Swiss Toni Piëch is an avid entrepreneur, who enjoys starting up companies and giving back to the community in the process. After obtaining a degree in East Asian Studies at Princeton University, Piëch worked as a journalist in New York and Beijing. His wealth of experience includes being the Beijing Bureau Chief for New York based Inc. magazine, a host of Radio Beijing, a freelance writer for the German-language Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung and a correspondent for the German newspaper Der Kurier. In 2007, Piëch started his own company specializing in brand-driven television shows in China, called PAE Media. Next, he founded Piëch Asia Enterprises (PAE) that encompasses media (PAE Media), recruitment (PAE Design Talent) and the arts (PAE Art). All profits from PAE go to PAE Halo, which invests in non-profit organizations working within China. Piëch visited students at the British School of Beijing, speaking about the hard work and determination that goes into starting your own business.
Marcell Vajda, 10, Hungary
What inspired you to start your company?
I like having an idea and making it work. I used to be a journalist, so I wrote about people who did that. And then I thought: I want to be one of them too. If you’re not really sure what you want to do, look at what other people do [and]start asking some questions.
Jay Hyun Lee, 9, South Korea
How many businesses have you set up?
I have set up a media business, so we do TV shows. We also set up a recruiting business, where we help companies find designers. And we set up an art business. The finance business didn’t work so well, so that one is gone.
Dayna Lewis, 10, Trinidad and Tobago
What was it like when you started your business?
It was hard, because I didn’t know anything about it. Every time you [start something new]you are a little scared because you don’t know much about it, and everyone else around you seems to know a lot – but a lot of times it’s not true. Every time you do something new, it’s scary, but that’s the fun part.
Alex Hwang, 10, South Korea
How do you make a franchise?
I haven’t figured it out yet – starting one thing is difficult enough. Doing a franchise is selling your idea. If we sold a school and were franchising it, we’d take the idea for the school and sell the idea to a lot of other people, so they don’t have to start everything from zero. They’d take our way of doing it and give us money for it.
Max Li, 10, US
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you in your job?
There’s a lot to pick from. If you start businesses, there are a lot of good things and a lot of bad things. I think the hardest thing for me to do, or the thing I regret the most is firing [people]. But in business, you have to do some of these things. Sometimes you make decisions and you make mistakes. If you work with people, you fight a little sometimes, but I try not to. I think that’s the hardest part.
Zhuan Ee Yau, 10, Malaysia
When you do this business, isn’t it tiring?
Yes, but it’s so much fun that it doesn’t feel like a job. I really like going to work, I love what I’m doing. But when I don’t sleep a lot, I get grumpy. It’s better if I get more sleep.
Ethan Kiang, 10, Hong Kong
What if you’re not successful?
Good question. [Not] everyone is successful, especially if you start new things. A great piece of advice for life is: If you try something and fail, you get up and try again. If you’ve never built a school before, there’s a pretty big chance that you’re going to fail. That’s when you have to try again. And try not to spend other people’s money, because they’re going to be really angry at you. But it’s going to happen; it’s not easy to do everything right.
Joey Chng, 11, Singapore
How old were you when you started your business?
I was around 30.