In this episode of the Tech in Shanghai podcast I speak with one of China’s most prolific expat entrepreneurs, and the founder of the ’naked’ brand and group of companies, Mr. Grant Horsfield.
For several years Grant and the team at naked have run one of the most popular and environmentally conscious resorts in all of China, which have a strong and loyal following amongst both local and expat clientele.
Then last year in 2015 they made plans to expand their operations. I was first confronted with these plans when I was passing through their original naked co-working space on Fuxing Lu in Shanghai, called nakedHub. I went upstairs and saw six or 7 posters with BEAUTIFUL photos of new projects and accompanying descriptions, as well as a number of scale models for these projects. I was blown away. Not only at how AWESOME the projects looked themselves, but that naked was embarking on such big and bold expansion plans, I loved it.
Among the new projects were several new eco-resorts throughout China, a sailboat product based out of Thailand called naked Sail, an enormous immersive learning complex for both children and adults called naked Discovery, and most obvious to people living in Shanghai, the aforementioned nakedHub co-working spaces, which burst on the scene to tremendous enthusiasm, and which have proliferated to several more locations throughout the city, with apparently at least 10 planned to be operational by the end of the year!
But of course, ‘naked’ didn’t start as a runaway success, with a diverse portfolio of successful businesses and a brand that customers have come to love. In fact it started with a guy from South Africa, who after living for a year in Shanghai in 2006, was dissatisfied with the lifestyle that was on offer, so much so that he set out to change it. With little money, no hard plans, and a chorus of people telling him he was crazy, Grant set-out into the unknown world of being an entrepreneur in China.
What followed was a wild and chaotic journey of intense struggle and hard-fought triumph that was almost unbelievable.
In this show, Grant and I start by discussing the early days of his journey, and the things that kept him going, when every sign in the universe seemed to be telling him he wasn’t going to be successful. It’s a testament to the type of attributes possessed by the truly great entrepreneurs, of which Grant is certainly one, of grit, determination, hustle, passion and ultimately an unwavering belief in themselves and what they are doing.
If this sounds cliche, keep listening, you’ll see what I mean.
We then fast forward to today, where the big task in front of Grant is not to survive, but to maximize the potential of his brand and company, and continue to be pioneers in creating businesses that people love.
That said, it’s a big leap going from one to several world-class resorts, as well as launching a booming co-working brand, re-imagining education and all the other things naked is now involved in, so I ask Grant what it’s like both personally and organizationally to scale up so boldly and so quickly.
Of course, I also hit Grant with some of my favourite advice questions, which given this guys track record, I highly recommend you stick around to hear.
Learn more at www.livenaked.com