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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).







Is There A Coworking Space Bubble?



An annual growth rate of nearly 100%, almost five years in a row? More than 60 coworking spaces in a city like Berlin? Are these the characteristics of a bubble? Nope, these are characteristics of a lasting change in our world of work, which has been further catalyzed by the recent economic crises in many countries. But what makes this change different to a bubble? We’ve summarized some arguments of why the coworking movement is based on a sustainable change. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to open a good working coworking space.

Five reasons why the growth of coworking spaces is based on organic and sustainable growth: 

1. Coworking spaces invest their own money and create real wealth

Already, there is a convincing argument supporting why coworking spaces are not developing in a bubble: the fact that they create real wealth.

Whether referring to the dotcom bubble a decade ago or the real estate crisis in Spain or the United States, the crisis originated in a glut of cheap money, in an environment in which the sender and the recipient were unacquainted. From funds and banks, money flowed in steady streams to investments which offered little resistance and the most promising returns – which only a little while later turned into delusions and ruined investments.

Redistributed risks create illusions. Those people who distributed the money rarely wore the risk of investment decisions. The risk was mainly taken by small shareholders or people who bought parts of those investments. This was because either both parties’ (better) judgement was drowned out by the noise of the market, or because shareholders were unaware of the risk, and were at the mercy of banks and funds for reliable information.

Another fundamental condition for the creation of bubbles are the sheer amounts of money that flow from various locations globally and are concentrated, by comparison, in much fewer places.

Most coworking spaces, however, receive their funding from local or nearby sources and do not operate within this financial system. In fact, the founders mainly inject the bulk of the required investment, and turn to friends or relatives for additional support. They wear the full brunt of the risks that are involved in small-time investment.

They have access to much more information, because it is their own project, rather than a foreign one thousands of miles away. This also includes failures and mistakes that are encountered along the way, but the risk is less redistributed, thereby decreasing the probability of failures.

2. Labor market changes demand on certain office types lastingly

Most users of coworking spaces are self-employed. The proportion of employees is also on the rise, in many cases simply because they work for small companies that increasingly opt to conduct their business in coworking spaces rather than in traditional offices. The industry of almost all coworkers fall within the Internet-based creative industries.

With flexibilisation of work markets, new mobile technologies that are changing work patterns, and the increase of external services purchasing from large and medium-sized enterprises (outsourcing), the labor market has changed radically in many parts of the world.

The long-term financial and emotional security of becoming an employee no longer exists, especially for younger generations of workers. Bigger companies are quicker to fire than hire, and precarious short-term contracts are on the rise. Promising options on the labor market are more often recuded to freelancer careers and starting your own company.

And that’s possible with less money to invest. All you need is a laptop, a brain and a good network. For years, the number of independent workers and small businesses has been growing worldwide – particularly in internet-based creative industries. Anyone who has sufficient specialized skills and the willingness to take risks may adapt more quickly to market conditions if they own a small business or are self employed; more so than if they were to work in a dependent position in an equally volatile market.

Coworking spaces provide an environment in which to do this. Once they have joined a (suitable) coworking space, these factors become apparent to coworkers, who will remain in their space for years to come.

Furthermore, independent workers rarely fire themselves in crises, and even small companies are less likely to give their employees the boot – compared to their large counterparts. This combination enables more sustainable business models – and less business models à la Groupon.

3. Coworking spaces don’t live on crises

Global economic growth is waning while the number of coworking spaces is continually growing. Do coworking spaces thus benefit from this crisis?

The current crises accelerate the formation and growth of coworking spaces, because they offer solutions and space for the resulting problems. Coworking spaces are therefore not a result of a crisis, but the product of change that pre-dates their existence. A crisis is simply the most visible expression of change.

The first coworking spaces emerged in the late 1990s; the movement’s strong growth started six years ago – before the onset of economic downturns in many countries.

4. Coworking spaces depend on the needs of their members

Most coworking spaces are rarely full. Does this mean they are unsuccessful? On average, only half of all desks are occupied. But the average occupancy rate of 50% refers only to a specific date.

In fact, coworking spaces generally serve more members than they can seat at any given time, since members do not use the spaces simultaneously. Coworking spaces are places for independents who want to work on flexible terms. Smaller spaces rely more on permanent members. Larger spaces can respond more flexibilty to the working hours of its members, and, can rent desks several times over.

If a coworking space is always overcrowded or totally empty, the purpose of said space would be defeated. Firstly, it is rather impossible to work in an overcrowded room. Second, it’s impossible to cowork in an empty room. Given the nature of flexible memberships, a coworking space only can survive if they fit the needs of their members. Members would otherwise be quick to leave, and membership would be much more transient.

5. The coworking market is far from saturation

Less than 2% of all self-employed – and even fewer employees – currently work in coworking spaces. Reporting on coworking may increase, but inflated reporting on the coworking movement in the mainstream media is still far away.

Coverage of coworking space are most likely to be found in the career or local sections in larger publications – front cover coverage remains the dream of many space operators. This is because the whole coworking movement can’t be photographed in one picture. What appears to be a disadvantage, however, is actually a beneficial truth: niche coverage allows the industry to grow organically, and avoid over inflation.


Coworking spaces don’t operate in parallel universes – like the financial market. Demand and supply are almost exclusively organic and operate in the real world economy.

For the same reason, there is no guarantee that opening a coworking spaces will be automaticly successful. Anyone who fails to learn how to deal with potential customers in their market, or is unfamiliar with how coworking communities function, will have a difficult time of making one work. In the same way that business people in other industries will fail if they do not understand their market.

Those who simply tack on the word ‘coworking’ to their space’s facade will need to work harder. The structure of most coworking spaces is based on real work, calculated risk, and real-world supply and demand.


About the Author

This article was produced by Deskmag. Deskmag is the magazine about the new type of work and their places, how they look, how they function, how they could be improved and how we work in them. They especially focus on coworking spaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers and small companies. see more.

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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy



Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook ( or visit for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @

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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