If you were given the opportunity to launch your own business doing something you love that required you relocate to China, would you pack your life up and jump on that plane? This Leading Lady did.
We sat down with Teresa Truda, Co-Founder and CEO of chozun, to hear how the need for a decent beautician while travelling developed into a platform for all business travellers and is set for international expansion in less than a year.
Where to start?! How did the idea for chozun come about?
chozun basically stemmed from a problem I had myself. I used to work for ad agencies, working long hours, always travelling and I had no time to take care of basic things – like personal lifestyle maintenance.
This might sound crass, but I wouldn’t have time to get a wax before I’d leave the country for a business trip, then I’d get to a new city and have no idea where to go – let alone the time to research. I wanted to pack my waxing lady and Joe the shoe repairer with me every time I was on the road.
I was constantly struggling to find services from places that I could trust, that weren’t dodgy and that were easy to access.
Our readers will be able to relate to that big time! So how did it go from an inconvenience to creating a viable business idea?
It just seemed nuts to me that in an age where we have such advanced tech and awesome products like outsourcing life admin on AirTasker and getting a meal delivered via Uber – yet it was still so time intensive to find a nearby intimate service or travel experience. Trawling Google and other sites just wasn’t cutting it.
My Co-Founder and I soon realised that this was an issue for others – there were so many millennial business travellers like us with a disposable income who simply wanted convenience.
So we created a platform where the business traveller can get any on-the-ground services they may need (excluding flights and accommodation). We offer everything from interpreters and local guides, to technical support, beauty experts, personal trainers and personal stylists for the APAC market. All are curated specifically to an individual’s taste. It’s kind of nuts to think about what we’ve achieved in under a year.
And how did China come about?
Initially, we ran an MVP in Australia, but we had always wanted to explore the Asian market, we just didn’t know where to start. Everything seemed to align though and we had an opportunity to connect with Chinaccelerator. If they invest in you, you have to move to Shanghai, so that’s what we did. We are all massive travellers so the idea of moving countries was appealing and it was just an awesome prospect.
Why China and not say, Silicon Valley?
There’s a huge gap in the millennial business traveller market in China and a massive movement towards Chinese independent travel. We want to target emerging markets and service those that are completely underserved in this space, and the Asian market is where our biggest potential is right now.
China particularly is on the rise of innovation and there is so much opportunity for Australian entrepreneurs to do awesome things over there.
So you moved to a foreign country, didn’t speak Mandarin, with a start up that needed to be launched publicly. What could possibly go wrong? What has it really been like?
[Laughs] Fundraising, generally and in a foreign country can be tough for any start up. It’s time consuming.
Initially, learning about the market consumption and product market fit was challenging, particularly without speaking Mandarin. That in itself (learning a new language) takes time and dedication.
I would say the decision to leave a stable working life with regular income and making such a big lifestyle change was a tough choice. Initially, a lot of people thought I was mad and asked, “What are you doing? Are you sure you want to do this?”
It was hard to take that risk, but I describe it as like a bad relationship – you can feel the corporate life coming to an end, and then one day you wake up and realise it’s totally over and you are the only person that can change it. That’s what it felt like for me.
I imagine launching a business in China as two women hasn’t been without its challenges?
I won’t lie – sometimes it’s very challenging. Culturally, there are still some very traditional (read, archaic) ways of thinking, but we just take those challenges on and try to break them down. We’ve got strength, resilience and drive – ain’t nobody going to stop us!
And has it been difficult starting a business with a close friend?
Yes and no. Look, we’ve had differences in opinions [read: yelling matches] – but I think that’s healthy. We trust each other, and both just say what we think and quickly move on. We just focus on trying to find a solution that’s best for the business at the end of the day.
So what would you say is your working mantra these days? What phrase has helped you grow chozun into a platform that’s launched and continues to grow in the APAC market?
Problems will always come up. You just have to look at them as opportunities to find solutions. Get your hands dirty. If you don’t know something, make it your mission find out. If you don’t like the way something is being done, change it.
And your advice for someone else reading this, looking at their to do list and dreaming of travelling all over the world?
I’m driven by tech that can make a difference in people’s lives – that provides convenience. I know I can make an impact and will always give it a crack because I don’t want to sit back and watch someone else do it. I know I can.
I guess I’d say – no one is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, do you want to travel the world and start a business?” You have to make that happen for yourself. Back yourself, make choices and really, you can do what you love too.
Images by Breeana Dunbar Photography.