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Five Ways to Make Money When You Are Famous



Other than starring for films, TV series,  variety shows or advertisements, what could famous people do to heap up wealth? This pyramid presents the five most common ways by their relevance to the fame that a Chinese star has accumulated through his or her career.


1. Business Related to the Entertainment Industry–Start one’s own studio

  • Invest in films, TV series
  • Produce films, TV series
  • Discover and promote new actors/actresses

Starting one’s own studio not only include arranging the actors/actresses’ work with more mobility, but also include various developing strategies including promoting actors/actresses’ in the younger generation, investing in or even producing films or TV series, and even selling books. These business often help to promote the owner in they have the closest relation with the owners’ original career.


Photo retrieved from the official Weibo account of Fan Bingbing’s studio

One of the most successful studios is Fan Bingbing’s studio, which she admits that brings her more profit than her job as an actress back in 2008. According to Forbes, Bingbing Fan’s annual income has reached $20 million in 2015.

Other example: Lin Xinru, Su Youpeng, Li Bingbing, Yang Mi.

A less common way is becoming a shareholder in the carrier companies in the entertainment industry, which requires both economic strength and profound influence in the show business.

2. Online store

Lots of stars choose to gather their entrepreneurial gold by opening stores online, mostly through the Taobao marketplace platform, selling products that cannot be put into one category by even the most reasonable person.

Some choose to sell their second-hand clothes or accessories in these stores for charity. Jiang Yiyan, an outstanding Chinese actress, started her Taobao store in 2009 and put all the profits in charity. Her merchandise include evening dresses she wears in performances or to film festivals (for instance, dress from Ports, approximately $830) or her backpack that accompanies her in charitable events(approximately $13).


Dress from Ports, Yiyan Jiang in her drama play July and Ansheng, image retrieved from Yiyan Jiang’s Taobao store

Some stars treat their online store as real business by collaborating with certain brands of facial masks or cosmetics or start their own online brand.

Similar to the restaurant businesses, what make these online stores different from the vast sea of counterparts is the identity of the presumed owner. “The foremost benefit to have Ms. Xu as our leader is that Ms. Xu herself ensures the online store’s survival at the initial stage,” said the operator who is responsible for the accessory store of Xu Jinglei, one of the most famous female director, actress and writer in China in Iwshang’s interview.

Lauched in 2010 with Xu Jinglei’s successful movie Go Lala Go, the store has now grow into one of the most popular stores in Taobao’s Star Lounge, which consist of 326 stores opened by famous Chinese stars. The best sale in her online store is a pair of silver ear buds, which has been purchased 42,585 times as of June 2015.


Taobao poster collaborated with Xu Jinglei’s Film Dear Enemy, image retrieved from Xu Jinglei’s Taobao store

3. Restaurant business/bar business

Purchasing second-hand clothes from stars could be an indirect way to gain the kind of intimacy desired by fans, but the possibility of bumping into a star while having a casual dinner is definitely a catch for average people.

Ren Quan, a successful star/entrepreneur who has stepped into the restaurant business since college, accompanied by Li Bingbing and Huang Xiaoming (both listed in the 2015 Forbes China Celebrity List), started a hotpot restaurant named Re La Yi Hao in 2014.

This restaurant has over 1000 comments and an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 on (Chinese version of Yelp).The average cost per person in Re La Yi Hao hotpot restaurant is around $20. In a year, three sub branch restaurants of Re La Yi Hao opened in Beijing.

fans kiss

A fans kissing the cardboard of Ren Quan, image retrieved from the official Weibo account of Re La Yi Hao

Having a star as the owner alone does not seem enough to assure the success of a restaurant or a bar. Sun Nan’s Dutai restaurant, Zhao Wei’s Le Fu restaurant, Nie Yuan’s Qian Restaurant all went out of business after several years’ struggle. Comments showed that customers often had higher expectations on such business for they trusted the taste of the stars and would probably accept a comparatively higher price as long as the service/product fits it. For those who failed, their business were either too pricey and at the same time not satisfactory, or just simply did not went out well as a regular business– the reasons for average restaurant bar to go down counts for the businesses under celebrities’ names too.

4. Fashion brand


A Xin in STAYREAL’s Avenger edition, photo retrieved from STAYREAL’s official Weibo account

STAYREAL is probably one of the most wanted T-shirt brands for young Chinese people both for the identity of its co-founder A Xin, the lead singer in famous Taiwanese alternative rock band Wu Yue Tian and for the high quality and delicate design of the clothes made possible by the other co-founder Bu Er Liang, a famous illustrator and designer in Taiwan.

Started from 2007, STAYREAL has opened 26 stores in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Other fashion brands owned by stars:

NPC(New Project Center) by Li Chen, Pan Weibo

STAGE by Luo Zhixiang

CLOT by Chen Guanxi

5. Areas of interest

It is not a rare phenomenon to see a star making profit by selling products to the customers in which the majority are their fans. For those who choose to start their business without much support from their gained fame, however, the business act might be more challenging.

For instance, Nicholas Tse, a famous Hong Kong singer/actor, started Post Production Office Limited  in 2003. The company was the only post production company that relies solely on digital technology in China at that time and 22-year-old Nicholas Tse put almost every penny he earned into the business. The success of Post Production Office Limited is seen through its participation in these movies: Bruce Lee My Brother(2010), Hot Summer Days(2010), 1942 (2012), A Simple Life(2012). The annual profit of PPOL has reached $15 million since 2012.

“This is really intense for me. Maybe because this is my first time to show up as an entrepreneur, in front of the crowd. What is really odd is that I’ve been doing this most of my life.”

“I do feel that I am talking to another caliber. I’m left out.”

Quitted school as a tenth grader, Tse encouraged the college students to get through it and get the diploma that he would be willing to trade “all the wealth and so called fame and glory” that he had right now for during his speech in HKUST.

It is not hard to figure out that the relevance to the fame that a Chinese star has accumulated through his or her career is negatively related to the feasibility of their business. How the fame shall be used actually depends on the kind of business that a star chooses to start. The name of the star might be the cornerstone of success in online second-hand clothes store, but it also might worsen a customer’s dining experience when he/she has higher expectation.

Even for the stars, it takes great effort and strength to make the transition to an entrepreneur. Without the entrepreneurial spirit, the fame might be a burden instead of help (see Lin Chih-ying‘s case: selling beverages as health care products).







Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures



Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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