Diane Wang constantly hears stories about adversity. The founder of Joyo.com (which eventually became Amazon China), now CEO of China e-commerce site DHGate, says she’s flooded with correspondence from people telling her how her business helped them break barriers and realize their dreams.
For instance, there was the young Chinese woman from a poor background who used DHGate to sell her clothing designs, which eventually allowed her to move to Paris to study fashion design. Similarly, Wang likes to tell visitors about middle-aged, empty-nest mothers in the Chinese countryside who’ve built their own businesses selling products from their homes.
Wang, whose resume includes stints at companies like Microsoft and Cisco, co-founded one of China’s first e-commerce sites in 1999. After Amazon acquired that site, called Joyo, in 2004, Wang went on to build a new e-commerce site, DHGate.
In some ways, DHGate resembles eBay, in that it essentially connects buyers and sellers, whether individuals, small companies or corporations. It boasts 5.5 million buyers and distributes goods to 224 countries, with North America and Europe among its largest markets. The Beijing-based company boasts 1.2 million suppliers listing over 25 million products.
Wang also sits on the board of the APEC Women Leadership Forum, a network of women aimed at boosting the voice of female businesspeople and encouraging new generations of women leaders and entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific region.
As you might expect, Wang has lots of advice for would-be entrepreneurs about seizing business opportunities. Here are six of her tips for entrepreneurs who might be daunted by the various barriers they face.
Wang believes that having a dream is the number-one prerequisite for being an entrepreneur.
“The road to realizing your dream is full of hardship and temptation, and only a dream etched in your heart can help you overcome difficulties and still allow you to be passionate,” she says. “The original dream is the foundation that empowers you to stay focused whenever you feel lost.”
Entrepreneurship Is A Lifestyle
Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t a part-time job; it’s a lifestyle change that affects every part of your day-to-day life.
“You not only need to stay physically fit to remain capable to solve any emergencies 24/7, but you also need to be psychologically passionate about what you are devoting yourself to,” says Wang. “You can quit a job if you change your mind or feel dissatisfied as an employee. But being an entrepreneur, the words ‘give up’ should not be in your dictionary.”
Comfort Zone? What’s That?
You need to be ready to wear any hat and to playing any role in your company, Wang says. Be prepared to stretch when in unexpected ways.
“I am not a born speaker,” she confesses. “But as the public face of DHGate.com, my responsibility requires me to jump out of my comfort zone, to overcome my anxiety, practice my speech, and to become a good speaker. Over time, I realized it was an invaluable self-improvement process, and an opportunity to grow with the company along the way.”
There Are No Shortcuts
Wang founded DHGate when no one in China understood the value of e-commerce. The CEO and her team logged weeks on trains, motorbikes, and donkey carts, criss-crossing China to introduce their business to manufacturers.
“There is no shortcut to being an entrepreneur,” Wang says. “Stop looking for the magic pill, and do the real work that is needed.”
Be The Biggest Fish In Your Pond
Narrow down your focus, because you won’t always be able to beat all of your competitors in every single field.
“You need to find your business niche and and your unique selling point to distinguish yourself from others, to form your competitive advantages, and to position yourself to be the best in that specific field,” says Wang.
Lean On Outsiders To Fill Your Gaps
Stay outwardly focused as well. It’s a good idea to get to know people in your field but who aren’t part of your company.
“You can partner with professional managers, join forces with another company, or find experienced investors who can supplement what you’re missing,” says Wang. “This allows you to remain focused on what you’re good at, and to unleash your potential to create something of significance.”
Lead image by Flickr user Grzegorz Jereczek, CC 2.0; image of Diane Wang courtesy of Diane Wang