HOW TO START YOUR OWN COMPANY IN SHANGHAI AND MAKE IT SUCCESSFUL?!
Yes, I have neglected my blog a bit for a while. But in my defence, there are 2 warranted reasons!
First one – beloved ‘baby’ brand – Pierogi Ladies – that has been developing beautifully, but needed my undivided attention. In fact – together with my fantastic business partner Joanna we just celebrated Pierogi Ladies’ 2nd birthday on March 9th! (check out our website here pierogiladies.com). There is still a long road ahead of us but at this point we have the confidence and expertise to provide our ‘brainchild’ with the best conditions to grow!
Secondly – during my summer 2017 travels (promise I will tell you more about them in another post!) I realized how much I loved the process of building my own brand’s image and PR. It took us less than a year to gain popularity and quite strong position in Shanghai. Therefore I decided that I would love to use this experience to work with other companies – not only F&B – and help them grow their ‘precious little ones’. That’s why, when the opportunity came up I was super excited to join Culture Shock Bike Tours – as their PR and Community manager. Check out my posts I create for their blog here cultureshocktours.com
Today, to make up for my silence on Shanghai City Girl, I wanted to share with you what I have learned since the ‘birth’ of Pierogi Ladies if you also want to chase the dream of becoming your own ‘laoban’
I. PRE – SET UP STEPS
1.Do the community research first – observe other brands, ask questions and make conclusions.
Before we started Pierogi Ladies, I had got to know a few entrepreneurs in Shanghai, I had interviewed them and it gave me a great insight and overview of the startup community in this city.
2.Find a business partner with the same values but complementing skills – doing it alone will overwhelm you.
You may feel strong, super intelligent and capable, but nevertheless – trust me – running a successful company requires a multitude of skills and time.
In our case Joanna is the one who has had over 10 year experience of running a restaurant in Poland and handling the finances, so she has all the practical knowledge.
I take care of the PR, marketing, social media, contacting other brands for collaboration, running our blogs and fliers and my Chinese a bit more fluent, so this is also my responsibility.
Of course we always consult each other , however we know our strengths and focus on them. Thanks to that we run our brand efficiently and smoothly.
3.Try out your brand first at pop up markets to get the immediate feedback from the customers and ask for suggestions (and find potential investors)
That obviously applies to companies that have physical products to sell or services they can easily present.
Before you make a serious commitment and put quite some money into setting up the company, try it out for free at the pop up markets! Shanghai gives us this amazing opportunity to interact with our potential customers at these multiple events. That’s what we had done to see if there is demand for Polish pierogi.What’s more – it will let you connect with other entrepreneurs: get inspiration from them, discuss potential collaborations and get some exposure in local media ( the local media often feature them on their platforms!)
You may even get spotted by someone who is looking for an interesting investment opportunity! Shanghai is full of investors interested in innovative startups and the pop up market will also be the best proof for them to see how people react to your product!
4.Join the Wechat communities of local entrepreneurs to get their advice, notifications about educational workshops and networking events.
The most powerful tool that will ‘make you or break you’ in Shanghai ( and China in general). WeChat and WeChat groups. China’s SuperPower App that can bring the word out there about you and your company to hundreds of people out there in less than a few hours.
At this moment, every industry and community in each city in China has their own Wechat Group ( more than 1) – you name it, we have it:F&B, Beauty, IT, Healthcare, Real Estate…Each group has its own admin who sets up the rules and accepts new members. The maximum number is 500 and the more active and informative group, the faster it becomes full.
Go out, meet and connect ! Even with people from different fields, meet the KOLs, bloggers and media people because you will need this people to help you spread the word about your company.And the better relationship you have with them. Be kind and have courage – so simple, but so powerful!
Once you are ready and you have decided this is it
1.Make a business plan for the brand – name, goals, office/venue, your budget .
At this stage you should already either have your own money or the investor.
Because if you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there?
Obviously, some ideas may change on the way – as it happened to us as well, but you will need your ‘frame’ to build the solid, strong enterprise.
