March 19, 2017

Interview with Aiman SAGATOVA, a leatherworker and the owner of the brand `Kazakhsha style`

Writing about web page kazakhshaleatherartstudio.co.uk

Written by Adelbek Japakov and Shensi Wei

Aiman Sagatova

What drove you to start the studio? Before you started have did you plan your business?

Well, I would say it was not a sudden decision and it was linked with my creative ability developed at early ages. I have practiced craft since childhood. At the age of 6, I learnt from my grandmother how to knit socks and blankets. My mother is an architect. By her encouragement, I used to go to the Art Studio, where I acquired basic artistic skills. The environment I grown up was full of aspiration to a fine art. I remember how my artworks had been sold at the age of 10. During the spring holiday, there was an art exhibition. I earned almost a half of Dad`s salary from selling number of paintings. That was a truly exciting and rewarding experience.

I think people are not always sincere in saying that they make art for the sake of art because in order to continue developing yourself as an artist, you have to invest in yourself. Therefore, hand-made artworks should be valued properly; it is not just my hobby it is a lifestyle. I dedicate full time in order to make a living from what I am good at. I previously had a well-paid job in the oil & gas industry as a technical translator. But, when I moved to England, it became obvious that I had to decide either to pursue a career or dedicate my time to bringing up the children. I chose the latter, because life in England is totally different. The first time, I tried to work as a freelance translator, but it did not provide me with a steady income. Then I came up with an idea to apply my artistic skills, and this is one, which brought me money. When I demonstrated the works on the Internet, it was immediately sold out. This was the critical success factor which influenced me to embark on a business that I definitely enjoy.

Work process

Do you do all of this work by yourself or do you employ people?

It is a self-occupied, sole owner business. Therefore, aside doing craft, I have learnt how to do accounting, to address supply of the row materials and to build a customer relationship. It was not plain sailing at the beginning, since you have to be good at multitasking. But, that is the nature of an artisanal business.

Have you tried to get any funding?

I did not rely on funding. Since taking out a loan from a bank, then struggling to pay tax is not an appropriate way to run a small business. Instead, I decided to build my capacity gradually, buying equipment from my first revenue. I, actually, started my business from my personal savings. It was a fixed amount of money, just enough to buy the necessary staff. Then by getting the first orders, I had a chance to drum up my business step by step.

Handbag messanger in Kazakhsha style

How do you advertise and sell your products?

In order to provide consistent flow of overviews, I promote the products in different social media. Except the web-site (kazakhshaleatherartstudio.co.uk), customer buy my product through the various online marketplaces such as an American platform Etsy.com.(www.etsy.com/ru/people/asagatova).

Who are the customers?

Customers are all over the worlds, for example, Australia, America, Russia, Hong Kong, European countries, even from Africa etc. The customers’ geography is an interesting one. Some customers appreciate the handmade products, they want to make statements. Some will ask for special logo or pattern. It is quite customised. I do bespoke leather products according to my customer’s preference. But not all the customers have clear ideas of what the stuff looks like. Different people have different approaches. A customer just showed me a pair of new shoes and wanted to have one. I will produce according to the clients’ budget to and try to meet their requirements.

Ladies Leather belt "Nauryz" tooled and carved in Kazakhsha Style

What makes your products special, and an outstanding Kazakhsha style?

I use leather, the skin is a very versatile material, and from cow, camel or different reptiles. I work with the top layer (full grain), the best part of skin of the animals. And the suppliers are from Italy. It’s plain white material that hasn’t been coloured. I cut, paint and do everything by hand. The material is much more expensive than the normal leather which is not full grain but may be good for sofa and jackets.

`Kazakhsha style` is not just the name. (As it is explained on my web-site profile,) "Kazakhsha" means "to speak Kazakh", but it is also my identity, my very own way to express myself, and being proud of my national heritage. The native elements and the symbols carved on the top of the leather are all reflection of nomadic culture. It reminds me of homeland, and is also the reason why I usually consists the Kazakh pattern in design. Some people have emotional feeling towards Kazakh things and would like to have a Kazakh style element as nostalgia. Some people find it exotic. However, there are many other elements and pattern in my designs, for example, animals and flowers.

Did you have any difficulties when you started your studio?

Sometimes I feel very tired and had no inspiration for my designs.

In terms of business, the biggest difficulty is that it is hard for me to handle all the things. Since I am sometimes overloaded with the orders. Especially during the Christmas deadline. It is important to be on time as I have to provide a good customers’ service.

Future vision for your business?

I will think about hiring someone to help in order to get more customers.

Actually, I had thought about my design or products attracting big brands. However, I suspect it would be incompatible collaboration. Accepting the offer from a big brand means mass producing, whereas, for me, the most important concept is handmaking. It is a professional skill as one of the oldest craftsmanship. It should be emphasised that each of the work is unique. I do understand that my products are not affordable by many people. But, the niche makes it valuable.


March 17, 2017

Interview with the founders of Tree Planets, Hyungsoo Kim and Min Choel Jeong (2)

Writing about web page https://youtu.be/KXAwOxF7vzc

Written by Yachi Chen and Suiki Park



Q: What is the business model of Tree Planet?

