Leaving Wall Street for avocadoes – 创新者 | Sean: 离开华尔街,“一起牛油果” – English

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‘Founder’ is a new series from ‘China30s laboratory’. Founders can run businesses or invent products and open small stores. They all have courage that deserves to receive deference and are amazingly creative. Here, let us all listen to their stories.

Sean has just come back from the United States to make an investment after his resigning from his job in Wall Street. As he turned 30, he started his own business at the same time as he got married and had a job in a office. He and his friends opened the (so-called) “most affectionate restaurant in Shanghai”, selling avocadoes.

He had to do everything by himself; make and invent new menu, hand out leaflets, deliver by motorcycle, and fix water leaks. In addition, although he has to concentrate on his works and had a little time for his family, Sean felt that he succeeded with many achievements and he was very satisfied.

Text: Ren Yi

2014, Sean is 30 years old and in the space of one year, he started his own business while getting married. Marriage and founding a business are such big events that he had to face tons of things all together. This gave him a feeling that he had to focus all of his senses on it and he wished to have “super powers”.

I saw Sean in his restaurant where he and his friends sell avocadoes. He looked very white, thin, and speaks gently, but at the same time, he showed perseverance and patience. It was at noon when many customers were eating in the restaurant. It seemed the computer that receives the order got some technical problems and they did not stop working in such an unexpected busy situation. Sean apologised to the customers one by one and scolded like hell. He was just starting to eat his lunch as I sat on a chair to have a chat with him and the clock struck 2pm. Then he cracked a joke, “Now you see why I became so thin”.

This avocado-themed restaurant is located on Xiangyang road in Shanghai, not far from the malls of Huaihai road. The simple but tasteful decor and the light-tasting but nutritious avocadoes complement each other. A few metal chairs like your found in the eighties and nineties, a kerosene lamp and a sewing machine on a cabinet, all these add a touch of nostalgia to the place. One entire wall of the restaurant is a floor-to-ceiling window. You can see the tall tress opposite, and the pedestrians rushing past. There is a bar counter between the dining room and the kitchen, and in the evening, the whole place can turn into a wine bar.

Many avocado dishes were created by Sean, even the cocktails are filled with unique avocado elements. Sean was really proud when he introduced the homemade cocktail to me, because that was the result of many and nights of hard work.

Sean is from Zhejiang province. He went to the US for further education after graduated from university and then found a job in an investment company on Wall street. It was really a gorgeous way to success, at least it was from others’ perspectives. But when seeing so many elderly Chinese people playing something called “healthy football” instead of football, Sean felt that those people have lost their taste for life. He didn’t want to be one of them, so he quit his job and decided to go back to his hometown the start his own business.

However, life was not so easy for Sean. He soon found out that he was not at all familiar with the financial environment in China, so he had to continue to work and discuss project plans with his friends at the same time. “It was when I just celebrated my thirtieth birthday that the stimulation came so strong that I felt that it was time, that if I don’t grab the opportunity right now, then I would probably lose it forever. That sense of pressure is annoying, you know.” Sean said.

At the first stage of Sean’s pioneering work, lots of people cannot understand why a person who majors in finance, and works in the financial field came to open a restaurant, since it was neither advantageous nor prestigious to him. But actually, what Sean and his friends wanted to run was not only a restaurant, but also a platform where young people can speak freely, think freely, and share things without any worries.

Of course, all things should start from the beginning. Sean, who had never send out leaflets before, screwed up his courage and yelled loudly on the street, in order to make more people know about avocados. When there is not enough people to do the labor work, Sean himself took charge of it. He would ride a motorcycle, with a takeaway food cartons on his back and brought takeouts to customers in person. Although it’s only a small restaurant, there is still a lot of things to worry about. Even the most trivial things, such as a leaking tap, or a job-quitting employee would require Sean himself to deal with, but anyway, Sean also acquired unprecedented gains from all those work.

“After my pioneering work is completed, my friends sometimes make jokes on me by saying that the tendency of my previous thirty years is a downward trend. From working in the fund company in the US, to working in the bank in China, and then to delivering leaflets on the street and delivering takeouts by motorcycle, my life comes worse and worse. I also laugh when I heard this. However when I reconsider this before I go to bed, I found out that this is exactly the truth. From the objective third person perspectives, I was, a typical example of a nonstriving person, moving further and further in the direction of the so-called success. But I am the only person who understands, that the reason for all the things I’ve done is to try to get closer to myself and discover the proper way to express our power to the world. I can never make any excuses for not keep trying, because this is my life. ”


China30s: Why do you chose ‘avocadoes’ as a theme for your restaurant?

Sean: in February 2014, we were brainstorming potential selling points for a restaurant, other than salads and muffins, or other similar themes which had already reached maturity, and then we thought of avocadoes. First, many of us like avocadoes as a not-so-juicy fruit! 没什么水份,不明艳动人也不酸甜可口,但是回味清香。我们喜欢这种气质特别的水果。二是观察到牛油果被越来越多的朋友喜欢,营养价值高,健康,绿色清新符合我们想做的产品。

China30s: How many people are working in this restaurant?

