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Webinar Recap | Reshaping your business

Reshaping your Business


After the return to work, many expat entrepreneurs face the challenge of re-examining their business models to cope with market uncertainty, to seize the growing demand and less competition. Reshaping not only means adapting to the uncertainty of long-term plans, but also to the fast-paced policies and being prepared to improvise.


July 23, Meet Expat Entrepreneurs @Shanghai online free webinar came back as promised. The webinar is organized by Professor Pearl Wang from the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industry (ICCI) of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and co-hosted by David Costa, founder of VivirChina and Xiyuan. We invited three entrepreneur guests, Alicia, Adina and Fernando, to discuss the tenacity and persistence of doing business in Shanghai.


Guest Speakers



1

Fernando Sanchez

Founder of Yuanshen Stadiums Padel Club (Pade/)


Building Engineer with a Master in Construction Techniques and Systems at UPM (Madrid, Spain), and an enormous curiosity for everything else.


He has more than eight years of experience in architectural and commercial design, being responsible for a large number of projects around the world, mainly in Europe and Asia. He also gained business development experience while traveling between China and South America for over three years.


Since April 2021, he has decided to become a full-time entrepreneur, undertaking several business ventures in Shanghai, from interior design to consulting services for Spanish speaking companies in China, till now when he ultimately decided to go further and invest in the foundation of the Padel Club (Pade/) in January 2022. 



2

Adina

Founder of Tianmeis World Academy

20% Mentor, 80% Practitioner

Environmental Psychology Researcher and Consultant

Social Entrepreneur | Entrepreneurship Mentor

Systems Thinking Trainer | Cross-culture Educator

Speaker of the UN COP15 Biodiversity Conference

4 TED Speaker

ESG Consultant

Sustainability Compass Trainer


Tianmei's World Academy (TMWA) is a decentralized "network of classrooms" school concept, using environmental psychology knowledge with the aim to redefine where and how learning happens. It does so by turning any available space (e.g. coffee shops, offices etc.) into an alternative learning environment. By experiencing the different learning environments that the academy creates, individuals can better understand what kind of learning environments and methods are most suitable for their own learning and self-development needs, apply them in their daily lives and maximize their individual potential against "one-size-fits-all educational methods currently in use in many institutions/organizations.



3

Alicia Valdivia

Founder & Director of Alidance Academy


From Havana, Cuba, she graduated from the Havana Ballet School at age 14 right after 5 years of intense training in ballet and lyrical style. Soon after she continued her studies at the National Art School (ENA) where she specialized in different styles such as Modern dance (Martha Graham style), contemporary, jazz and musical show.


In 2003 at 17 years old, she graduated and started her career as a professional Dancer. In 2006 she moved to China where she participated in different competitions and TV shows, as well as performing in different events for many well-known brands, both as a dancer and choreographer.


In 2014 she started her career as a teacher for both adults and kids and after 7 years of teaching, Alicia was ready to open her own start up Alidance Academy, willing to pass on all the knowledge and passion learned throughout her entire career as a profesional dancer, honoring all the teachers that made her who she is today.


Panel of discussion highlights



Q

&

A


#1

What is the most important step to become an entrepreneur in Shanghai?

Alicia: Others will say that you need a lot of "tools" to start a business, but I haven't learned these "tools" from my previous experience, and I dint have that much time for preparation. What I do is to find useful suggestions from others. This is very important. You need to find help and people with similar interests who can advise and guide you.


Adina: I started my business seven years ago, which might be for longer than the other guests. My conclusion after the epidemic is; the most important thing for entrepreneurs is not to be afraid to leave your comfort zone. 


Many people worry that they may make mistakes, but change has become the new normal, so it is impossible to be ready to start. For me, entrepreneurship is just a tool. My aim was to solve problems, and I couldn't find an organization that could support me to do what I wanted, which is why I started a business. All the rest is just figuring what resources you have at hand, what is the situation you are facing and making a decision that you feel is more suitable for you.


Fernando: It depends on the situation. Some businesses are growing fast, while others are not. For me, the most important thing is to take action ASAP after having an great idea, keep the motivation up to try it out, and adjust the strategy according to how the situation progress.



Given the current situation in China, what is the right entrepreneurial mindset?


#2

Alicia: If you want to start something, before you get excited you need to slow down and rethink. Although there are many opportunities in Shanghai, but you need to consider the overall situation.


Adina: We should seek to learn from others. No matter what their situation is, their resources and abilities, or even their industry, there are many key aspects worth learning. But ultimately you need to make your own decisions based on the resources and capabilities you have and can rely on.


What I do is kind of unique compared to others, so my experience might be different. For those who have no entrepreneurial experience or have worked in large companies for a long time, they may have the idea that "it is easier and you'll have less responsibility when you work for yourself". No, it's so much easier to be an employee.


Fernando: I think we need to constantly reshape our business according to how the situation changes in Shanghai, adjust our business model depending on the overall state of the market, and take a long-term way of thinking to plan ahead.




#3

What can you do to get ready and embrace uncertainty?

