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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).







Science is the Next Big Thing in Startups



From pharmaceuticals to petrochemical processes: Newcomer companies and investors and investors alike are setting their sights on science. How the start-up scene moves beyond the mobile apps bubble…

For the last two years Silicon Valley analysts and venture capitalists are anticipating the burst of yet another bubble. This time, under the risk are the mobile start-ups which constitute the biggest share of the market. Out of 50 companies listed in Forbes’ “the hottest startup of 2015” (by valuation) only six companies are based on innovations in other-than-mobile area, one company provide cleaning services, while the rest are diverse mobile apps.

Meanwhile many products listed can be barely called innovative. A significant proportion of the listed start-ups are texting apps, apps for people search (starting from business partners to life partners) or delivery services. While those services can definitely facilitate one’s life, in general they differ from their predecessors by only a narrower audience.

Many venture investors expect stagnation if not decrease on the markets, which is why they start to transfer their capitals from start-ups offering customers software to start-ups offering specific solutions for existing businesses. Such companies are expected to demonstrate more stability in the near future.

The Market for Mobile Apps Might be Saturated

Back in 2012 a talented entrepreneur could walk into a venture capitalist’s office, say his startup was a mobile-first solution for pretty much any problem (payments! photos! blogging!), and walk out with a good-size seed investment. “That pitch was enough to get going,” says Roelof Botha, a partner with VC firm Sequoia Capital. “It’s not enough anymore.”

“I think investors are bored with investing in another messaging app. And our idea is crazy enough that it might just work. ”, has declared in 2014 Nadir Bagaveyev a founder of a start-up using 3-D printers to make rocket engines. By 2016 the company attracted investors funding sufficient to launch its first rocket.

Pharma and Biotech Start-Ups in High Demand

Currently the most successful science-based start-ups are the companies offering innovative solutions in the field of pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies. It’s noteworthy that despite the previous revelations and even judicial proceedings the list of the most expensive start-ups still includes Theranos, blood analyzing laboratory, whose story did not descend from the main pages of the global leading media from 2014.

It first amazed the audience with its fantastic take-off and then with its collapse. One of the crucial parts of the success story of this start-up is its fundamental difference from the majority of the services produced in the Silicon Valley. Unlike the others, it was not a story of yet another beautiful gadget for communication or mobile app, but the story of the scientific idea which intended to conquer the world.

The great success stories in other scientific areas are now happening on occasional basis. However certain facts allow to predict that the situation is to change soon. One of such factors is growing interest among the big corporations to attract innovative solutions from outside to develop their businesses.

Given the accelerating pace of scientific and technological development of the world, the activities of internal R & D departments are often turn to be insufficient to ensure stable development of innovative business. Outsourcing of the R&D may become the efficient mechanism to stimulate the growth of the company. And high-tech start-up can certainly benefit from it.

Start-Up Technology for the Petro-Business

In December, 2016 world leading companies in the field of gas processing, petrochemicals and chemicals announced their intentions to enforce their R&D capacities by attracting start-ups. 3M, AkzoNobel, BASF, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Henkel, Honeywell UOP, LG Chem, Linde, Sibur, Solvay and Technip together created a global stage for startups and investors.

“The petrochemicals industry can and must rely on the potential of open innovations to facilitate further inventions and implementation of new solutions in all major application areas, from construction and medicine to packaging and 3D printing. Thanks to the participation of international partners, IQ-CHem is now the largest global project within the industry which attracts innovative solutions and provides for their implementation into practice,” said Vasily Nomokonov, Executive Director of Sibur, a company which coordinates the project.

Positive Experience in Chemicals and Beyond

Some of the listed companies have already gained positive experience in working with start-ups which may have driven them to elaborate a systemic approach to attract innovative companies.

At the beginning of 2016, SIBUR and RRT Global start-up reached an agreement to build a pilot plant for isomerization based on RRT Global technologies in Sibur’s Industrial Park SIBUR “Tolyattisintez”. According to Oleg Giyazov, co-founder and CEO of RRT Global cooperation with a large corporation bring significant advantages to his company.

“By cooperation with Sibur we get a huge industrial experience that enables us to develop technologies and solutions better fitted to the market demand. This advantage is often not given due attention, but we, on the contrary, see significant opportunities in it. Currently, RRT Global cooperates with several companies around the world” he said.

Another petrochemical leader BASF enjoys successful cooperation with Genomatica start-up. In 2013 BASF started the production of 1,4-butanediol based on renewable feedstock (renewable BDO) using Genomatica’s patented process and in 2015 the license was expanded to the Asian market.

Unlike traditional forms of cooperation between a start-up and a venture capitalist, a cooperation between start-up and a relevant corporation allows to minimize the risks associated with investing in a potentially promising idea where the key word is “potential” (but not “guaranteed”). While delivering services in the same field as the start-up the corporation gets an opportunity to more effectively and accurately estimate the market value of an innovative idea and to support its implementation.

Structural Changes Ahead: Outlines of A Coming Market

In the short term prospective, possibly in 2017, the global start-up market will face structural changes – both in terms of start-ups professional orientation and of funding mechanism. In the future science-based start-ups will dominate the market and will change our lives at a deeper level than the way of sending a text message or searching the restaurant for an evening meal. To be more concise this is already happening in the pharmaceutical industry, and the other scientific areas are to follow.


About the Author

This article was written by Dominik Stephan of Process Worldwide. See more.

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Callum Connects

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters



From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at

Alternatively, you can connect 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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