H: We connect the players, business, governments, and NGOs through the mobile game. Instead of the traditional method of the mobile game that simply received the money from the players, we involved in the business as a part of support us. The logo of the sponsor business will be put in the scene in the game, or they even become the characters in the game. In this case, the players won’t be annoyed by the advertisement from the business; instead, the image of those green business can be truly improved. The business provides us the money to really plant the trees in the real world. The player can always check how the tree grows in the real world. And we put the environment issue in the game, such as the flood and the desertification. People can experience the problem in the virtual world in Tree Planet, and thus further realize the problems in the real world.

M: We also fulfill our idea with crowd funding and fan club. There are different fan club on our official website, and we plant the tree for their idol by naming the forest with their names, including Paul McCartney and certain Korean super stars. We turned the trees as gifts and memories. People feel more connected by planning the tree for their idols. And sometimes people gathered in the tree of their fan clubs, they even kiss the trees. They are connected by the spirits.

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Q: What isthe most unforgettable memories asbuilding up this business?

M: In 2015, we initiate the planting of the trees as the memorials and the tribute to the Sinking of MV Sewol happened in Korea, the Audrey Hepburn family from the US actively sponsor 50,000 US dollars to Tree Planet to create forest memorial for the victims. We saw the victims were crying when they was looking at the forest, it really touched me, and we know that we can do something bringing more impacts to people. Recently, we further bring different meanings by planting trees. We plant the forest at the boundary between North and South Korea as we hope to bring the peace among two countries. We plant mango trees in Sudan to further solve the malnutrition problem of the local children. Also it provides the work opportunities for the unemployed local women.

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Q: There are many young people who would like to have their own business. What suggestion would you give to the young entrepreneurs nowadays?

H: Finding your goal. Many people didn’t know the goal they really passionate in the deep inside in their heart. There may be some people don’t support you and even against you; however, as long as you set your goal, knowing your destination, maybe the way to reach it would not be straight. Sometimes you will face long path, round path, and sometimes you need to make a turn, you need much time to get the destination. But once you have a clear goal in your mind, it does not matter how much time you need to get there because you will finally figure out the ways to go. We are still on the path. Our goal is to plant 10 million trees by 2020. We are still far away from there, and there will be a lot of challenge in the future. The market has been changing, the mobile device has been changing, and it is needed to build up a new business model every 3 years. But we will keep carrying on, we won’t give up until the day the earth is covered by trees!



https://youtu.be/KXAwOxF7vzc


Interview with the founders of Tree Planets, Hyungsoo Kim and Min Choel Jeong (1)

Writing about web page https://treepla.net/

Written by Yachi Chen and Suiki Park


Tree Planet is a mobile game from Korea, which combine the playfulness of mobile game and the action of protecting the environment. When the player plants a tree in the game, Tree Planet will further plant a tree in the real world. The vision of the business is “to make green the most visible color on our planet. “In the past 6 years, Tree Planet has planted more than 73 forests over 10 countries, including Korea, the U.S, China, Sudan, more than 488,165 Trees, in total. It is found by Hyungsoo Kim (29 years-old) and Min Choel Jeong(30 years-old) from Korea.


tree

Q: What’s your rational to start the business of the mobile game Tree Planet?

A: Hyungsoo (H): We would like to solve the problem of environment protection. I majored in media and communication in undergraduate. Since I was 17 years old, I spent 5 years to make a film about environment issue. I used to watch TV programs related to environment issue, and I noticed that the deforestation had become a serious problem. In recent years, there are forest as big as half size of the U.K disappear every single year. Many people watched the film I made, but only few of them would really take an action.

Min Choel (M): We met each other in 2008 as I majored in animation. At that moment we were going to the army (In Korean, all males have to go to military serves for 2 years.) Both of us desired to do something fun and meaningful instead of commercial movies. We want to solve the problem, change the world. We might go to work in the government or Non-Government Organization. However, we decided to do something by ourselves, something worldwide and bring more deep impact.

Q: How it became the idea of mobile game business?

H: One day, a friend of mine was playing the farming online game. I asked him why he enjoyed it so much? He told me that he really enjoyed the feeling of planning trees and making money in the virtual world. That gave us an inspiration. We did not know much about the business or entrepreneurship, so we read many books about environment protection and CSR business to develop the idea.

Q: Both of you just graduated from college. How did you solve the problem of lack of resources and finance?

M: Our experience is, when you really desire and endeavor to do something, people will try their best to help you! At the beginning, we knew nothing about mobile game. During the 2 years we were in the military, we took off the army suit and put on the suit on the weekend. We went to many places visit different people as long as they might give us some suggestion, including engineers in the colleges. We have 40 holidays during that 2 years, and we tried our best in those days.

