In the latest of our Expat Entrepreneur series, Kyle Patrick Long gives us an overview of his life as an Expat Entrepreneur running food tours in Shanghai, China.
1. Why did you decide to become an expat entrepreneur?
After studying abroad in Beijing in 2005, I knew that a semester abroad just wasn’t enough, especially in a country as diverse and large as China. After graduating from university, then doing a stint as an English teacher in Shanghai, I knew it was time to pursue an actual passion if I was going to stay in China. Thus, with my business partner Jamie, the idea came together to design a job around something we loved to do: eat.
We had always loved exploring Shanghai through its delicious cuisine and sharing our finds with friends and family. The next logical step was sharing the same amazing experiences with the city’s tourists, so we set up a food tour company. Now, we lead culinary tours for travellers and expats alike who want to know more about the local food scene. I also took my passion for running, and have an offshoot service guiding jogging sightseeing tours of the city. After running on my own for several years, I had accumulated a good bit of knowledge on the best places to run in the city.
2. If you could give one piece of advice to other expats setting up their own businesses, what would it be?
Stop talking about doing it and just start. It may take a while to catch on and really make money from it, but you’ll only be able to truly gauge the market by getting out there and starting somewhere. Also, keep an open flexible mind.
3. What challenges did you encounter when setting up your business and how did you overcome these?
For many companies, especially in the tourism industry, reputation is a key factor. Nowadays with online reviews, people have access to a wealth of feedback on your services. With a good service, that only works to your advantage, but it does take time to build up. Therefore, Jamie and I were lucky to have other part-time and flexible jobs that supported us while we got UnTour Shanghai off the ground.
4. What common mistakes do expats, in general, make when setting up their business?
It’s funny how many times I’ve talked to people about their ideas for a new company, and how they’ve already got a business card made up for it. Somehow in business planning, the card seems like the most important factor, but I think it’s often just something easy to do that feels like you’re actually accomplishing something. Even in China, where you exchange “name cards” with just about everyone, focus on the legitimate core business before dealing with the accessories.
5. What resources did you find useful or tapped into to get your business off the ground?
Even in a city as large as Shanghai, the expat community is relatively tight-knit and willing to help out to a great extent. As long as you’re not stepping on someone else’s toes, I think fellow entrepreneurs, even in the same industry, are probably the best source for information.
About Kyle Long
Kyle is the co-founder of UnTour Shanghai which offers tours to sample Shanghai cuisine. UnTour Shanghai leads you through a culinary world that is nearly impossible to navigate without a Mandarin speaking guide at your side. While you’re experiencing the city’s food scene, you’ll also walk through the city’s traditional streets, parks and neighborhoods and see how the locals live. Find out more at http://untourshanghai.com/Shanghai-culinary-tour or follow him at @UnTourShanghai