Beijing’s entrepreneurial scene is bustling and growing and in fact, the community discovers new vendors every season! We’ve invited both new talent and veterans to participate in this section, to give you an overview of how extensive and varied Beijing’s flea markets, bazaars, and jumble sales are. Of course, there isn’t space here for an exhaustive list, but our official WeChat account has up-to-date content about what’s new and what’s upcoming in the market realm.
Russian makeup artist Larisa Usenkova of LaraBeautyMUA is popular with the beauty and fashion community, and now she’s on her way to reaching her dream of opening up a makeup studio in Beijing. She tells beijingkids that she has loved everything related to beauty and high fashion, and closely followed the trends in makeup, since childhood. She has participated in many shows, including Mercedes Fashion Week in 2016, and has taken part in the creation of TV programs and events here in Beijing.
Aside from making women look more gorgeous, she also conducts master classes in which she shares her secrets of choosing the right cosmetics, colors, and brushes with groups or individuals. Usenkova was formerly a model, so she gives her students an opportunity to brush up their modeling potential at her classes. Aside from her classes, Usenkova regularly holds a breakfast meet-up for expat women in the city, where they talk about beauty and health while having a fun time.
Products: Baby/kids onesies, tees, memory books (scrapbooks), blankets, and gift boxes
Jennifer Zdaniuk began CarpeDiem in the winter of 2007, following the birth of her first child. “I found the task of capturing her first year daunting and the products available to help were low quality and impractical. I wanted purpose-made, pre-packaged kits, but none existed so I made some.”
Her flagship product, Baby’s 1st Year Box, is a set of 12 baby bodysuits each numbered and labeled for the corresponding month of the baby’s first year. These tops can be paired with a blanket, which doubles as a backdrop to provide a consistent attractive background for each photo, to document baby’s dramatic changes during their first year. A memory book can be added to provide a place to put the photos and jot down notes on baby’s changes during Year 1. Everything is soft (even the memory book is felt bound) and brightly colored, and for a modest fee, everything can be customized and personalized (colors can be selected and baby’s name can be added to each item, except the blanket).
Product type: Italian cakes and pastries
CCCreations was born a year ago, initially as a hobby for Master’s degree student Chiara Cardi. As a young expat away from her home in Italy, Chiara says she would often feel homesick and miss the sweet tastes of homemade desserts. After realizing she wasn’t only the one feeling that way, she decided to bring to China the aromas and colors of western bakery art, hoping to give other expats a taste of home by recreating the taste of Italy in Beijing.
CCCreations Bakery sells homemade Italian cakes and desserts, all made according to traditional recipes. Their secret ingredient is the Sicilian pistachio, flown directly from Italy, where it grows on fertile land right at the foot of a volcano.
JuLiu Organic Cosmetics
Products: Handmade organic cosmetics imported from France
Launched early this year, JuLiu is a fine addition to Beijing’s ever-growing list of natural cosmetic ranges. French owner Julia Raguenet guarantees the quality and organic component of her handmade products “done with respect to the environment.”
JuLiu works with professional brands and manufacturers who make their products in a traditional and eco-friendly way. Raguenet says the company is transparent on the composition and origin of their products, using less packaging and no plastic.
Products: Handcrafted jewelry with gemstones from Brazil, India, Russia, and China.
NA Jewelry was established in early spring of 2017 by a Beijing-based team of two Russian entrepreneurs, Natasha Patton and Elena Stukanova. Their moderately-priced (RMB 100-600) and intricate handcrafted jewelry uses metals imported from the US, fashioned into elegant pieces suitable for daily wear and special occasions.
The duo says “every bangle in the jewelry range is carefully finished by hand,” with every model handmade and each gemstone individually knotted. “The highest possible standard of craftsmanship is applied to every stage of the bangle making process,” they add.
Product type: Blankets, throws, towels, scarves and table runners
While living in Istanbul, PR professional Desiree de Wit discovered beautiful, absorbent, and luxurious Turkish towels and blankets. She moved to Beijing in 2013, and discovered Turkish towels and blankets were nowhere to be found. Two years later, de Wit brought her favorite Turkish towels, bath towels, and handwoven blankets back to Beijing through her own DdW Textiles company, which became an instant success.
Handwoven DdW textiles are luxurious, absorbent and multi-purpose: for the shower or beach; sauna, spa, and gym; or even as daily towels, baby towels or as picnic or living room blankets. DdW Textiles also offers a range of scented candles and Argan oil-based products.
Products: Information, events, products, and services that help expats and tourists experience Chinese culture
Long-term Beijing expats AJ Donnelly and Nic Doering started Cultural Keys (CK) in 2013, and now it has grown to include three divisions aimed at providing people access to traditional culture in China: the CK Culture Centre, the CK Culture Boutique, and CK Martial Hearts.
