From entrepreneur to celebrity. Dominic Johnson-Hill is shaking up the creative industry in Beijing.
What’s your story?
I came to Beijing as a backpacker in 1993 with a small amount of money. Learnt the language, started my first business in 1995 in market research. In 2006 with 40,000rmb I started Beijing’s first T-shirt brand, Plastered T-shirts in an old alleyway where my home was as the only shop on the street. 10 years later I became a celebrity in China and my brand Plastered 8 became a household name and the alleyway where I founded my brand is now the busiest retail street in Beijing attracting up to 100,000 people a day. Our artwork is now on the walls of restaurants and brands around Beijing and I present my own travel show, Vintage Hunter.
What excites you most about your industry?
The creative industries in China are highly under developed, I have very little competition in my sector. The brand became a platform for my creative ideas. We create fun, energetic artwork that celebrates Beijing, sometimes totally bonkers and sometimes an obvious East West mix. We have to innovate a lot to stay in the game and that’s pretty exciting. Pushing new ideas, taking risks and exciting our customers excites me. We just started selling canned Beijing Air. We made stained glass windows out of Chinese leaders and we were the first to work with a North Korean artist to capture their vision of Beijing. It’s crazy and exciting and fun and the more crazy we get, the more our customers love our stuff.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My father was born in Singapore and my brothers and sister were all born in Asia. I was born and bred in Guildford, UK so I felt a need to travel as we were such an international family. I did terribly in school so I felt that if I challenged myself to go to places where there was opportunity I might be able to make something of my life. When I arrived in China in 1993 there was opportunity everywhere.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Beijing Beijing and Beijing. It’s gritty, it’s political, the people are fun and very direct, there is opportunity everywhere but it’s a real beast, you never know when you are about to be smacked in the face with a massive challenge you never expected and you can’t use the word “should” here. It’s got its own rules and it’s a always changing, all this keeps you on your toes. The constant change is very inspiring. I had a new start to my life coming here.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
One word “begin.” It’s quite often the hardest thing to do, when pushing creative ideas or starting a business and it can be terrifying and you procrastinate alot and look for easy options. Just “begin.”
Who inspires you?
Most driven types with a ferocious lust for creativity.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I can take the car aerial out of my car quite easily and have a fencing fight if need be.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would make the reply to this question catapult me back in time to my birth and live my incredible life over and over again, especially the part where I meet my beautiful wife.
How do you unwind?
Walk, cycle, swim a lot. Drink with great friends quite a lot, do nothing much with my wife and daughters as much as possible.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I have a little cottage at the foot of the Great Wall outside Beijing. It’s very simple, nothing fancy, no shower, eat drink and chat with close friends and my wife and 4 daughters. Heaven. Usually go to bed drunk. Great for the soul not so good for the health.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Seth Godin, Purple Cow. A great reminder of the importance of innovating.
Shameless plug for your business:
Plastered works has incredible artists who celebrate Beijing and plaster the artwork on high quality t-shirts that are all made in Beijing. Get Plastered @ www.plastered.com
How can people connect with you?
Wechat ID: D702133
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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