2.Find – best through trusted recommendations – these 3 crucial people: a lawyer, an agent and an accountant and create a WeChat group with them so that they could also communicate with each other.
If I could turn back time and change anything we did, I would have definitely involved a lawyer from day 1 to help us save time on certain procedures that we needed to do later on.
The lawyer will also be the one with the best knowledge on what kind of company do you need to register, what licenses you need and what do you need to get them.
The agent is the person who will visit all the offices for you to get the documents you need, including your work visa.
Finally the accountant will help you deal with all the invoices, taxes and ways to make your finances legal in China.
3.Prepare all the documents – the 3 people from #2 will tell you what – needed for company registration and your visa.
4.Create social media and PR channels – your website, official WeChat account, Facebook, Instagram , Weibo, Weidian/Online Store and BonApp ( If you are a food business – BonApp ).Learn how to use them efficiently!
5.Set up Wechat and Alipay payment options – we live in a cashless world here in China! We love it and you will too!
III.POST SET – UP and growth
1.Divide responsibilities with your business partner.
I have already said that before, but since this is one of the keys that keeps Pierogi Ladies strong, I will repeat once again!
We know full well our strengths and out weaknesses. That’s why each of us is responsible for thing we are great at and that we enjoy doing. Thanks to that we love what we do and it translates into the steady growth of our brand.
2.Keep networking and find as many possibilities for collaborations as possible.
The beauty of Shanghai community is that people love to collaborate and the communities love the spirit.
Last summer we even worked together with Pawsome – customized pet food brand ( pawsome.cn) to organize ‘Pooch Pawty’.Don’t limit yourself to just one circle of people.
Shanghai is overloaded with all kinds of nationalities and meeting them opens your mind as well as endless possibilities.
3.Be consistent in keeping your brand’s image.
Our unique selling point has been the ‘home- made’ feel from the very beginning. And we have put all our efforts to keep it this way – the cosy and home- like’ feel of our venue, home made pickles, home made Bison Grass Vodka. Plus all the little details that make the ‘home’ feeling – cushions, flowers, fun little decorations.
Our signature product is Polish dumpling – perfect comfort food, so we don’t want to suddenly turn into ‘posh fancy’ cuisine or a healthy eatery because ‘this is the trend’. Trends come and go, but something genuine that was created out of passion – will stay.
4.Never stop working hard and take the best care of your customers.
First of all – never think your product is already perfect. Keep experimenting and always think how to make it even better to cater to the people who trusted you at the beginning.
Your customers are your meal ticket and whether or not your brand will make it, depends a lot on how much they will want it to stay and ask for your product/service.
That’s why work with local communities, bend over backwards to provide your clients with the best deals as you collaborate with your partners ( for example when we create a meal plan, we always invite another brand to give something extra – great quality coffee or honey – to name the latest choices).And most importantly – be your natural self.
Recently I have been really flattered with the feedback that people gave us.That it’s not only food they come for, but to interact with us and for the atmosphere that our friendship and interaction create.
5. Make sure you balance your work life and private life – go on holidays to recharge!
Running your own company is a lot of hard work. Therefore you need to remember that your body and mind need to rest and recharge. One of the things I love the most about being business partners with Joanna is that we support each other not only in business but also in private life. We know that we both need to take breaks, that we do it in different ways and that won’t be efficient without it.
In the summer I went for a 5 week vacation which worked miraculously for me .The only reason I could do that is because I trust my business partner 150% and because she gave me this ‘luxury’ that I could also rest mentally from almost all responsibilities. The energy and inspirations I brought from that beautiful journey ( that again – I will tell you about soon!) were exactly what I needed to come back with better ideas and clear mind. Now it’s her turn for her mental spa vacation!
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST – YOU ARE IN CHINA SO LEARN CHINESE – STUDY THIS LANGUAGE HARD BECAUSE IT WILL BE CRUCIAL FOR YOU AND YOUR SUCCESS HERE! TRUST ME!
Well, that would be it! If you think I missed something or if you have any questions, just leave a comment or contact me directly through the contact form on this blog!
Just leave a comment or contact me directly through the contact form on this blog!