Fields : How a e-commerce website in China can emerge
Interview of the Founder of Steve Liang on Yourstory
Steve Liang: I started when I was 39 fields and at a major crossroads in my life. All I knew was that I wanted to focus on ethics, fair trade and appropriate business practices that not tolerate corruption.
This is our current mission statement for the fields. Our first version:
"CHAMPS is a premium online food retailer that offers high quality, safe, compliant products to retail customers in Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. It provides a friendly, reliable and professional service through a user-friendly website and attractive. CHAMPS offers up a structure through sustainable "costs.
I want to highlight the first sentence. we want to create a world-class company, good ethical business practices, zero corruption policy that supports and promotes social responsibility. This is our brand and philosophy that we all live by the fields. This, I believe, clearly resonates with everyone and we return every time we make big decisions, difficult in our management meetings.
Instrumental to the survival of the field for more than four years, was our first investor, TZG partners. To start a business in China or a country, it must be hard work, courage, patience, resilience and luck. Luck will only happen if you practice these first four values.
My first encounter with TZG Partners was very random. Co-founder of TZG, Josh, was the husband of a client in my previous job and they orchestrated a meeting between us. At that time, I was so down and I did not really want to meet Element Fresh in Shanghai Centre Portman. Running on my last thousand RMB, I feared that I would have to pay for a bill for breakfast which I really do not have the money. I already had a ticket to return to Kansas, United States, and I resigned myself to be an engineer again. Fortunately, Josh paid for breakfast and even gave me a ride back to my apartment, allowing me to save 2RMB on the bus ticket. After a week of negotiations, I began CHAMPS Monday. We met March 9, 2009 and March 13, CHAMPS is born. And Monday, March 16 I made my first sale and officially began my wild and uncertain turn with fields.
Growth so far
Yes, the field is growing fast enough that the desire and demand for healthy food in China increases. As I said, we started the company in 2009. From 2010 to 2012, our business has grown over 180% each year, while revenues increased by 220%.
In 2009, we delivered only in Shanghai, but now we deliver in 7 other cities of Jiangsu province and Zhejiang (Hangzhou, Suzhou, Taicang, Ningbo, Nanjing, Wuxi and Changzhou)
Experience starting in China
As I said earlier, to start a business in China or a country, it must be hard work, courage, patience, resilience and luck. Luck will only happen if you practice these first four values.
We are growing rapidly, we have a significant amount of competition and we are in transition from a bootstrap start a small business, but we still do not want to lose our starting values. And even after the recent funding, we must be more careful with our money. Be frugal and doing "good things" with our money is really important.
It is rewarding to work FIELDS, but it is also very difficult. When I started this business, TZG 40,000RMB me to build the business. On the first day, we had a bootstrap mentality where savings being warned and produces results was paramount. To do this, we performed two objectives: we practice our business ethics; and secondly, we need to show results immediately. No sales means no income and no be able to pay our bills. We need to get sales quickly and be efficient with what we do. When I see all obstacles in the operations, I am frustrated. Often, I have perspective to see how we have grown and improved in the past. It boils down to finding the best talent and make them work together as a team.
However, having the right incubator / VC investor / PE / angel is often important for the survival and growth of a company. A good investor will usually frustrating endless 99% of the time. But that 1% of the time when they are really good, they save you from catastrophic events. And 1%, it is useful to have professional investors. Fields was incredibly lucky with the partnership TZG.
We also expect our partnerships with new investors will be as fruitful.
But when I look back now, TZG taught me to focus and develop strategies really. They coached me and made me incredibly hard, strong and resistant in the management of a company. They helped and supported me in become better leader more difficult. And I think my relationship with TZG (Ben, Josh, and Tony) is for the better and stronger on all the difficult and trying times that we lived.
E-commerce in China - potential learning challenges?
TZG also contributed greatly to the strategy. It took us about nine months to properly develop our business plan and strategy to get us where we are today. Several times we thought and discussed the possibility of opening stores in various locations within Shanghai. We used to debate endlessly about opening an online store against. And I am happy that whenever Josh told me politely "NO"! He stressed the importance of focusing on a single trade and how important it was for us to prove to TZG, clients and future investors on the viability of being online only. This strategy paid off with our Series A financing (see attached press release).
The second strategy that paid was our investment in operations. The majority of our capital expenditures were invested in equipment and warehouse trucks. For fields to make our sustainable business, we have taken a different path. We chose the path of higher margins and quality. As expats, we did not have the ability to communicate effectively with customers in China, I am not able to do "guanxi" marketing business channel huge gift and I'm not talented enough to perform a rapid growth , scalable business as Yihaodian (founders who are also amazingly intelligent and common sense). These guys have done some amazing things. By comparison, only four years after CHAMPS still a fraction of what they have accomplished at the same time.
With higher margins, we had to do vertical integration and the packaging meant, cutting and delivery of our own products. Packing and slaughter is a very simple that most grocery stores in the United States are part of their own butcher idea. However, bringing our internal logistics and internal management was initially against-intuitive.
In 2009, the consensus was that making our own delivery was perhaps not the smartest strategic decision that we should rather focus on marketing and selling our products and delivery to entrust a third party. It was that other online companies were doing and we were wondering if we should do that too. We laughed from having a delivery system managed internally is expensive, causes many headaches and operation means that we do not concentrate our energy and resources in the right areas.
more information here
or on their website
Hiring: One of the biggest challenges
One of my biggest problems right now is the recruitment and expansion of this business. Because we're doing something so different from most Chinese business, our biggest problem is to recruit the best talent. It is difficult to get people to understand and still buy into the philosophy of what we do, which is:
Focus on research and provide consistent worldwide products for our customers with high quality, safe, and. We prefer local and organic foods if possible, selective where not possible.
Providing high quality, safe and consistent is difficult to do every day. And to be consistent is even more difficult, especially as we are open 365 days a year, no matter what holiday and no matter how the weather is. We ship every day and we expect to deliver high quality products. Getting people to understand and live this philosophy is what I do for the past five years. Which brings us to recruit and retain the best talent. That's what we want to do:
Fields China : We support and reward excellent motivated team
We recruit and reward people who want to excel in their work. We train and take care of our employees, to foster an environment focused on results, happiness and creativity. We create a workplace that values and benefits from various skills and experience of our employees.
Recently, we completed and closed our first round of Series A financing or talk about venture capital. In our fundraising efforts during the past year, both funds have joined fields. The first investor is the federal capital, an angel investor in Taiwan (Andy Wang) and the second is Clearvue Partners (CVP), a private equity professional risk supported with a talented team (Will Chen, Harry Hui, Irene Cai) with strong funding and, most importantly, impressive knowledge in detail.
It is an exciting time to be in the fields. We plan to use this investment to improve our operations, website, warehouse and recruit top talent, but also in touch with you, the customer, by strengthening our service, quality, and community. During the next year, you will see more convenience in our delivery service, unique products, more interesting fruits and vegetables, more seafood and meats and more transparency. A happy life begins with fresh, nutritious and healthy foods.