Sean:四个合伙人,都是来自不同领域,像我是做金融的,有一个是做过餐馆的,还有一个媒体的,还有一位原来在五百强做marketing 的。其中两位现在是全职做这个餐厅。

China30s: Have you thought of resigning and working full time on the restaurant?


Sandwich: at the start, did your family support you?

Sean: at first, my wife was opposed of my pioneering life, but now become completely. She saw my endeavor on it, and her friends and confreres are all talking about how I worked hard, and they said my wife should support me. She was kind of firm in speech but soft in heart. She thinks even through you go to pioneer. But this restaurant was too real—- because she is a kind of internet researcher, she think maybe you can work more freely, and make it become a has very large development space project.

Sandwich: in the official account of “avocadoes”, it said it is the best feeling restaurant of Shanghai, what kind of felling do you want to express.

Sean: everyone have his or her’s opinion, and what is funny is stay with someone like you, people can talk freely. Almost every my classmates, after they graduate, they all get a job and studying to talk what they don’t like. Sometimes it is necessary, but what I saw is many people getting hurt from this. Many 80’s generations they don’t talk before they being silent. In the firms, most are 60’s generations and 70’s generations and the systems the “vizir” made. At outside, even the venture investment was thinking 90’s generations having more courage, and 80’s generations disappeared quickly. So we want to build a place, what ever you want to do, you can find people to help you, to built a organization whitch may not been realist. In the real world, you think you always wearing a “mask”, when you getting hurt, you will aspire to escape. When you want to take a rest, want to talk about something to do with the future, or has nothing to do with work , just live in the present .

In this kind of environment, I don’t think I did perfect job, and there is a lot space to progress. At first, I ask some consumers o write something on the board, and others saw it, if interest in it, they can do it. And I am also do this on the wechat client. But we still don’t have any ideas about it, we don’t understand how this work. But we are thinking to do User Generated Content, to do it by online or off line.

And we also have a gallery area, we were thinking one is for people to having events, and another one is for the young artist to put their work here. And we are not going to receipt on account, whatever you work for, if you have anything to share, such as pictures, artworks you can put it here for free. These days, there is one artwork sold for more than ten thousands from our here. Others we have got sold for 3 to 4 thousands, and they are all theirs own income.

Sandwich: In terms of meals and cocktails, do what creation?

Sean: For the meals exploder, it takes time. We put every kind of ideas of cooking in to a big pools, and before testing, we delete most of the one that is impossible to make. And discuses with chiefs and try many times. The biggest chance is to put many avocados in to the meals. Such as avocado beef cheesecake, avocado prawn pasta, salmon avocado fried rice, avocado burger, avocado salad, vegetables, etc. When a dozen creative dishes, we even added it into dessert , the avocado and avocado mousse raspberry brownies are received really good reply. And on the names, we have many interested names, for example we call salmon avocado fried rice forbidden fruit AK47, and the burger the gods of the election.

We own the Fresh & Organic series , made with fresh seasonal fruit for the classic Bellini Mojito and make improvements , called ” full of vitamin C of alcohol .” Another series of “East meets West” is more daring , use wolfberry, red ginseng , Mangosteen and other oriental ingredients , vodka and rum these collisions wine . ” Shy Wolf” , ” Korea Legend” , ” Lohan ‘s secret” , listen to the name can guess a ballpark. We call these health cocktails.

We did one called ” Breaking Bad Breaking Bad” cocktails, ice -like blue , to pay tribute to those who pursue the inner voice . Is not only fun bartenders modulation of a share , also of the same name back five quarters breath watching American TV , became a fan of the old white .

China30s: What did you learn from the process of opening a restaurant?

Sean: greatest achievement is to find if there is no big company administration, logistics , resources, and what things I can do with their own hands . Our investment bank with a value of more than Ferrari ‘s printer , you can create a very beautiful text , binding, typography also there are people who do that, we took the file and customers to talk on the line. But our own business in order to save money to buy a cartridge out of the machine hung humble printer , every day to see how much ink .


China30s: now that this is your life at 30, have you thought about the kind of life you’d be living at 40?

Sean: I’m not actually very good at planning, 但是如果内心有声音在那挠你的话,就会受不了,到了一个时候就会让它闭嘴,就会去干了。我还真没想过四十岁会是什么样子,但如果你问我这个问题,现场说的话,我希望内心更安静,别着急的追逐这个那个。回国之后内心一直就没安静下来。有时候会有那个小念头:在那好好生活吧,为什么要搞这个事呢?这个声音就会被另外一个声音压下去。四十岁的时候希望家庭更稳当,过年过节的时候能让家里温温馨馨的,安居乐业吧,同时也不放弃自己的追求,还是能做自己的事情,以一个更平静的心态,一步一步前进。

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Source : China 30s

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French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact julien@marcopoloproject.org