Imagine my surprise when my friend and one half of Brand Me Silly partner Chris Tweten told me he was packing his bags and moving to Shanghai in a few short weeks. As the founder of Tweten Online and known social media genius of Winnipeg, he is certainly one to search out the trends before they hit big or news stories as they unfold. When he heard about his friend Avery’s 3D printed nail jewelry startup, CLAWZ in Shanghai, he jumped at the opportunity and embarked on 36 hours of travel to his new home.
Now that he is on the other side of the world, I wanted to hear all about his travelling adventures, the new company and how he is running his business remote while culture shock sets in.
Any strange events during your travels to Shanghai and how did you keep yourself busy on the plane?
Nothing too strange so far but there’s a few things that are really taking time to get used to. The first is not having a vast network of people to socialize with – I’m constantly getting introduced to people and though the night life is busy (like everything else here), it’s odd not knowing most of the crowd. Back in Winnipeg, I’d spend a lot of time at Union Sound Hall, which I really miss.
Second up is adjusting to the costs of day to day things. Restaurants are abundant and inexpensive so eating out for 2 meals a day, sometimes 3 is very cool to experience, but also draining. The other day, Avery and I walked around for almost an hour trying to find a reasonably priced, clean place to eat with food we craved.
As for travelling here, my mind was stuck in excitement of moving and thoughts of my first serious startup experience. Though I had entered the last 2 Ramp Up Weekends, CLAWZ is easily the biggest commitment and cliff jump I’ve made in business. I had an overnight layover in Minneapolis, twisting and turning in bed thinking of the journey ahead of me. In the morning, I was off to Detroit then on a 14 hour flight to Shanghai – where I only slept 2 hours or so.
In the Detroit airport, I could only think of the startup community I was leaving behind (for now) and ended up buying a copy of The Lean Startup. Maybe it was Scott MacAulay’s influence – no, definitely. On the long flight, I read the entire book, made notes and watched the first season of HBO’s Silicon Valley all in one sitting.
You have experienced your first week in this new country, how has it been? Any challenges along the way?
In the first few days, I was really pushing myself as a result of that focus I created on the trek to China. Jet lag was killing me but I made it to the accelerator every morning, but it felt right. I’m lucky to have a co-founder as a room-mate who can speak Mandarin too. It’s quite the combo, I’ve gotten to see some of the night life, local spots and more.
My biggest challenge so far is just finding a work schedule that keeps me productive without burning out. Avery and I have had this conversation a few times and she’s in the same boat so we’re testing a few things out. Other than that, it’s been smooth sailing – culture shock didn’t hit me, I’ve been comfy living here the whole time.
What is it about CLAWZ that told you this was the right move to make in your career?
The way I’ve been building Tweten Online is so that I could pack up and travel on a whim. Being in a startup community for a year, I’ve essentially just been waiting for the right opportunity to either join a startup or just travel on my own. CLAWZ is exactly what I was looking for – founded by someone I can trust and rely on plus I’ve had a passion for reading on 3D printing for a while now. I just haven’t had the chance to work with it or tinker around at AssentWorks so this really was the perfect move.
Rewind to a year ago and you and I were sitting down drinking coffee and chatting about our dreams. Here you are a year later and I can only imagine what is going through your mind. How does it feel?
I’m nowhere close to achieving dreams but this is a step in the right direction. Looking back on meeting for coffee a year ago feels alien to me. I was a completely different person with a completely different line of thinking and habits. This was before I was fully immersed in Ramp Up Manitoba culture and before I dreamt so big for myself. This was before I felt comfortable in my own skin at business events and before I felt like an absolute expert in my field.
Today, I finally have the opportunity to put all my marketing and growth hacking knowledge to the test in an environment where results truly matter to me.
What’s the next step from here in running both CLAWZ and Tweten Online?
Tweten Online is nothing but social media, so it’s digital and hasn’t been too difficult running remotely. However, a big part in some of my clients’ work involved live coverage of events so I ended up hiring a young rockstar account manager, Shelby Olson. She’s been absolutely killing it in the short time I’ve been gone.
Starting with coverage of Innovate MB’s #PitchDay, Shelby was taking photos for the Twitter feed, encouraging attendees to participate and representing Manitoba’s startup community. This was with extremely light supervision from afar on my part, but her next event was 100% her work. Sad to say I missed the grand opening of Jellyfish Float Spa, but Shelby handled it like a pro.
I don’t have a definite plan for running the two simultaneously, since there are so many factors beyond my control at play. For now, I’ll just do my best to service clients from China, push Shelby to grow and try my best to keep focus on CLAWZ.
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