Lessons learned from launching my startup in China: Samantha Kwok

JingJobs Founder Samantha Kwok
JingJobs’ Founder Samantha Kwok

I decided to move to Beijing right after graduating from university in Sydney, Australia. In February 2013, I arrived on a freezing cold day (and over 600 on the API!) with no Chinese and no idea of what to expect. Despite growing up in Hong Kong, China was a completely different ball game.

I had originally come to Beijing to learn Mandarin but after completing my 6 month course, I had fallen in love with this charming city and wanted to stay. The next logical step was to find a job, which was a lot harder than I had originally anticipated. I asked a few of my friends who were working in Beijing at the time and they had all said they had heard about openings from friends of friends (which meant you had to have a pretty large established network in China to hear about the best job offers, which not everyone has).

After trawling through giant overwhelming job boards like zhaopin.com and 51job, I decided there had to be a better solution. Despite having expat job boards and classifieds in expat magazines (90% of the jobs advertised were teaching jobs), there didn’t seem to be an obvious place or community one could approach to find positions suitable for young professionals who didn’t have Mandarin as their native tongue.

People always say ideas always come from personal struggle or challenge, and this was mine.

My vision was to build a community and network called JingJobs where jobs and opportunities were visible to bilingual speakers, both expats and locals. Everyone who has job hunted before knows it can be a tedious, boring and isolating process. I wanted to create an international job seeking community where members could inspire and drive each other.

The last year and a half has been an extremely steep learning curve (with loads of mistakes along the way!), and here are the 5 most important lessons I’ve learned from taking an idea from inception to reality.


1) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find Mentors!

I was extremely hesitant to ask for any sort of advice or help at the start because I was nervous of people shooting down my idea. You’d be surprised by how positive and helpful your friends and family can be – and this would also be a good place to start asking if they would be willing to invest in you and your vision. You could also avoid a couple of disasters just from learning from other entrepreneurs’ mistakes and failures. I’ve met some fascinating people from networking events, LinkedIn, Start Up grinds and other mentoring workshops who have their own great stories and experiences you can learn from.


2) Form partnerships and networks, build real relationships

I’ve had to bootstrap for the entire process of setting JJ up. I’ve found that through collaborations with other start ups, small businesses and networks, not only do you create a great personal support system (doing your own thing can be lonely!), but by pooling resources together, you create mutual benefits for both teams and open your business up to countless opportunities if you think creatively. Early on I collaborated with Uber Beijing to give our jobseekers free rides to their interviews over the summer, because who wants to take the subway and arrive all sweaty?!


3) Do your homework, continue to reinvent your product or service, create value

Looking back, I could have definitely done way more research before plunging head first into setting up my business. That being said, being slightly less knowledgable did give me the courage to just jump right into it. By listening to the needs of users as the website grows, I try to reinvent and create as much value as possible for them and stay flexible and keep adapting to conditions as required. This is extremely important especially when dealing with internet regulations and censorship.


4) Leverage social media platforms as much as possible. Embrace what’s available in China!

I’ve learnt a huge amount from Troy, one of my colleagues, who is an absolute genius at social media marketing (Wechat, Weibo etc). With most forms of Western social media blocked, I’ve learnt that fully embracing what’s available in China is one of the most helpful ways of reaching local communities and networks. With Wechat being one of the fastest growing social platforms in China, its been important to utilise as many features it offers as possible – it’s a great base given its presence in almost every aspect of the daily lives of Chinese users.


5) Never stop learning, stay inspired

I have always wanted to go back to university and do my Masters (still have no idea in what exactly) – in the meantime, I enrolled in LSE-PKU Summer School, a short two week intensive course in Management and Entrepreneurship, which really helped me sort out my priorities and a couple of messy aspects of Jingjobs.

Also, I never really understood exactly how hard it is to bring your own idea to life, until I actually jumped right into it. Here are a few of the sites, books and apps I trawl through when I have time to stay inspired and keep up to date with the brilliant ideas people have come up with.

Looking for work or internships in China? Check out JingJobs!


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Samantha is the founder of JingJobs.com, a job platform and digital magazine matching young bilingual jobseekers with internship and graduate opportunities in China.

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