For Brian Chung ’06, the journey toward Christianity began during his undergrad years at the University of Southern California. Like many young students, he was trying to find himself. “Spirituality is part of my self-exploration,” Chung says. “At first, the Bible was intimidating to me, but it was also exciting.”
Chung didn’t veer toward a life of excessive collegiate partying – instead he found fulfillment in religion, which eventually paved the path for the creation of Alabaster Co., a successful business that melds fine art and faith. Since 2016, the company has tallied more than eight figures in revenue through the sale of its faith-based products, which are distributed by some of the country’s most popular retailers, including Target and Walmart. Currently, Alabaster has seven full-time and one part-time employees.
But financial success is not the main driver for Chung. “Faith guides me to leave the world a better place,” says the co-founder and CEO of Alabaster. “I love people. It is really important to make a positive impact on people’s lives and also be a sustainable business.” Some of the latest initiatives that Chung and Alabaster, co-founder Bryan Ye-Chung, are working on include a new prayer candle and a new Bible study.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the company. In the beginning, Chung was concerned about the general perception that products for the religious market were lacking in quality and design – that there was an element of “cheesiness” to them. This impression was reinforced by one of his former college professors. “He would say, ‘whenever I hear it’s a Christian-based business, I tend to want to run away.’”
But Chung is glad he stayed the course. He saw the lack of quality of religious products as a strategic opportunity for his company. He and Ye-Chung set out to create goods with a higher degree of art and creativity. The products were infused with fine art and enhanced aesthetics – with the end-purpose of deepening connections with the scriptures and with God.
Chung says one of the ethos of the company is to deepen the exploration of beauty and creativity. “When we were just a kickstarter, the question that arose was ‘can we combine faith and art together?’” says Chung. “The answer is yes.”
What helped Chung overcome his initial doubts? Failure. Over the years, he had launched a steady stream of businesses, none of which had the momentum that Alabaster enjoys today. “I learned so much and grew so much from those failures,” he says. He refers to that time as a “roller coaster of entrepreneurships.”
Chung is proud of Alabaster’s journey. The company, which began operating from the hallway of his apartment before expanding to a bedroom, then a garage and finally into an office space is now helping to elevate the perception of products in the Christian market. “I wanted to create products that honor God and people, which means making them well.”
– By Jacquelyn Carberry