H: At the beginning, our idea is to develop a computer game. At that moment, the iPhone just went into the market. An engineer suggested me “hey! Why not develop a mobile game?” as he saw the future trend of the smart phone. We also visit some small enterprise or start-up venture, some people suggested us to visit the government, some people suggested us to start our own business as a social enterprise. After 15 days, we started our own business. It happened so soon! When we just focus on our goal, it just happened, we never even have time to think about giving up. Everyone around us was really willing to help us. It was the moment that smart phone, green business hit the market.

Q: What is the most difficult things to start this business? And how did you try to solve them?

M: People don’t believe that this could really make money at the very beginning, which make it difficult to convince them to help us. And in fact, Korean People rarely use smart phone at that time. We did not think it was difficult at the beginning, but actually it was really difficult (laugh). At the beginning our financial target is 100,000 US dollars, and we visit different people to find the sponsor. There are Angel Investors in the US but not in Korea at all. So we tried to join different entrepreneur competition, including the ones in Korea, and the global ones such as in Berkley University in the U.S. We won certain fund from the competition, and many business leaders noticed our idea from the competition and wanted to help us. We reached 1,000,000 US dollars in 3 months, which is beyond our expectation.

H: Another difficulty is to find the land to really plant the trees as they are owned by the government, and we have to convince them to join our idea of planting trees. What’s more, every country has its own regulation and law, to say nothing of the difficulty of communication in different languages. However, we really wanted to solve the problem in various countries. For example, the air pollution is really severe in China and Mongolia. China is closed to Korea geographically. Environment issue would not be a problem for an individual country, it is a global issue. People have to solve it even if we come from different countries.

Q: How did you reach the local government and business to solve this problem?

H: We tried to make the connection through the internet. We tried to reach a Chinese professor through his blog. He speaks Korean and cares much about the environment issue. We wrote him an e-mail to tell him about the idea. He was willing to meet us, and he further supports and help us since then on. He told us “At the beginning when I met you, I thought you would only take action for few time. But then you keep carrying on, never give it up. I saw your passion and belief.”

M: We also went to the US to visit Google. They gave us lots of suggestion and would like to work with us. The CMO told me that he was really impressed by our idea. He said he had seen many mobile application, but never an app changing a world like this. He joined the Tree Planet game and plant a tree in the game, and he is looking forwards to see how the tree is going to look like in the real world. After 20 years He is looking forwards to see how our business is going to look like after 20 years. It is hard for people to predict a picture of a company after 20 years, but they can image how the trees we plant after 20 years. That’s the value of Tree Planet.


March 09, 2017

Interview with Mianco Wong – Managing Director and Founder of Mention PR Consultants Ltd

Writing about web page http://www.mention-pr.com/

By Olivia Mui and Oscar Yu


1. Please describe your business and competitive edges.

Mention PR is a full-service public relations (PR) and marketing communications agency, we provide customized communication solutions to clients from different sectors, while specializing on arts and culture related projects. Our mission is to connect people and convey the right messages to the designated group of audiences. Our staff are passionate, energetic and dedicated to delivering comprehensive services with an emphasis on devising creative media-based solutions to our clients. Moreover, upon my past working experiences in the PR field, extensive networks have been established which formed parts of my current customer base.


2. How did you discover the business gap and start up your business?

Mention PR was established in June 2010. Before that I had worked for PR agency, Hong Kong Arts Development Council, a statutory body and Home Affairs Bureau, one of the policy bureaus in HKSAR. In the many years I worked in the sector of arts and culture as a researcher, I observed that part of the reasons leading to the undesirable development of Hong Kong arts is lacking of promotion. And I found myself particularly interested in arts and cultural projects. By that time, PR agencies in Hong Kong are mainly serving commercial clients like banks, listed companies and retailers whose audiences are rather mass, while I realized art-related organisations require more patience, lower budget, more customized and innovative communication solutions. In addition, in view of the emerging art-related CSR initiatives in Hong Kong and the lack of art project consultancy in the market, I decided to set up my own PR agency to provide a wide range of high quality customized PR and marketing services, specifically in the arts and cultural field.


3. Do you think PR consultant committed to arts and cultural projects is a niche and creative business in Hong Kong?

Yes, it is niche because the traditional PR consultants are normally engaged on international brands, which publicity is generated through joint promotion, celebrity endorsement and gimmick campaign etc. PR management in Hong Kong is not really innovative, while creativity is always crucial in the arts and cultural industry. In order to draw the press and public attentions to our clients’ projects, we have to be creative in messaging and event planning. Arts and culture are used to be something niche in the market due to limited audiences, while we aim to popularize and bring it to the mass though interesting communication solutions.


4. Is promoting arts and culture in Hong Kong one of your major objectives? How does Mention PR achieve it?

Promoting arts and culture is surely one of our core objectives. Despite project scale, we passionately care about and appreciate every details of the subject. By digging deep into every project patiently, we attempt to unveil fascinating facts behind and provide down-to-earth and valuable insights upon our solid experiences which effectively draw media interests. Meanwhile, we call media proactively to provide them with sufficient information and materials to facilitate reporting.

