Dieter Vanonckelen is a Belgian who has lived in Chengdu for approximately six years. Currently he runs both a bar and restaurant in the city, and is highly involved in Chengdu’s vibrant community through his other roles. He is the co-founder and highly involved with the Startup community in Chengdu (Startup Weekend/ Entrepreneurship Meetups) and is also in charge of the English-language MORE Magazine. To give back what he has learned in regards to conducting business in China, he hosts culture lectures, speaking to individuals from all over the world about his experiences.
“More and more foreign companies have come to Chengdu because it’s a modern and international city,” said Dieter, “And what impresses me most is the city’s cultural diversity and tolerance. Chengdu is a city where dreams come true.”
Dieter is the co-owner of The Beer Nest I and II both located in South Chengdu and a bar and restaurant,. While interviewing Dieter he continuously receives calls from different people, while simultaneously organizing that night and future events. “It’s nice to bring people together and stimulate doing business every day.” he said.
His most recently opened bar and restaurant, The Beer Nest II, offers Western food and at the minimum 12 draft beers, of which at least are 8 locally brewed craft beers. “Chengdu people love life and many young people like to enjoy themselves at nightlife venues after work. To cater to local taste, we have brewed specialized beers with Sichuan peppercorn and ginger. In the future, we plan to experiment with local ingredients like tea leaves, Gobi berry, etc.” “Moreover, we use specialized glasses to match different kinds of beer.
A Trip of Opportunities
“In Belgium, I chose Sinology (the study of the Chinese language, culture and much more) as my major in University. The ability to speak the Chinese language gave me a large advantage in the local society,” Dieter recalls, “I spend a year in Dalian when I was university student, and that was the first time I visited Chengdu. Having made some friends and welcomed by the friendliness and hospitality of the Chengdu people ,I decided at that time that I would come back to the city after graduation.”
Dieter started his career at a real estate company in Chengdu, where he quickly climbed the ladder from internship to China-wide director of marketing and sales. 2.5 years later he made the decision to leave that company and after meeting his new business partner, start his own business. As he was a quick learner, he resigned his first job 2,5 years later and decided to start his own business after meeting his new business partner.
“I like making friends and people in Chengdu that have the same interest, so I have a large circle friends here, including the co-founders of other restaurants and bars, both local or foreign residents,” Dieter said, “My business partner and I proved to be what might be called a ‘perfect match’. We both have our own tasks and responsibilities, though didn’t really have to discuss the tasks and responsibilities, we both focused on our own strengths.” Complementing each other’s strengths, Dieter was responsible for location, interior design, marketing and music whereas his partner was responsible for administration and finance.
The Beer Nest currently has two outlets in Chengdu, The Beer Nest I (Specialized Beer Bar) and The Beer Nest II (Bar & Kitchen), though Dieter already is making future plans. His first “Nest” opened in August 2013 on Jinxiu Road not far from the United States of America Consulate General. Dieter is delighted to see his business expand in Chengdu which, as he commented, is partly due to the open-mindedness of local people to accept new things. Dieter said; “These years I find more foreigners working and living in Chengdu, and the idea to open Beer Nest I was that foreigners could mix with local people in a cozy place in the city, where people can talk and meet while enjoying a good beer. As I’m putting a lot of effort in Chinese social platforms like WeChat, Weibo and Dazhong Dianping, Chinese found their way to The Beer Nest very quickly.”
Up and coming businesses are increasing all across Chengdu and China, however Dieter only looks at this optimistically. “Competition brings opportunities. First of all, more nightlife venues close together makes the area more popular, creating better business atmosphere and attracting more customers. Second of all, competition keeps you sharp and lets you find new ways to stimulate the business”.
His immense experiences and innovative style have made him standout amidst Chengdu’s business circle. Dieter also gives China Cultural Awareness Courses for third parties, including multi-national companies, expatriates living in the city and young graduates from local colleges.
“I hope I can do something to help young people fulfill their dreams,” Dieter said, “They are ambitious, energetic and full of new ideas, and they are capable of lots of things when they have proper guidance.” Currently, Dieter is co-organizer of different programs to help young people with their start-up plans. One is Chengdu Startup Weekend and the other is the Chengdu Entrepreneurship Meetup
Dieter explains: “Startup Weekend a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. The 1st and 2nd Startup Weekend Chengdu at the middle and end of 2014 was always attended by >90 participants and over 40 ideas pitched. The Chengdu Entrepreneurship Meetup is a monthly meeting of the entrepreneur and startup community. Organized every 3th Wednesday of the month at The Beer Nest, we stimulate business development by bringing people together.” “The events have produced satisfying results and I’m glad to see some of participants are trying hard to start their own business,” Dieter said, “The projects will continue and I expect more people to join in. Chengdu is a rapidly developing city and the municipal government has recently launched the Entrepreneurial Tianfu Plan, which stimulates people to start their own business.”
Dieter’s 6 Suggestions to Start Your Business:
- Learn the Chinese language and emerge in the local culture;
- Be patient to seek suitable business partners and make a clear divisions of responsibilities;
- Be committed about work, and do not be afraid to fail
- Always be enthusiastic, pro-active and look for new ways of cooperation.
- Do what you enjoy or love to do
- Dream, Hope, Live, Inspire!