While I’ve been at beijingkids, it seems like every couple of days we encounter a new maker either setting up shop, joining the local pop-up flea markets, or even selling their wares via WeChat. It was getting to know these makers through our columns like Talking Shop that inspired us to cover this trend of expat movers and shakers deciding to present their products to the masses.
What is it about Beijing that makes this arguably daunting task of creating a business seem doable? After all, this city isn’t always the most convenient place for newcomers, and even longtime expats can struggle to cope with paperwork and bureaucracy. A simple trip to the bank can be enough to send you on a downward spiral of self-doubt and serious existential dread. I’m not speaking from first-hand experience (cough, cough), but I’ve heard stories.
This entrepreneurial spirit has been a factor in making many countries the melting pot of cultures that they are today. While for many of us, our cultural and geographic heritage will make it impossible for us to be considered Chinese in any sense, we can at least hope to positively influence the cultural landscape of this place we live in with our own ideas and unique offerings. Whether it be our sweet confections, beautiful handmade objects to decorate our homes or to accessorize, or simply through providing unique experiences, the products being developed by expats living in Beijing are all a part of the story of this particular place and time.
This issue is a tribute to those who have braved the business waters of China, or at least gave it the old college try. This is something that we at True Run Media can strongly relate to, as we too have our roots in entrepreneurialism. Since our modest beginnings over a decade ago with the Beijinger, we have grown to four separate publications, including beijingkids, JingKids Beijing, and Jingkids Shanghai. At the heart of our company are a husband-and-wife duo, Michael Wester and Toni Ma, who have shared in not only the same successes as many of these entrepreneurs out there in the scene but also the same hardships.
In these pages, you’ll find not only profiles of some prolific makers currently doing their thing, but also stories of expat moms who decided they weren’t satisfied with the trailing spouse label and wanted to pursue their own goals. We even received some pro tips on brand development from the founder of Halo Hummus. Another important point, explored through our Schooled feature, is that entrepreneurship isn’t only something for adults to learn and practice, it is also an area that needs more focus in schools. For this article, we reached out to Julian Fisher, Senior Partner in Venture Education, and educators from the SE21 program at Dulwich College Beijing (DCB), to learn how the foundational concepts of business were being introduced in Beijing international school curricula. We were deeply impressed, and somewhat jealous, about just how far ahead of the curve these students were.
While we don’t expect everyone to drop this magazine and start a business immediately, we hope that this issue at the very least informs you about the possibilities and the excitement that could come from such a venture. However, if you do end up catching the entrepreneurial bug, the most important lesson to take from these pages is not to be afraid to fail, as failure is one of life’s greatest teachers.
This article appeared in the beijingkids November 2018 Beijing Makers issue
Photo: Fang Yifei, Lens Studio