In addition, Mention PR, as distinct from other PR agencies, we perceive the development of local arts and culture more than just a job, but as our reward and devotion to our home, Hong Kong. We proactively locate gaps in the arts and culture sector, then correspondingly launch different initiatives such as the Art Next Expo to address market needs, to create a platform channelling through various parties in the sector, upon our own assets or assets garnered from the society. Likewise, we will proactively suggest our clients to conduct some potent and sustainable PR works, for audience development and thriving results in the long term.

I believe that the development of arts and cultural sector is very important to the growth of an international city like Hong Kong, we being a professional PR agency, always do our best to serve and deliver the right message to the right people.


5. Throughout last seven years, what difficulties have you encountered? How did you overcome them?

One of the key challenges is manpower management, turnover of young employees are in particularly fast, whose often just stay 1-2 years then quit. As a relatively small agency, I attempted to simplify the hierarchy and coach every newcomer by myself, hope that they could grow with the company, even if they eventually leave Mention PR, they know how to do promotion for arts and culture in Hong Kong. In addition, we adopt open discussion most of the time to encourage expression of thoughts and opinions.


6. Meanwhile you want to expand your business, how do you balance between cultural values and market needs?

Cultural values and market needs are not contradictory to each other, I think the higher cultural values, the higher acceptance of the market. The point is how we deploy technique, use PR solutions to bridge cultural values and the market via interesting ways or easily understanding methods, to achieve win-win situation. We always craft the media angle carefully to balance the interest of public/media and the content of the project.

We try to prioritise our resources to serve arts and cultural clients. Fortunately, we gained the trusts of major art-related organizations. In these years, we have been working for West Kowloon Cultural District, PMQ, Leisure and Cultural Services Department, K11 Arts Foundation, SHKP Reading Club, Hong Kong Design Centre, Sun Museum, Poly Auction, China Guardian, Kwai Fung Hin Gallery etc.


March 17, 2016

Qin HUANG-Independent Game Developer

Interviewee: Qin HUANG

Interviewer: Yi Yang & Zhengkai Li

Background:

Qin is a Chinese young independent game developer. When she was 6 years old, she began to play games and when she was 14 years old, she successfully developed her first game named PAIN and gained fame in the industry. Nearly three years later, she established her own independent game studio in Chongqing, China. She has designed several games and also cooperated with a Singapore game developer to make games. After several years’ effort, she realised her weaknesses and decided to go to Canada to gain programming-related knowledge.

Questions & Answers:

What were your initial ideas of being an independent game developer?

When I was 6 years old, I began to play flash games. And about one or two years later, I also began to play CS and other kinds of computer games at that period. I gradually found that current computer games could not meet my demands and I wondered why those great and famous games were mostly designed and made by other countries’ corporations so that I started to think about: how to design and make those games? If possible, why not design and make my own games to the world? As a result, in 2008, I started to learn the Game Maker and RPG Maker, two fundamental game maker programmes. However, to make high-level games, above two programmes were too basic to achieve my goal so that I began to learn Unity 3D, a professional programme to design games. After releasing a game named PAIN on the Indie DB with a good result in the industry, I have become a game developer in China.

How did you establish your own studio?

To be honest, after making my first game PAIN, I realised that there was a long way I needed to go if I wanted to reach a higher goal. I wanted to expand my business but I knew I could not do it along as game developing needs group work. I have to say that attending GDC China was really an excellent experience for me, which helped me to broaden my connections. It is one of the most important conferences for game developers. In the conference, I met numbers of people who have the same goals and aims and I even cooperated with some game developers later. They have their own strengths and have taught me a lot of things from making games to establishing a game studio. From then on, I began to think about establishing a studio. But money and partners were all my problems. After nearly 3 years’ preparation with some of my friends, I finally established my own game studio in my hometown and began to develop my career step by step, from designing to making games.

What obstacles did you face when establishing the studio? And how to overcome them?

The first and most emergent thing was about my professionalism. As a game developer, I am not a genius and my major was not about computer or game developing so that I need to strengthen my professionalism all the time. After developing my own games, I began to learn computer related knowledge via books and online courses. And interestingly, I could gradually read and understand other game developers’ programmes and I can also use more professional programmes to develop my games. However, current knowledge is not enough so that I would continue to study in depth.

And the second problem I faced was about group work. After establishing the game studio, I found it was really a big problem to balance different people in a team. I am a shy girl and I had no idea about interpersonal relationships. I tried to make several games in a group but unfortunately, they were failed. To address it, I visited other successful game studios, such as Coconut Island Studio. Those independent game studios did inspire me and help me to manage a group better.

What is your future plan about your studio and yourself?

The first thing is to broaden my professional skills from game developing to language. I want to develop my business but there is a plenty of obstacles. For example, most independent game developers face language problems when they want to introduce their projects to the western countries, so do I. I am young so that there are numbers of things I could do. As a result, I would go abroad to study programming knowledge and improve my English ability as well. I have successfully applied for a bachelor’s programme in Canada so that in the next four years, I will study programming and designing related courses. I hope my game developing career could be better after my effort.

