”
Tiff: In terms of marriage, I’ve always told Erik I would want that for my family. I would love to have a big party to have. Where his family and my family can come together.
Chincha: It’s all about the wedding these days!
Tiff: Yeah! It’s all about the party, are you kidding me?
Erik: We’d serve Magpie beer!
Erik, Tiff, & Chincha: [Laughs]
Tiff: Skip the wedding, it’s about the reception. that’s what I want!
Chincha: Just have the party without actually getting married! Wear the white dress and all.
Tiff: My mom’s going to see this and say “what?” [Laughs] But seriously, I think once you have a connection with someone and make that commitment it doesn’t necessarily have to be on paper and I know Erik feels this way pretty strongly.
Erik: Well, I’m glad you’re vocalizing it more than me! It’s the modern couple. the necessity of marriage is not so important these days.
Tiff: Unless you need a visa.
Erik &Tiff: [Laughs]
Erik: That’s what it comes down to! How many people do you know that has to get married for visas? It happens all the time.
Tiff: Yeah, I’m just really trying to get to Canada.