The most valuable lesson I learned at Ryerson was who I didn’t want to be. As my classmates were hunting for entry-level positions as analysts, project managers, and everything else in between, it dawned on me that I wanted nothing to do with traditional business.
I ended up in Shanghai going through the training wheels of affiliate marketing. What’s that you say? In its simplest terms: Find a product you like. Promote it to others. Earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.” I quickly realized that if I wanted real success I had to create something of value that no one could copy. This led me to branding.
I had no idea what I wanted to make at the time, but “teatox” stuff was blowing up on Instagram — something similar to that seemed like a solid idea at the time. I knew I wanted to go all in, so I decided to go to China and find a factory to make my product.
I landed in Shanghai with $3000 CAD in my pocket, zero knowledge of Mandarin, and a dream. Six months later I had “Bootein”, a protein-infused coffee scrub brand, online. Yes, I thought I was a genius.
The venture failed spectacularly, but not before racking up thousands of dollars in sales, getting the attention of 50+ influencers on Instagram and getting hoards of people genuinely interested in what the heck a protein infused coffee scrub could do.
I showed an established Shanghainese friend of mine what I was doing at the time and the failure that was Bootein. He was amazed that I left everything in Toronto behind and despite having no contacts or knowing Mandarin managed to get a product made, warehoused and online in less than a year. He eventually put me in contact with a lot of people who opened doors for me. (Thanks Mr. Xue.)
3 things I learned from this failure
1. Dreams matter.
It is incredible what you can achieve with just a vision. Forget the plans, proposals and forecasting. I was a guy with big dreams working out of a crap apartment willing to do everything to make that protein infused coffee scrub happen.
2. Embrace failure.
If Edison failed 10,000 times before he made the light bulb, I should be willing to fail 10,000 times to reach financial freedom too.
3. Passion is infectious.
When you do things that excite you and that you believe in 100%, doors open for you. People want to be a part of what you are doing.
Mr. Xue told my story to a friend, who shared my story with the owner of a digital marketing firm here in Shanghai and I was hired on the spot. Three years later I am the director of content marketing at one of the largest digital agencies in China. Bootein may have failed, but I’m pretty happy about where it got me.
Haruun Dahir, Business & Technology ’16, is a digital marketing specialist. After graduation Dahir moved to Shanghai, China to pursue his dream of building an e-commerce empire from the ground up. It didn’t work out exactly as planned. Today, Dahir shares what he learned about business, himself and the world at failcare.com.
One thought on “I went to Shanghai to build a brand and failed”
Haruun, thanks for sharing! It is usually the tricky situations that teach us the best lessons.
Comments are closed.