What do you want to say to other young people who have a willing to set up a new entrepreneurship?

The first sentence is that if possible, do whatever you want to do and it will make you happy. I love games and enjoy playing and developing a new game, even though I often fail to make a completed one. And because I want to make a difference, I have never felt boring when studying programming knowledge even thought I did not like study before.

And then, study is one of the most important things we need to do when we are young. Before I do game developing, I had a negative attitude for study. I did not like study and I even thought that study was not a necessary thing I needed to do and the studio proved that I could make a life by myself. But the more I do for my business, the more willing of study I have because there is a variety of knowledge and skills I need to know.


An interview with Emil – The founder of Hapo

by Yan Diana and Ling Li

Background:

Company Name: Hapo

Introduction: Founded in 2006, Hapo is a city poly system who operates various events combining art, parties and trends into one place. It serves a large range of brands and integrates culture into business. Hapo also creates its own entertainment programme.

1.Question:What makes you decide to be an entrepreneur and start your own business?

Answer:It all started from 2006. At that time I was a sophomore in the university. When I returned to China that year, I found an unique phenomenon that: In the Chinese Bar, people’s age ranges from 30 to 60, and only a very limited proportion of the customers are the young (from 20 to 30 years old). This inspired me to come up with an idea to use party as a method to gather friends and hang out together, which is the same way I used in UK to call for my fellows.

Another indirect reason is my family. As many international students do, when I back to China, I took over the responsibility from my parents to run my family business, bur there were two problems emerged at that time.

Firstly, my parents’ management ideas are different from mine, which resulted in endless quarrels with my family. Furthermore, I felt I can’t realize my personal value and achieve nothing at this stage, with only rare friends in China, eventually I decide to start my own business in 2009.

2.Question:Why did you choose cultural media enterprise as your business?

Answer:Initially, my idea is: Through holding these parties, people can enlarge their social network, and meet with new friends. Because deep down inside, I think Chinese are really living a tough life, it is hard to make people feel happy and relieved in their daily life. Thus, I ask myself why we can’t have a relaxing and blest lifestyle, why we can’t have party like those foreigners? I hope my cultural project can bring happiness to people.

3.Question:How do you ensure your idea is both creative and profitable? How do you promote the creativity in your company?

Answer:In terms of creativity, I really admire Japanese’ innovative ability. They are especially excelled in“secondary innovation”, which means they are talented in adapting and improving those existed outstanding work to perfection. Thus, I believe that best ideas come from learning and imitating; hence many creative ideas of mine were coming from some classical cases outside of China.

When it comes to how to make profit, we didn’t go that further at the beginning stage. But there was a harsh time from 2009 to 2012, it was literally a big challenge for our company. During that period, I made another decision: I went to Beijing for one-year further study. After that our team usually have brainstorming together to think about creative ideas.

4. Questions:From your perspective, what are the most essential traits and skills for an entrepreneur?

Answer:In my opinion, I regard entrepreneurship as a spirit, which comes from the passion of what you love. Meanwhile, you should have a comprehensive understanding, personalized analytical skills and endless enthusiasm on your own business. Of course as an entrepreneur, we need a wide range of knowledge in various domains, such as history, philosophy, psychology and management theory etc. Also, the ability to execute the idea is very important as well. Thus, it is not very easy to be an entrepreneur.

5.Question:Do you have any advice for the students who want to start a business in creative and media industry?

Answer:For those students who want to be entrepreneurs, my advice is: before starting up a business, they should ask themselves which industry they are interested in first. Platform is extremely important for these students. For example, if you are interested in Media, go to a related company and learn sufficient working experience, meeting with more authorities in this field. Do not push yourself too much, in the beginning five years, try to polish up your own skills and knowledge and waiting for the suitable time to start your business.


February 20, 2016

Jennifer Mak – Independent Luxury Handbag Brand

Writing about web page http://www.jennifermak.com/

Interviewer & Editor: Yiting Wu (Yilia)


It is such an honour to interview Ms. Jennifer Mak. She used to have an enviable job with high salary and reputation, but because of her ambition and interest, Jennifer quitted her job and build up a start-up by herself. In order to get enough financial support to her brand, now she and her assistant are struggling to apply for the government funds and raise money from their side-lines. But both of them pour total devotion to the brand and enjoy what they are doing without any complaint. They are entrepreneurs, just like us, learning how to get access to success, and will also suffer for query and failure, but they never give up.

Jennifer Mak Website

Background

Jennifer Mak is an Independent Luxury Handbag Brand found by Jennifer herself, based in Hong Kong, China. The collection is a line of luxury exotic skins handbags made from the finest python, ostrich, lizard, stingray and crocodile for day and night.

With an MBA from Columbia Business School along with the experience of working at Loro Piana and Hermès, Jennifer subscribes to an uncompromising commitment to quality in creating classic must-have pieces for the modern woman.

After spending years creating bags and accessories for herself and her friends, Jennifer decided to leave her job in the corporate world to follow her passion.

Let’s hear her stories and suggestions.


Q1. How to make sure that your idea (to start your business) is feasible and consistent?

