Interview with a lifestyle cultural entrepreneur
Interviewee: Qi Fu, 33, female
Interviewer: Zhe Tang
Company: ‘秘会’, ‘Secret Date’, a lifestyle space in Beijing, started in January.
Slogan: ‘a light luxury lifestyle’
Business concept: To provide an after-work space for female professionals in Beijing to get rid of the pressure of workplace with an artistic lifestyle.
Target market: female professionals, age between 28-35, month salary between RMB 20,000-30,000 (GBP 2,083-3,125)
Location: located on east third ring of Beijing, in the capital city’s business area. One station by subway to the city’s CBD and Sanlitun Village, a concentrated area with bars and fashion brand shops frequently visited by trendsetters and white-collars.
Value chain: ‘Secret Date’ operates as a promotion platform to sell artists designs online and run lifestyle sessions offline. Artists and class tutors are paid by certain percentage of commission.
Offline: offline sessions include flower arrangement, drawing, vocal music, reading club, beauty makeup class, etc. personalised design, private party…
Online: sell designer products via online shop on Chinese social media ‘Wechat’
Vision: Bridging the gap between artists and consumers to make art a lifestyle for female professionals.
Creating a private space for female professionals to enrich their life with artistic tastes.
Giving independent designers and artists the access to mass consumers through the platform.
Entrepreneur background: studied vocal music in Germany for eight years. Came back to China at the age of 28 and worked as a voice teacher for three years in Beijing. Expecting to expand social circle and learn management, Fu joined Chinese job-hunting TV show ‘Only You’, where she won the job of president assistant of Eve Group, a Chinese men’s wear company. Fu left the company in January, 2015 to start her own business.
Q: Why do you want to start your own business?
A: I have a lot of ideas, which I can’t realise when working for someone else, I need a space to make my personal ideas come true. I’ve accumulated many resources in media, PR, fashion and cultural industry through my last job. I want to use my network to promote my friends in these industries as an agency. Designer platforms are becoming popular recently.
Q: Where does your idea come from?
A: Professional women in Beijing with monthly salary under 50,000 yuan (5,211 pounds) can only live a decent rather than luxurious life. I hope to make art a kind of lifestyle instead of something distant from the public. Outside work, I want to enrich their lives with artistic tastes and design, meanwhile affordable.
Q: How did you solve the start-up capital?
A: I have some friends with similar ideas, and each of us take some money to start the business. I worked in men’s wear company, thus have a network with designers and production companies. My partner studied design and worked in jewellery company.
Q: Meaning of the name ‘Secret Date’, and the logo.
A: What I create is an artistic lifestyle space, therefore I want to people to associate it with privacy, secrecy and mystery. That’s how I name the brand and why I use ’S’, the first letter of ‘Secret’, in the logo.
Q: Who is your target customer? Why?
A: The major consuming power in China is the after 80s, who are well educated, with certain proportion having overseas background They are at the most uprising period of their career. I hope these people, from 28 to 35 years old, who care about their life quality, will become my customers. I want to attract them with the concept of ‘art as a lifestyle’, and produce service and products from learning their needs.
Q: Your understanding of the industry, e.g. market size, competition, potential and your advantage.
A: These years Chinese people started to be interested in designer brands and art derivatives. The demand for luxury brands is decreasing. Many designers and artists begin to operate independently, but for artists, there is a contradiction between artistic pursuit and public demand. Products with too much abstract concept can hardly be accepted by the mass market. My advantage is I can use what I have learnt to communicate with designers and artists in a rational way to help them create marketable products. Then use my network resources and operating experience to promote their works.
Q: Profit mode.
A: designer product selling: online specialised design B2C, offline mass production B2B
Offline sessions and activities: membership
Q: Communication strategy.
A: I hope to attract target consumers by cross-brand cooperation and creating events our target consumers interested in, then spread it by social media. Word of mouth is the ideal way as it means recognition from our customers.
note: Fu is currently running a public account of her brand on ‘Wechat', the most popular Chinese social media platform. With friends working in media industry, they produce and release exquisite blogs and photos through the platform. They rely on consumers and friends forwarding these blogs to increase the subscription of their public account to reach more potential audiences.
Q: How does the Chines government support cultural and creative businesses?
A: By now, we haven’t applied for national capital or policy support. As far as I know, the Chinese government is very supportive to cultural and creative businesses. Candidates can apply for national fund, project support etc. For example, each district provides startup enterprises with working space support.