May 31, 2012|
I come from a grassroots family background. You won’t believe me—more than 40 years ago, around the time I was born, my parents were selling noodles from a wooden cart on the street. They were also good at peeling and cutting fruit; my dad even invented a fruit-peeling machine.
My childhood was sad. My mom passed away when I was four, and my dad had to go out and work all the time, so I learned to be very independent from a young age. There wasn’t any other choice—either I found ways to feed myself or I starved. I did countless summer jobs that only paid five bucks an hour. Those were tough times, but that experience taught me that only work could get you money.
One year, I didn’t have money to celebrate the coming Chinese New Year. So I bought a bucket of gold-colored paint, a brush and a stack of red paper, and did a lot of “Fortune God” writings with them. I went door to door trying to sell the sayings in our low-cost public housing community and made enough money after two days.
I left school at 16 and have been working ever since. My first full-time job was being a mail boy for a company. I remember my colleagues would go to the movies in the morning when they were supposed to work, then use the bad traffic—it was common back then because the subway system wasn’t built yet—as an excuse for not finishing all the mail delivery.
I was different. The night before, I’d study the documents and the routes to deliver each one of them. Then when I got there, instead of simply waiting for people to show up and collect the mail, I’d start conversations with people and build a network of connections. Two years later, I was promoted to be a dealer, doing garment quotas. I made $10 million per year for the company and was a real golden salesman.
The first time I went to a nightlife venue, I was 13. The place was Disco Disco, or DD as we called it, and it was the hottest discotheque in town at the time. I was just a clueless kid and was shocked to see two celebrities making out in it. It was quite an eye-opening experience for me.
It’s really hard to rent a place for our businesses because of people’s prejudice against clubs. It’s sort of a common belief that club-goers are a mixed crowd. Therefore I’m forever grateful for landlords who trusted me and lent me the venues to set up the three clubs. We only open clubs in buildings that have never had a club in them before. Why not? We all like new things.
I founded Beijing Club in 2007 but had been in the clubbing business long before that, since 1998. I named it after the Chinese capital because it’s a name that everybody recognizes and remembers. And when people find out that Beijing Club is actually in Hong Kong, it ignites their curiosity.
I’m lucky enough to always have had trusty and supportive bosses who would let me do what I thought was right. I never had to explain my every decision to 15 shareholders. Yeah, it may be true that opening a massive club like Beijing was risky business, but that didn’t stop me for a second.
A lot of people open bars to make quick money and have fun. They have the resources, so they think it’s a good way to meet girls or show off. And when the bar starts losing money—when the party’s over—they can just shut it down as easily. But we treat our clubs as a lifelong endeavor; we go through thick and thin with the business and do it with heart. I believe the customers can feel it.
If you do the math, it’s not difficult to see that the number of expats who go out clubbing on Hong Kong Island hardly exceeds 2,000. That’s why we focus on the local crowd.
Hong Kong’s legal system isn’t supportive of the nightlife scene—maybe it’s because the government thinks clubbing is a bad thing, or because it takes 50 different legislators to pass a single law. In Singapore, [nightlife festival] ZoukOut attracts 20,000 to 30,000 people every year. While in Hong Kong, we have Disneyland, which takes care of the kids, but what about the adults? I’d like to think of clubs as the adult Disneyland.
Every industry has its ups and downs—except the entertainment industry, because all of us want to be entertained. We have crazy parties when we’re young, and we still want to dance and drink a little when we’re in our 70s.
I was born in the Year of Horse. See, horses need to run and they even sleep standing up. In many ways, I am like a horse. If you want to achieve, get up one hour earlier in the morning and be more productive, instead of relentlessly shopping and surfing on the Internet. Some people may only have one big opportunity in their lives, but for me there have been many. I believe the universe rewards those who work hard.