Having realistic estimates re how much it will costs to launch a first collection and how much it will cost to reach break-even and profitability is very important.


Q2. From the time you plan your business to the time you decide to start it, how long it takes? And what incentives made up your mind to begin?

5 months. It was research time and thinking time. Once you crossed the line of no turn, you just do it without questioning it. I think of the first few collections as “proof of concept” so that was an incentive – to prove that it’s viable.


Q3. How did you find your first partner? If you want to find one more, what personalities are the most important? Why?

I just did it on my own. Partners can be a great advantage or disadvantage. I’ve heard lots of horror stories; this is not to say I won’t consider- I think a strategic partner/investor can be very good for the business.


Q4. In the early stage of entrepreneurship, what should we pay most attention to? Talents, products, venture capitals or the organisation structure?

I think it’s always the products. Have to have a good product but you never stop thinking about money. Once your start to grow, then structure becomes important.


Q5. What difficulties have you come across in expanding your business?

A lot of larger retailers are very difficult to work with…to the extent it was surprising to me…


Q6. How to find and focus your potential customers?

We haven’t done any advertising or paid outreach PR, so it’s really through word of month and other forms of PR…We work with partners and share their database…


Q7.In your opinion, what kinds of abilities are indispensable in starting your own business?

You have to able to multitask because you are wearing many hats, being organized is important, being enterprising is important, being able to stretch the dollar is also important. In the end, perseverance and optimism can carry you a long way.


Q8. What advises could you give to the new entrepreneurs who, like you, wants to run a business in fashion industry?

Research and plan before you start, try to give yourself as long as a runway as possible and once you start, don’t look back!


March 01, 2015

An Interview with Rob Jia, an Cultural Entrepreneur, founder of Perfect Impression

Writing about web page http://www.weibo.com/zhenyinxiang

Date: 2015/02/27
Contributor: Rob Jia, Zhehao Shen, Zheng Shi


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Background:

Perfect Impression is a company in Zhuhai, China, and was set up in 2014. It aims to build a creative catering service that combines humanity, culture and technology into a creative food catering service. The company offers a place to students and white collars during non-meal times to establish activities like cultural salon, charity, presentation, English corner and other cultural events. Now, Perfect Impression LTD owns the restaurant brand of Perfect Impression, Old Days and one cultural media brand of Dream Collector.

Q&As:

Q1: What motivated you to be an entrepreneur?

A: The start or our business was relatively smooth. Most of my partners’ parents supported our idea very much and gave us essential starting capital. Only a few of them was uncertain about our project. The biggest problems are that none of us had experience to do with catering industry and also it was a new place to be developed so there wasn’t a good business district there. For these factors, the risk of the business could be big. But we did a lot of research and found this place is very important for students nearby. The university area is far away from city centre and this place could be the only business district for them to entertain. Also it is a transportation hub so the passenger flow would be very big. Having these convinced evidence, we could foresee its big potential. Therefore the risk was still in our control. That was how we got started.

Q2: What difficulties did you meet during the process of your business?

A: The start or our business was relatively smooth. Most of my partners’ parents supported our idea very much and gave us essential starting capital. Only a few of them was uncertain about our project. The biggest problems are that none of us had experience to do with catering industry and also it was a new place to be developed so there wasn’t a good business district there. For these factors, the risk of the business could be big. But we did a lot of research and found this place is very important for students nearby. The university area is far away from city centre and this place could be the only business district for them to entertain. Also it is a transportation hub so the passenger flow would be very big. Having these convinced evidence, we could foresee its big potential. Therefore the risk was still in our control. That was how we got started.

Q3: How complex is it to run the business?

A: Very much. The first pressure comes from our unfamiliarity of the catering industry. So we basically learn everything during the process. And it is literally a very complex process. Every small step is related closely so if there is a mistake in a step, it will lead to bigger mistake in the next step. We need to be very careful. So we keep trying and avoid making mistakes as possible. The subsidy is another issue for us. As you know, Chinese government encourages young entrepreneur very much so we devoted to every governmental activity to get some fund. We also have to build good relationship with local authority to get most benefit from the policy.

Q4: What skills and qualities do you think an entrepreneur should have?

A: There are three types of people I think could be an entrepreneur. A person who has executive capacity, a person who own core technique, and a person who has creative ideas of business mode. But above all, the most important is a good team. I always believe that a good team is much more important than a good person, and even better than a perfect idea. An entrepreneur is not a born entrepreneur, and everyone has their different experiences when they grow up. These experiences make individual special and unique; and the specialness and uniqueness would make big contribution to a team. That’s why I believe a team is the most important. An innovative idea can only be an idea without a team to make it come true. But if you have a team that could change the world, even with a tiny idea, the world would be changed by your team.

Q5: Is your company in the scale of cultural industry? How do you think of this industry in relation to your business?

