In 2011, Eric Nam was living what could be described as a relatively normal life. Born and raised in Georgia, in the United States, Nam had recently graduated from Boston College with a major in International Studies and a minor in Asian Studies and had accepted a job as a consultant at accounting firm Deloitte.
However, all of that changed when he uploaded a video of himself singing a cover of the song ‘Lonely’, by K-Pop girl group 2NE1, to YouTube. Almost instantaneously, his world was turned upside down.
After the video went viral, Nam took a leap of faith, and made the decision to relocate to Seoul where he competed in reality show Star Audition: Birth of a Great Star 2.
“Sometimes you just have to trust yourself, your gut, and make the jump.”
“It was terrifying, but a call that I’m glad to have made,” Nam, now 35, tells The CEO Magazine. “Sometimes you just have to trust yourself, your gut, and make the jump.”
Having placed in the top five contestants, he was then offered a contract with B2M Entertainment as a solo artist. From there, his career accelerated.
From strength to strength
With two EPs under his belt, by 2016 he’d been named GQ Korea’s Man of the Year, and in 2017 was included in Forbes’ 30 under 30 Asia list. That August, he toured to New York City and Atlanta, where he performed three sold-out shows.
The following year, at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Nam was named an Honorary Ambassador. As his star continued to rise within the K-Pop and global music industry, Nam started exploring other professional avenues, beginning with a weekly podcast that he launched in 2019.
“Since college I’ve had a very big interest in entrepreneurship and startups,” Nam explains. “From an early point in my music career, I realized that creating music and performing, while hosting shows and doing odd jobs to make ends meet – at the same time making sure that everything was working in synergy and also managing a team – is very much like a startup.”
“We have a great team of individuals that I am very grateful for and am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
His podcast offering continued to evolve, so much so that it wasn’t long before Nam co-founded podcasting platform DIVE studios alongside his brothers, Brian and Eddie.
When asked what he’s most proud of since its conception, Nam credits the ability to create content that positively benefits people across the world.
“We’ve been able to have so many fascinating, fun and impactful conversations with incredible guests, and to connect with artists and fans in this way has been wonderful,” he says.
However, Nam happily concedes that as with any project, challenges are inevitable.
“There are ups and downs and sometimes it can be difficult to just keep my head up and keep going,” he says. “But we have a great team of individuals that I am very grateful for and am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
Peace of mind
Two years later, in 2021, Nam and his brothers detected a niche gap in the wellness market that he soon filled with another clever offering: Mindset. The platform boasts a library of personal audio pieces from musical artists where they speak about their own journeys with mental health in a decidedly vulnerable way.
The innovative app not only helps to humanize celebrities, but also harnesses their fame and influence, with the aim to make others – the community currently has more than 750,000 users – feel a little less alone.
“Mental health is something that affects every single person in the world, and being proactive in pursuing good mental health is important because it affects everything that we do: how we work, play, love, identify and live,” Nam enthuses. “As such, I do think it’s important for us to continue to have open, honest and candid conversations.”
With so many strings to Nam’s bow, coupled with a career that involves regular touring, it would be easy to imagine that there’s little time allocated to doing things that fill his cup and ensure those creative juices keep flowing. However, Nam explains that thankfully, travel is precisely what serves that purpose for him.
“Being proactive in pursuing good mental health is important because it affects everything that we do: how we work, play, love, identify and live.”
“I love traveling and I do so a lot – whether I’m on tour, filming a TV show, attending events, or enjoying a vacation,” he says. “Exploring the world is an incredibly important source of inspiration and a form of personal growth for me.”
It was a match made in heaven then, to be named as an ambassador for Booking.com’s 2023 Explorers campaign, where Nam was given the opportunity to visit Hoi An, Vietnam and Bangkok, Thailand. In Bangkok, he cites visiting a floating market as a highlight
“I love visiting markets (both touristy and not) when I travel because it’s a great way to gain insights into local foods and cultures,” he explains.
Led by curiosity
Having successfully turned so many passion projects into intelligent and insightful ventures that have garnered impressive followings in a very short period of time, Nam clearly has an aptitude for business.
“I think I’m naturally very curious and have this urge to try things that oftentimes seem very difficult,” he says. “If I don’t feel challenged, then I feel like I’m not progressing or growing in life, so there’s this innate drive that’s always been pushing me.”
From consulting, to pop-stardom, to entrepreneurship, Nam serves as a pertinent reminder that you should never be afraid of quitting your day job.
“I think the big learning from music and entertainment is that nothing ever goes according to plan,” he says, laughing. “You have to roll with the punches and make the best of every situation, and that’s something that can often go a very long way, particularly in startups.”