Cultural Keys offers culture classes in traditional skills such as calligraphy, painting, paper cutting, and knotting. Under their CK Martial Hearts division, they offer taichi and kung fu courses in Beijing and at the Shaolin Temple studying with warrior monks. Meanwhile, the CK Culture Boutique sells genuine Feiyue shoes, Chinese cultural accessories, custom-made calligraphy, and art (both from the Shaolin Temple and by local artists from the Songzhuang Artists’ Village where they are based).
Products: Granolas, muesli, cocoa pops, beetroot relish, onion chutney, energy/protein balls
Entrepreneur Elvira Zaera Tamargo thought that branded cereals sold in the city were expensive but of low quality. Her imagination and curiosity drove her to produce homemade cereals, eventually leading her to the wholesale markets where she sources affordable but high-quality ingredients.
At the same time, people asked her to make some onion chutney; she tried, and it worked! Now, that chutney is part of her extensive homemade product line which includes her bestsellers: granolas, muesli, and energy balls.
ArtFun by Nadia Learned
Products: Posters and Giclée prints
Nadia Learned is a professional artist and illustrator who creates giclée prints and posters featuring animals and characters from her imagination, or from the fairy tales that she heard in childhood. “Put these high-quality fine art reproductions on the wall in your child’s room, kitchen, or living room, and watch your mood improving,” she says.
WeChat: Rhea53 / OPOPO (official account)
Products: Apparel and t-shirts
Rhianna Aaron launched OPOPO in 2016 with the intention of encouraging and inspiring the black community in China, featuring positive stories and coordinating events beneficial for the community. Aaron says her “黑是美 Black is Beautiful” apparel is a way to “make a statement without saying a word.”
Aaron adds that support of this statement isn’t only limited to people in the black community, but also from the Chinese and people from different cultural backgrounds as well, saying “It’s simply a positive message that many people can relate to.”
Products: Embroidered kitchenware, felt bags, and cards
Sew Gorgeous isn’t only a vendor of embroidered kitchen linen; it’s also a charity set up in 2014 here in Beijing by a British GP to support disadvantaged children in China. There are 17 ladies currently volunteering their time in organizing sales, crafting, and managing the production of their homeware items.
Sew Gorgeous sell beautiful embroidered napkins, table runners, aprons, felt bags, and cards. They employ a local artist, tailor, and embroiderer as well as making some products themselves. All of their proceeds go to charities which primarily focus on helping children access education in China.
NAKED nut butters
Products: All-natural nut butter
Meredith Sides and Catherine Tarrant, or the “Naked Nut Ladies” as they’re known in many WeChat market groups, started producing homemade nut butter in 2016. The pals shared a love of nut butter, but found there were no healthy options in Beijing. Fed up of having to ship tubs of nut butter from home, they eventually made their own and sold it at local markets and events.
The business expanded, and the “Naked Ladies” now have a factory in Sichuan, where they employ locals and source all-natural peanuts. As their brand Naked Nut Butters slowly grew, the ladies teamed up with the non-government group The Paradise Foundation to help promote nature conservation throughout China. They donate a portion of their profits to support the Foundation’s conservation and education programs.
Products: Pet Food & Lifestyle
Vancouver-born Dan Christensen has been in China for 15 years. Six years ago, he came to Beijing, leaving his wine business in Shanghai, to start Penny’s, a dog lifestyle company selling fresh food by subscription. Besides running the company, Christensen also acts as a group admin of the Beijing Dog Lovers WeChat group.
Pine Cake by Elka
Products: Cakes and pastries
Pine Cake by Ёlka is a new topping on Beijing’s confectionery scene. Its Russian owner, self-confessed cake-lover Anastasia Elkina, established the business based on her family’s favorite recipes, as well as her passionate creativity. Her wide range of products includes honey cake, profiteroles, pavlova, crepe cake, fruit cakes, and chocolate cakes.
Elkina imports key ingredients like flour, butter, and chocolate, and loads her confectionery with fresh fruit, nuts, and other natural produce. All cakes are baked fresh every day, with extra care given to the ingredients’ quality and attention to detail. Free delivery in Beijing is provided, delivered to your door on time, beautifully presented and packaged.
Velveteen’s Secret Potions for Very Special People
WeChat: VSP4VSP (Official account)
Products: skin care and image management
Velveteen’s Secret Potions (VSP) was conceptualized as a brand almost four years ago, but its roots go even further back with the experience of founder Francesca Hanshing Urra as a trader, and her life-long passion for creating artisanal home remedies.
VSP’s inspiration comes directly from its customers, whom they consider to be “Very Special People.” The brand has a cornucopia of products to fit all its Very Special People’s wants and needs, and this year, VSP has offered more customized items and developed new perfume concepts.
This article appeared in the beijingkids November 2018 Beijing Makers issue
Photos: Courtesy of featured vendors