A: Of course it is. And we are the entrepreneurs of 90s generation. We need to make our business creative and distinguished. So we have the concept of culture into catering to make it fashionable. We need to make it relate to future tendency such as internet, cloud and big data. We aim to build a creative brand that meets the need of consumers, but also use culture as a means to develop the relationship between us and customers

Q6: Do you have any suggestions to the students who want to start their entrepreneurship?

A: Find a team, start with ideas, and never give up.


Interview with an independent musician

Writing about web page https://soundcloud.com/dimebillion

Interviewer: Yuche Li

About Dimebillion

Daniel Bentley is an independent musician who called himself as 'Dimebillion' as a stage name. His music journey started when the year he was 14, the summer holiday he spent in Japan with his grandma was the initial inspiration of his music. Dimebillion produces his music by referring his personal background-since he was born in Japan but growing in Britain-therefore, the uniqueness of his music, as what he agreed that, is to producing the western style music by adding some oriental 'flavour'.

A interview with Dan

Q. Why do you want to do music as part of your career?

Because music is the only job I have found so far which fulfils me emotionally. Writing and performing music consistently challenges me, whereas I have never had a job which has stimulated me mentally as much music does.

Q: What is the very initial achievement ?

I first got an electric guitar when I was 14 and played my first gig aged 16.

Q how do you promote yourself as an music entrepreneur?

Having a manager helps, but not always necessary. It's just a case of building up an online presence through visual and audio media like social networking and music videos. And also ensuring you do the old-fashioned things like networking, putting up posters, giving out flyers and contacting radio stations and music journalists.

Q. Is it difficult?

The music itself is not difficult. But the promotion does not always come naturally to me. I have to force myself to do it, even though I would prefer to be dealing with the music itself most of the time. The music relies on the promotion, so you cannot afford to ignore it if you want to be successful in the music industry.

Q. How would you define the term of 'cultural entrepreneur'?

I would define that as someone who is acutely aware of what attitude is emerging from the current generation and capitalising upon it.

Q. Do you think yourself as a cultural entrepreneur?

I aspire to become a successful artist. If that would be as part of the definition of cultural entrepreneur

Q.What is your strategy to increase your career potential?

Musically, I intend to make most of my money from touring. Eventually I want to expand into fashion, cologne, film-making and writing fiction. And I also have a few inventions I would be interested in patenting and bringing to the market.

Q. How do you let people get to know you better?

I connect with people on social media and music forums.

Q. Have you ever performed in public? If so, how would you describe the experience and was it successful?

The vast majority of musicians perform in public. There is no greater feeling than performing your songs at the highest level and to have people appreciate what you do.

Q.What are your plans for the future? Money or self-satisfaction?

I pursue wealth for only one purpose: Time. If you are not financially independent, you are a slave to your employer and therefore unable to pursue a creative career. Self-satisfaction also drives me, but more in the sense of giving music fans something to think about. I care far less about journalists' opinions than fans. It is the fans who pay to see the shows and buy the music after all, so they are my number #1 priority.

Dimebillion photo


February 28, 2015

Dance Entrepreneur– Swaroopa Unni



Interviewer: Ankita Menon

Swaroopa Unni is a dance entrepreneur based in Dunedin, New Zealand where she founded Natyaloka School of Indian Classical dance. Natyaloka is a Sanskrit word for the ‘world of dance’ and the school embodies that word by offering classes in Bharatnatyam and Mohiniyattam.

Currently pursuing her PhD in Dance studies from Otago University, New Zealand, Swaroopa began her dance journey from the tender age of four. She has trained in Bharatnatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kuchipudi and Kathak, each a distinct Indian classical dance style of its own over a span of 15 years from various distinguished dance masters and has performed across many stages in India. She has also won several prizes at the University, District and State levels whilst representing her school and college.

Born into a family of artists that encouraged dancing amongst girls, she never faced any objection from her family members to pursue this field and believes her husband Siddharth Nambiar is her strongest supporter and critic who equivalently helps her in the technical aspects of her dance shows.

Natyaloka was never a “pre-planned” idea for a start-up and began in the flow of her married life after shifting to Dunedin in 2010.
In an email interview, she writes, “I knew that dance would be a part of my life though I was not sure how long or how much I would be involved in it. I was the happiest when I was on stage. So I had a hope that I would become a performing artist. But once I moved to Dunedin, I was asked if I could teach /train the youth from the Indian diaspora here and so my journey began. It just all fell into place and Natyaloka was born.

For someone who has been performing her whole life, surprisingly, teaching dance to 25 students of all ages gives her utmost satisfaction.

Prior to Natyaloka and after moving to Dunedin, Swaroopa participated at the Dunedin Fringe Festival in 2011 and was nominated for the outstanding performer and best newcomer, thanks to the support of the Dunedin creative arts community. The local community at Dunedin was only familiar with Bollywood dance and in her own little way, Swaroopa was instrumental in creating an interest in Indian classical dance forms through workshops, lecture-demonstrations and various tutoring sessions within the Indian diaspora as well as with the local population in Dunedin. As a culmination of all these, Natyaloka was born on 6 October 2011 “at a spare room in her apartment with just three students.” She felt Natyaloka would be the best launchpad to promote herself as a dance instructor as well as an artist.

