Steve Kim, who built himself up from a hardscrabble start in post-war Korea to a billionaire entrepreneur in Sand Canyon, is looking to bring a family-friendly five-star resort to the Santa Clarita Valley. PHOTOS BY Dan Watson / The Signal

Big dreams in Sand Canyon

With the formation of successful startup companies, foundations and leadership centers throughout his career, Steve Kim is no stranger to business ventures. 

Now, after taking over the Robinson Ranch Golf Course in 2016, converting it into a 27-hole desert course and renaming it the Sand Canyon Country Club, Kim has a dream to expand that vision. 

“When I try to get away with the kids, there’s no place to go,” Kim said, adding that very few nearby resorts are family-friendly.

If approved, Kim plans to transform the country club into a resort and spa with hotel rooms and villas, restaurants, a spa and gym, ballrooms, outdoor recreation, a kid’s center and a new nine-hole golf course.

Kim hopes that the resort can become a family-friendly destination, known for its natural setting, architecture and five-star service.

Early life

Kim was born in Seoul, Korea, in 1949, during a hard time in the country’s history, as it had just been liberated from Japanese colonial rule a few years prior. 

Much of his early childhood revolved around the Korean War and he grew up with very little, yet he studied hard, which he believed was the only way to help his family.

“We didn’t have many jobs out there in Korea, and the country was still very underdeveloped,” he said, adding that he hoped he would find more job opportunities in this country. “I didn’t know what my life (in America) was going to be like, but it was almost something like a destiny.” 

In 1976, he went back to school and began working at an auto parts warehouse, making only $2.50 an hour. “When I got here, I really started at the bottom. It was not easy doing both (school and work) while adjusting to life in the U.S.”

After working at numerous larger companies, he took a position at a smaller company. “There was a paradigm shift, so I had the opportunity to learn something new every day.”

Steven Kim owner of Sand Canyon Country Club in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

Business ventures

Kim continued to want to do something more, and though startups were uncommon at the time, he had a strong desire to start his own company, gathering engineering friends to create Fibermux Corp. in 1984. 

“I didn’t think about the consequences and just went for it,” he said, adding that the company began in a garage as they worked to grow it through trial and error. “These ventures were very rare, but I made it through. I think I was born with this fighting mentality.” 

By 1990, Fibermux had grown to a net profit of $10 million, making $50 million in annual sales, and he later was able to sell the company for $54 million. 

“By doing this, I learned from it,” he said, adding that he was constantly trying to understand how he could do better.

It didn’t take Kim long to start dreaming up a new challenge, and he attributes the success of his second venture, Xylan Corporation, to good timing. “I had a lot more experience, and I was able to visualize and look through to the future (of the company).” 

Learning from his mistakes, he realized the importance of hiring good people and utilizing them properly. His goal was not only to become a market leader but also be listed on the NASDAQ within three years. 

Not only did he accomplish that goal, but Xylan was recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in California in 1996, eventually selling for $2 billion in 1999.

After the sale of Xylan, Kim became a venture capitalist, making time to provide management advice for other companies hoping to grow. 

Giving back

While in search of a new passion, Kim created a number of foundations, including the Steve Y. Kim Foundation and Korea International Music Foundation. 

“If I can help someone who is financially struggling, why not?” he asked rhetorically, adding that his life changed because of it. “It really made me feel good to be able to do that and be able to help … I think it’s the best part of your life. You concentrate on accomplishing your goals, but the money and material possessions really don’t mean much at all. So, to be able to do something good and be recognized is really what’s important.” 

Over the years, Kim has used these foundations to help many organizations in need, including many in the Santa Clarita Valley, such as the SCV Senior Center, Child & Family Center, Bridge to Home and College of the Canyons Foundation. 

“Mr. Kim recently became a great supporter of Bridge to Home,” Executive Director Michael Foley said. “Last year, he made a tremendous difference through a massive county-wide backpack donation for those experiencing homelessness across the County. We are incredibly grateful for this partnership.”

Last year, Kim donated $25,000 to the Child & Family Center’s Crisis Aftercare Response & Education Team, or CARE, which allows trained professionals to assist the community’s emotional needs immediately following a traumatic event.

“It was a two-year commitment to getting the CARE team developed, getting it off the ground and implementing it,” said Cheryl Jones, V.P. of marketing and community outreach. “Thanks to Mr. Kim, we have that resource available to the community … which the whole community benefits from.” 

In 2001, he established the Dream Hope Future Foundation, dedicated to helping young, aspiring entrepreneurs in Korea, and in 2007, he decided to move back to focus more on working with the foundation. 

At that time, Kim authored his first book and began traveling the country holding lectures at schools for youth. Soon, he had opened Dream Hope Future Leadership Centers, where they found innovative, new ways to educate youth through camps held at the centers.

In the last few years, Kim, shown here with then-board President Michael Berger of the SCV Child & Family Center and CFC CEO Joan Aschoff, has become a major supporter of nonprofit organizations in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Sand Canyon Country Club

In 2016, Kim received a call informing him that the Robinson Ranch Golf Course, which he had invested in back in 2005, was up for sale. 

“I saw this is another opportunity,” Kim said. “This course is just really beautiful and this property is unbelievable. It’s a golden gem out here.” 

The 2016 Sand Fire devastated the Santa Clarita community, and though the fire only damaged a few holes, Kim used the shut down for repairs as a chance to remodel the course and clubhouse.

Soon, Kim had moved back to America to fully take over operations, and after nine months of renovations and delays caused by mudslides, the course was reopened. 

In recent years, Santa Clarita has received some much-needed rain, which has helped to regrow quite a bit of the landscape surrounding the golf course.

“I met Mr. Kim soon after he acquired what was the Robinson Ranch (Golf Course),” Councilman Bob Kellar said. “I’ve met with him on a number of occasions, and all … have been very positive. I have found him to be a very reputable and hardworking individual. He has been very generous and supportive in the community in various ways.” 

Since then, Kim has begun his newest venture: the Sand Canyon Resort. 

With high-quality furniture, prefab buildings and state-of-the-art technology, Kim hopes to create a resort with a certain “wow” factor.

“I’m experimenting right now. Everything has to be something special,” he said, adding that he feels it’s important to add his own personal touch. “We are so much involved in all the little things and every bit of detail to make sure everything has that ‘wow’ effect.” 

Kim’s been enjoying the process of designing the resort. “It’s a lot of fun because I get exposed to and get to learn new things every day.”

Kim plans to preserve a majority of the property’s natural space, only using 77 of the 200-acre space while keeping buildings “low-profile” and away from the main roads. 

While Kim hopes to create hundreds of new jobs and boost the local economy, he remains committed to addressing the concerns of residents regarding the resort.

“I think we can do very well … and I want these people to be happy.” he said. “This is a good thing for the legacy of the community and to build the community up for the next generation.” 

Sand Canyon Country Club is located at 27734 Sand Canyon Road. For more information, call 661-252-8484 or visit sandcanyoncc.com. To download Steve Kim’s new book, “American Dream,” visit bit.ly/KimAmerican
Dream.

Steven Kim owner of Sand Canyon Country Club in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

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