Jade Gray is a gung-ho entrepreneur, recently being awarded the B Corp certification for his venture Gung Ho! Pizza.
What’s your story?
I’m a reluctant businessman. Graduating from University in New Zealand I was torn between a life of an environmental activist or that of an entrepreneur. I chose the latter and over the last 20 years of building businesses in China my team and I have aimed to use the power of business as a force for good in helping to resolve the world’s issues. Over the last 5 years we have been focused on building our pizza brand Gung Ho! Pizza which was recently awarded the B Corp certification – the world’s leading responsible business accreditation – becoming one of only three in China.
What excites you most about your industry?
Young migrant workers. 80%+ of my team are from this demographic. They have shown incredible courage to leave their homes with very little resources in an effort to better their lives in the big cities. Being millennial’s they expect much out of life and typically are willing to do the hard yards needed so long as the companies’ dreams are aligned with their own. If not aligned then they are demanding, disengaged and pretty much impossible to lead! I find it a rewarding challenge.
What’s your connection to Asia?
In the early 90’s whilst studying in the UK I was advised that New Zealand’s future was no longer tied to the West but rather the East. With this insight I came home and undertook a degree in Marketing and Mandarin. Upon graduation I flew to China with a backpack and a set of skis ending up as a ski instructor in Yabuli, Heilongjiang. I fell in love with the place and for the next 20 years I have gone with the flow, in constant amazement with how the East has challenged and grown me as a person.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Beijing! Being the capital of China the government keeps business on a pretty tight leash, trialling new policies and enforcing with a strength not seen in other parts of China. As challenging as this is for the business, it is the ultimate training ground for doing business in China. We know that if we can lead our industry in Beijing then we can lead any market in China, and if we can succeed in China we can succeed anywhere in Asia.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The journey’s the destination.
As entrepreneurs we relentlessly chase our goals. Although persistence is possibly our greatest asset, when misguided it can be our greatest shortcoming. Moving to a life committed to the here and now rather than some future goal or accomplishment is where it’s at. It’s not reaching the summit that’s important, but rather how we grew and evolved as a result of climbing it.
Who inspires you?
Anybody who has the balls to risk it all to follow their life’s calling.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
250 billion+ paper coffee cups are thrown away every year. I’ve since acquired a keepcup, which also keeps it hotter for longer.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Asked that girl at my year 4 prom to a dance. Taken that role in the school theatre. Asked that question to the keynote speaker. Basically anything in life that I failed to do due to my fear of making a fool of myself.
Oh, and bought that VW Kombi camper at University…. That was one seriously cool ride.
How do you unwind?
Rock climb, hike, bodysurf. Anything that connects with the outdoors. And if I can’t get into nature then chilling with family and friends over a good meal….and if there’s a good music gig on, then busting some “embarrassing-for-my-partner” moves on the dance floor.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
My farmhouse at the Great Wall of China. Myself and a mate restored a traditional courtyard house in a village at the foot of the breathtaking Jiankou Great Wall section about two hours north of Beijing. There’s something pretty special about the energy of the place, and having known the locals for the last 13 years I’ve become part of the village. Sitting around the fire with some mates under the stars with the Great Wall in the background is pretty surreal. All one’s worries slip away….or maybe it’s just the Single Malt.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“The Art of War”-Sun Zi. You can’t understand business strategy in Asia until you have read this book.
Shameless plug for your business:
Gung Ho! pizza is proud to be Beijing’s favourite pizza brand having won Beijing’s Pizza Cup for two of the last three years beating out 184 brands. We have recently been selected to expand with IKEA as they grow their Livat Mall concept across China. We opened our first store in their Beijing store in June 2016 and are currently fundraising $3million to fund our immanent expansion into their other stores. Get in touch if you are interested.
How can people connect with you?
In China?? No go.
But you can follow our We Chat feed at Jiaoban bisa, 叫板比萨
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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