Natyaloka was the first Indian classical dance school in Dunedin and its main USP was that it was an all-inclusive performing arts center catering to all skill levels and abilities. Class, religion, age, ability and gender were not taken into consideration and the main aim was “to inculcate a healthy and supportive environment for learning the dance forms.”

Analyzing the SWOT of her dance school, Swaroopa writes. “My idea was not commercialization of the dance form, our culture or to make profits. I just wanted to share my passion for dance with the others and identify similar artists, art appreciators within my dance school and outside. So I didn’t identify any threat nor am I insecure
She never considered the competition while starting out and doesn’t really mind it as long as it is healthy competition where her art can speak for itself.

Dance is an art form that often does not provide enough financial impetus especially in countries where dance appreciation is not fully developed or encouraged. Like any solo dance entrepreneur, Swaroopa, too, struggled to gain financial incentives only through her dance school. She reminisced that when she started Natyaloka, the classes used to initially take place at her apartment and there was hardly any cost involved apart from knowledge generation. But as the dance school grew and more and more students enrolled, she decided to move the classes to a studio for which she pays the per week’s rent. Initially, she had to do a couple of odd jobs to sustain the rent payment but now she pays from the fees given by the students.

She admits with complete honesty,” I don’t make much earning through my dance school. But I am doing it for the love of it. I just want to share my passion and love for art with everyone around me.

Dance is an expensive field on account of the costumes, venue and stage options. More so for Indian classical dances because the tradition of performing it on a proper stage in front of a knowledgeable audience adorned in the traditional attire and jewellery has to be followed. The financial expenses intensify with the addition of live music, which is why many artists prefer to use recordings rather than live orchestra. Swaroopa acknowledged that the struggle is real when it comes to arranging the venue, stage, lights and costumes and to add-on to that, promotion of shows and sale of tickets/ invites. However that hasn’t stopped all her shows from being a sell-out until now!

Natyaloka usually hosts its annual productions between August and October every year and apart from that, participates in several cultural events set up by the Dunedin City Council.
Explaining the process undertaken for her annual productions, she writes-” I look for a theme for my show every year and rehearsals start 7-8 months before the actual production. Initially during class hours and then closer towards the programme, say 2-3 months before we meet on Sunday for extra rehearsal. Planning for Themes for production start right after one is finished the previous year. I start with booking the venue, hiring sound and light and hiring the tech and photographer and letting the students and their parents know about the production and rehearsal details at the beginning of the year. Costumes and jewellery are sourced from India which my parents help me organize.”

A lover of all dance styles, currently she is focused on Bharatnatyam. While the performer in her believes in maintaining her individuality in the choreographies, as a teacher she encourages her students to find their own individual style in synchronization with the choreographic works. Swaroopa enjoys projecting contemporary issues in her dances as well as undertaking concepts showcasing women as powerful characters. She writes,” Creativity is a process on its own. I observe a lot. I read a lot too. So when I come across something that is interesting to me, that triggers a spark in my mind I go about researching it and try to come up with a choreography and music.”

Her passion for using dance as a medium of change is explicitly indicated in her belief that Indian classical dance has a bright future ahead due to its beautiful story-telling feature which can be used to address contemporary issues of today and not just remain as an “exotic spectacle.”

Swaroopa feels that in terms of marketing, self-branding plays an important role for a dance entrepreneur to attain opportunities and use it as a wheel for promotional activities. Although she admits at being bad in promoting herself, she takes every given opportunity to promote her students through Natyaloka. Apart from that, she indulges in word-of-mouth, Facebook, fliers-around-the-city and articles in local newspapers as marketing strategies before a show. However, at the beginning of every year she does advertise for new enrollments at local newspapers in line with the promotion for Natyaloka.

Even though it took 2 years for Natyaloka to create a name in the Dunedin dance scene, Swaroopa is happy with the active participation of Natyaloka in the Dunedin dance community and the name it has created for itself in the dance sector. Although bigger cities like Auckland and Wellington have a number of Indian classical dance institutions, she feels the sector is small but growing.

When asked how things would have been different if she started her school in India, she writes- “India would have been different. Easier to get students because dance is part of our lives and there is no need for an explanation. But I am happy I started here because I can look at my dance objectively. My perspectives, ideas and philosophies have changed.”

It is a one-woman army handling everything for now and she doesn’t want to make it an enterprise unless she gets the opportunity to work with like-minded people who will foster and support her endeavours.


Her top three requirements for anyone setting out to be a cultural entrepreneur in the dance field are passion, love and courage. As a concluding note, she writes- “If you are looking only for money and financial gain or expecting profits, it is not easy. I think this is a profession were whatever meagre amount you earn from a project in invested again for the next one. It doesn’t stay in your account. Unless you are successful to procure funding for the projects which is a highly competitive area.”

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Natyaloka?pnref=story

Swaroopa unni performing Bharatnatyam


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  • Thanks to Olivia and Oscar for posting this some great questions and food for thought here. by Ruth Leary on this entry

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