Taking a quickstep toward a successful startup
When Li Meilin attended dance competitions and shows as a child, her mother or a teacher always did her makeup.
Li started learning folk dance at age 4 and dancesport, or competitive ballroom dancing, when she entered senior high school.
Now, the 24-year-old from Shandong province owns a startup that specializes in devising dancesport hairstyles and makeup. Along with her 15 employees, Li offers related services, as well as selling makeup and dance costumes.
“Some may consider dancesport makeup similar to ordinary makeup, but that’s clearly wrong because there are rules in the competitions,” Li said.
She used hairstyles as an example. Dancesport hairstyles should be tidy so the judges can see all of a dancer’s body movements, including the neck and head, and not be distracted by hair that is loose and swinging around. It should also be coordinated because a perfect hairstyle can enhance the dancer’s appearance and suit the shape of their face and hair volume.
“The hairstyle is a symbol of a contestant, leveraging his or her distinctiveness and building their confidence at competitions,” Li said.
“The makeup requirements are different based on the (competitor’s) age as well.”
During its first 12 months, the company has cooperated with a number of dancesport training institutions across the country and served large-scale events.
This summer, it will participate in a range of activities being held by Blackpool Dance Festival China, the world’s biggest ballroom dancing competition, to spread dance culture to Shanghai’s residents.
As a growing number of Chinese are embracing sports as a lifestyle choice, many sporting and dance events are being held in the country, especially in the region around the Yangtze River Delta.
“But few institutions are providing professional dancesport makeup. Some dancers turn to wedding makeup practitioners, while some do the makeup themselves,” Li said.
She did her own makeup when she attended dance competitions during her time at Shanghai University of Sport, where she majored in choreography. But there was never enough time to do everything herself, which helped her come up with the idea for the business.
“I’m kind of business savvy, influenced by my father who is a businessman,” she said.
When she was young, Li sold flowers on the street on Valentine’s Day and stationery at the night market in her hometown of Tai’an, Shandong. She also helped sell a brand of dance shoes while she was at college after she recognized the demand generated by arts students like herself.
Her career path was further accelerated by the university’s support after she pursued a master’s degree in dance in 2017. She took courses and attended training camps on entrepreneurship to learn about writing business proposals, giving presentations and handling company registration procedures.
In 2018, Li put forward her business idea for dancesport makeup at an entrepreneurship competition at the university, winning the silver medal.
She later received funding of 250,000 yuan provided by the Shanghai Technology Entrepreneurship Foundation for Graduates and set up her company last year.
The period from March to August is usually the dance competition season, but this year all events have been canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are grateful that the local government granted a three-month extension for repayments of startup loans,” Li said.
She added that the company is dealing with online business negotiations and conducting online training in preparation for the future market. Since April, related services have been provided via a WeChat mini program.
“We are expecting the revival of dance competitions and to spread our brand across China,” she said.