Shanghai is a city of entrepreneurship. In our new series, 'Shanghai Entrepreneurs,' we talk to entrepreneurs from different backgrounds and businesses about their motivations, experiences and what they have learned along the way.
Greg Prudhommeaux is no newbie to the entrepreneur game. With a passion for all things China, Greg moved here in 2005 and has been working on multiple businesses and startups ever since. He draws inspiration among other entrepreneurs, and had thus decided to work on keeping this network alive. His most recent venture is the relaunch of NextStep Services, which helps accelerate businesses of fellow entrepreneurs and provides workshops and trainings for them. If anyone knows a little something about starting a business in China, it’s Greg. Here, he gives us a peek into the world of entrepreneurship through his experienced eyes.
Elevator pitch: tell us what you do in less than 50 words.
I am the founder of NextStep (second version), which caters professional workshops to help managers and entrepreneurs to accelerate their business and career. I also provide consulting services in operational organization, business development and run several associations. I am also a co-investor of Urban Thai restaurant on Dagu Road.
Why did you choose Shanghai?
I was interested in learning more about history and civilizations back in 1998, so I enrolled in several China-themed classes at a nearby university. Since I have always been entrepreneur-minded, I decided to use my knowledge of China and started to travel to China once every year or so, while working in hospitality in France. Since there weren’t any immediate opportunities that would bring me to China permanently at that time, I decided to apply for a more business-oriented program, and got a scholarship to finish a bachelor’s degree in Hong Kong in 2005. From there, I decided to move to Shanghai in 2006 and started everything from scratch.
What are the biggest challenges setting up a business here?
I have helped set up dozens of companies in China. The most challenging part is that you are playing ‘the China game,’ but you don’t really know the rules of that game, you have to discover them while walking blindfolded.
What would you say is the biggest difference here to your experience working in the West?
I cannot really say that I have France figured out work-wise. However, the energy of the people you meet in Shanghai, both locals and foreigners, is quite amazing; it keeps pushing you to work hard and improve yourself.
What do you enjoy most about working with other entrepreneurs?
The spirit! We all believe that everything is possible and we’re excited that what we do is changing the world (or at least we believe it does). The truth is, many of us are always living like we are either absolutely broke or rich like millionaires…
What is your biggest piece of advice for other entrepreneurs?
Talk to people, and share your ideas and struggles. Get over the glamor of Shanghai where everybody says they are successful, beautiful and are walking on water. There are people that are like you, and others that have been where you are in the past, and all of them are worth talking to. So share some ideas in return and open doors for yourself.
Do you see China as a springboard for taking a business international?
I do believe more and more that if you can make it in China, you can make it anywhere. At least some companies outside of China believe so and will be ready to partner with you, thinking that you have what it takes.
How have you built your network in Shanghai?
I have spent hours, drinking thousands of coffees over the past 11 years to get to know people – giving them the opportunity to share their stories and see how I could make them benefit from my experience and network.
Since I relaunched NextStep, I have received tons of messages of support from all the people I have once helped.