The food and beverage scene in Shenzhen is full of independent and inspiring women who have introduced new ideas, new products and helped to make their mark on the scene as a whole. This International Women’s Day, we celebrate four women in particular who have contributed heavily to Shenzhen’s food and beverage industry.
Billena Ji Xu (Miss Xu)
Image provided by Billena Ji Xu
Known for... helping to run two of the most successful restaurants in the busiest part of town – Shark and Azzurro at Coco Park.
She first became interested in F&B... after moving to Australia to study at the age of 16. She got her first job working as a waitress at the age of 18 years old in a Japanese restaurant called Miyako in Melbourne.
She grew up in... Shenzhen, having moved to the city with her family when she was four years old. She remembers lining up to try the very first McDonalds in the city, at Dongmen in Luohu District. While the growth of Western food in Shenzhen was a slow process, Miss Xu decided that the time was ripe to come home in 2014.
You might not know that... realizing the importance of having a venue where customers could take selfies, Miss Xu helped to pick all of the light bulbs in Shark back in 2014. She also helped to implement a make-up shelf in the ladies bathroom, and has used her artistic talent to help design and photograph drinks and food for use in the outlet’s menus.
Being a woman in F&B... she doesn’t feel that gender holds her back. When she looks around the food and beverage scene in the city, she says that sophisticated women are everywhere and being independent has become both a thrill and a fundamental characteristic of this generation.
Her female icon in F&B is... Tao Huabi for helping to establish Lao Gan Ma as a thriving business in China and around the world.
Co-owner of Bar Ink
Image provided by Yoyo Zhong
Known for... her epic tattoo work in her studio, Lotus Ink, in OCT Loft. Yoyo and her co-owners established Bar Ink last year, with the idea to have a tattoo-inspired cocktail bar and restaurant.
She always wanted to own her own bar or restaurant... as a place to look out from, and from which to welcome new people. Her current tattoo studio is on the fifth floor and can sometimes feel cut off from the action.
Yoyo spends a lot of her time... hanging out in Bar Ink, where she takes a very hands-on approach to the day-to-day operations at the bar. With connections to Teqo and The Brew, both of which are undergoing some menu changes and experimentation, you can expect new things to keep coming from the OCT-based outlet.
She first became interested in tattooing... after she got her first tattoo at 17 years old. She studied art in university, having been interested in drawing since she was four years old. While her interest in tattoos started out as a hobby, years later she is one of the best-known tattoo artists in Shenzhen.
Bar Ink’s decoration... began like a blank canvas on which Yoyo began to display her various interests. The walls are peppered with drawings, paintings, sculptures and depictions of tattoos.
Don’t go to Yoyo if you want... a face tattoo. Fledgling mumble rapper you might be, but you won't be getting any ink on your face at Lotus Ink.
COO of Hanover Coffee
Image provided by Isa Sum
Known for... helping to establish the Hanover Coffee brand on the Chinese market, via the company’s base in Changde, Hunan province, and also through business-to-business retail, and business-to-customer retail, as in Shenzhen's Fast Lane Coffee.
She was born in... Stuttgart, Germany to a German father and Chinese mother. She studied International Management in San Diego, before working in Cape Town, South Africa.
She first became interested in coffee... after meeting her now-fiancee Fabian. Despite previously disliking the taste of coffee, she grew to love the qualities of well-made, well-cared for coffee thanks to being exposed to Fabian’s family business, Hanover Coffee, in Germany.
She moved to China... to help expand Hanover Coffee in the Chinese market. Speaking about the booming coffee trade in the Middle Kingdom, Isa says, “From a specialty coffee point of view, China is an amazing market with a unique taste and also a great interest in education and quality.”
She thinks that the environment for women in business in China is... great. “I feel like in China, compared to Germany, women are allowed to be themselves more. This shows in things like fashion and behavior. I feel like in Germany and many western countries, women in business try to behave more like men and kind of suppress their femininity.”
If she could drink coffee from one country for the rest of her life she would pick... Ethiopia. “It’s the birthplace of coffee and I love the floral notes and the sweet, bold flavors from the sun-dried natural processing.”
CEO, Shenzhen Possolan Commerce
Image provided by Fan Jing
Known for... owning and managing one of the largest wine import businesses in Shenzhen.
She studied... Chinese in college before graduating, getting married and giving birth to her son. She spent ten years as a housewife, at which point she was motivated to get back into business.
She thinks that the business environment for women in China can be... difficult, especially for mothers who are returning to work after maternal leave. She feels like some sort of training should be established so that this leap back into the workforce doesn't feel so overwhelming.
She has a taste for... lesser known vineyards, primarily based in France. She frequently takes business trips abroad to source and taste wines, and likes to seek out hidden gems in the countries that she visits.
Her family life... appeals to her just as much as her business and she feels the two provide a duality that is both enjoyable and worthwhile.
Her son... was initially confused by his mother’s decision to rejoin the workforce, but now sees her as an inspiration, and a positive female influence in his life.
For more International Women's Day content, click here.
[Cover image courtesy of interviewees]