Alicia: Because of my inexperience, it was difficult for me to start doing online courses before, but I now run both on and offline courses at the same time. For the current situation, Id like to say that entrepreneurs will always face uncertainty and can only adapt to it. This is a crucial ability to develop.


Adina: When we face uncertainty, we'll get anxious because we don't know how to react, and whether it's meditation or dancing, we should focus on what we can do. Each of us has a different way to cope so as an entrepreneur it is important to be aware of this uncertainty and adapt to it.


Fernando: We never know what will happen tomorrow. There's always uncertainty in business, so I think we should think about what possible scenarios we could meet in advance and make plans to address those.



What was the best change you made after the lockdown when you went back to work?  


#4

Alicia: Everyone came back with amazing energy when they returned to work during the first week. But the second week was different. People started to become negative. I realized that students needed a change, so I reduced the number of people per classe and I opened more private courses, so that people could take their loved ones to our classes. I raised the price and began to provide longer and higher quality course services.


Adina: I work remotely, so the impact of the city lock down on me was different. Although the future is directed toward things like Web3.0 and NFT which are unavoidable, but people also need an offline interaction, which is determined by our human biological nature. This is why even though online courses can be used as an alternative, they cannot achieve the same effect as the offline human connection.

 

Interestingly enough, during the epidemic we helped each other and got to know our neighbors, which also made me ask myself why can't we learn with them. This aspect gave me new ideas for new ways to develop my business..


Fernando: After the lock down, we decided to switch our business model to B2B, and we have spent more time and energy on promoting it.




#5

From your experience, what are the unique challenges that entrepreneurs face in your industry and others don't?

Alicia: When you have a physical comercial space, you need to consider rent and labor costs. The big challenge at present is that we have lost 20% of our students, and we need to fill these vacancies. This industry is also continuously facing the impact of new trends. People always want to try new things, new styles of dance, but constantly changing courses will lead to instability and of course affect our service quality.


Adina: The biggest problem during the epidemic was that there is too much information on social media, and people are so overwhelmed by this information that it gets very hard to promote anything. At the same time, because there is so much free content to choose from on the Internet, consumers may have the mentality of "why should I pay for anything". So I think the key is to understand your value and make it clear when promoting your services. Make sure you stand out from the crowd.


What I do is a niche market, and many people have never heard of environmental psychology. The advantage is that interested people will ask what is that, and those who are not interested will not ask. This is a good way for me to filter who I should talk to and when.


Fernando: I think my unique challenge is to make Padel, a relatively niche sport, known and accepted by more and more people, to make it much more popular, and continue to expand its share in the sports market.



How to handle long working hours without breaking?


#6

Alicia: I take a day off every two weeks, turn off my cell phone and relax. Usually, when I feel pressure, I will plan an hour and a half, choose a random dance and do a work out the release the anxiety. 


Adina: I love very much what I do. I was lucky to turn what I love into my work. My work is a lifestyle, so working long hours is not a burden for me. Sometimes I can even get relaxed from doing it. My coping mechanism is to know well which part of the day I am most efficient, and adjust my plan to maximize my efficiency. So to me, the key is to plan and respond to changes at any given time, which could differ depending on the industry.


Fernando: I try to strike a balance between work and privacy to improve efficiency, so I wouldn't normally work too many hours.




#7

What is your definition of success and, are you satisfied with the current situation?

Alicia: Success to me is related to work. I choose to focus on small goals. For example, I got a new student today, which can make me feel a sense of achievement and provide greater motivation for tomorrow. To me, achieving more and more regularly these targets would be the ultimate success I suppose. Although I am very satisfied with the current feedback from my students, but I am not very satisfied with the overall situation, because my plan to open a second academy in March this year has stalled.


Adina: For me, success is doing what I love while creating value. I know that many people in China will measure success according to how much they earn, but for me, money is just a tool to survive and I don't take money as my ultimate career goal. I work for the value and significance of what I do. Of course this doesn't mean I work for free, because I need to survive. 


I don't think complaining can solve problems. Like everyone, sometimes I complain, but I use it more as a coping mechanism to release pressure. When things don't work my way, instead of getting frustrated, I just tell myself that this is maybe fate's way to tell me that there is a better way waiting for me. This kind of mentality is very useful for me. It also helps me deal with any anxiety and allows me to see more possibilities.


Fernando: For me, success is to keep my business running and expanding. To be honest, I'm not very satisfied with my work, because I think there is still a lot of room for growth and improvement, but from the perspective of life itself, I'm very satisfied with mine, because I'm spending my time and energy on doing what I like.


Concluding remarks

With the arrival of this summer, Shanghai's economy is "hot" again, and the marketplace has undergone dramatic changes after more than two months of silence. However, our three guests flexible, positive and optimistic attitude enables them to seize new market opportunities. While the pressure and challenges facing Shanghai's economy this year are unprecedented, industrial activity has stabilized and bounced back after everyone has returned to work. A series of support policies have helped entrepreneurs recover from this backlog, and the vitality of Shanghai's business life is back on track. We hope you find this webinar helpful and inspirational.


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