Can you introduce yourself?
Hi guys! My name is Justin and I’m from a small island in Canada. I am the Co-Founder of Sou Fudao, a website that helps tutors and students connect throughout China. I have been teaching English here in Asia for the last 5 years, 3 of which have been in People’s Republic of China!
Where are your current stomping grounds?
I am currently in Shanghai. I have been here for the last 3 years and I don’t have plans on leaving any time soon. Shanghai is a great city and it provides a nice combination of lifestyle opportunities. You can immerse yourself in Chinese culture as well as take a nice little vacation from it by enjoying the many international restaurants, bars, and events. It’s a fast moving city, and every year more and more foreigners are moving here!
Any place you recommend for future travelers who are visiting?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to travel enough here in China. Despite being here fore the last 3 years, I still haven’t even made it to Beijing. But, from the few places I have been to, I would highly recommend Chongqing 重庆 and Chengdu 成都. Chongqing is one of the largest cities in China, and most people have never heard of it! I think anytime you have the opportunity to travel out of the first tier cities, it is a nice and refreshing change of pace. Locals are warmer and curious about foreigners!
What’s something you’ve found in China that you cant find in other countries you’ve been?
Wow, I think that China is definitely a unique place. China is growing and changing really fast and I think in terms of opportunity, there is no better place to be! However, the constant construction noise and low air quality can be annoying at times.
How did you guys come up with the idea for Sou Fudao?
This was something that my friend, the founder, Beau, came up with after living here for a while. With our combined experience in the tutoring industry, his as a student in Beijing, and mine as a tutor here in Shanghai, it became evident that the tutoring market here was lacking a certain level of transparency. There are numerous agencies that are taking big cuts, in some cases as high as 50% of the hourly rate of the teacher`s wage. Our website www.soufudao.com provides a place where tutors can decide their own hourly rates and students know exactly how much they are paying their teacher. I think a lot of foreigners who find tutoring jobs here are unsatisfied with the current system. I hope we can make finding a tutoring job a little easier and fairer.
What pro’s has China provided you as an entrepreneur and expat?
I think when almost any foreigner moves to China, they quickly starting thinking about ways they can take advantage of the fast growing and changing market here. Whether it`s a small product or service you think would do well here, or a bigger, more grand idea that comes from spending a long time here. For me personally, our website would be very difficult to start back home. The market is much bigger here and there is more room for innovation and fresh ideas. Also, things are a lot cheaper. Not needing to spend a lot of money when starting a company is hugely beneficial.
And the cons?
Like starting a company in any country, there are challenges here as well. A difference in culture and language adds to these challenges. Trying to start a business here without an understanding of the culture or an ability to speak Chinese would be nearly impossible. Without our Chinese partner, Lily, simple day to day procedures would be much more challenging. That being said, learning how to speak Chinese and learning about the business culture, are by no means insurmountable hurdles. I am surprised everyday to see how many foreigners speak great Chinese.
What does the term “This is China” mean to you?
TIC? This is definitely something you hear a lot of people say here. Basically, it sums up something that is inherently Chinese, or situation that would you see unfold here all the time and would never see at home.
Any future master plans you want to share with us?
My future plans definitely involve staying in China. My partners and I would like to grow our tutoring platform to reach more people. We hope it can be a useful tool for teachers here to find part time one to one tutoring jobs and earn some extra money. Besides from developing our platform , I hope to continue studying Chinese and get to a more fluent level. If I can do both of these things, I would be happy.
Can you give some advice for future entrepreneurs who are looking to branch into China?
Well, I`m not an expert about business here in China, more of a newbie. But from my limited experience here, I would give three suggestions: 1: Learn Chinese. Having a good grasp of the language will making everything easier. There are still a lot of people who can`t speak English here. 2. Make as many friends as you can, Chinese and foreigners alike. Knowing people here is key. 3. Keep an open mind and try not to get discouraged by difficulties and complications that will surely arise.
Be sure to check out Justin’s website at http://www.soufudao.com!