Tak­ing a quick­step to­ward a suc­cess­ful startup

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By CAO CHEN

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.

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