A year ago, Dominic Callum De Couto never imagined he would be living in the world’s most populated capital city today, whizzing around historic sites on an electric bike for a living. But that’s exactly what he is doing and he’s never been happier.
After studying marketing and communications in university, Dominic found himself living in Holland, working in Nike Skateboarding’s marketing and branding department. In many ways it was a dream job. “I loved my boss and the people,” he says. “My boss was like a second dad to me.” But at 24, Dominic felt uninspired by the idea of a 20-year career in the corporate world looming before him. “I don’t think I was ready to commit myself to that quite yet.”
When a college friend unexpectedly called and asked if he wanted to go to China, Dominic jumped at the chance. “I thought, why not? Why not try something different while I’m still quite young?” After finishing up the corporate year, he flew to Beijing with a plan to teach English.
A brief conversation leads to a big idea
During his first year in China while teaching full-time, Dominic also took Chinese lessons at The Culture Yard. In a passing conversation with Ilya Cheremnikh, the owner of Culture Yard, Dominic learned that Cheremnikh had once run a bike rental company targeting tourists. The bike rental company had been a good side project for Cheremnikh and his business partners at the time. However; with growing demand and each business partner having their own individual businesses to concentrate on the bike rental company fizzled out despite many requests to expand their business by offering e-bike tours which they hadn’t offered before.
“It instantly kind of sparked interest in my head,” Dominic says about the conversation, “but I didn’t do anything at the time.”
After a year of teaching full-time, however, Dominic started to look at other opportunities, and the conversation about bike tours immediately popped into his head. So he contacted Cheremnikh and set up a meeting, where they discussed the logistics of Dominic setting up a similar business.
“I was like a little kid,” Dominic says of the excitement that followed. “It’s been like a snowball ever since.”
The rise of B Electric
Calling on his marketing and branding experience along with Ilya’s knowledge of Beijing, Dominic and Ilya launched B Electric, Beijing’s only tour company that exclusively uses electric bicycles.
He now spends a significant part of his week guiding groups around the city. His routes take in newer, urban areas as well as fixtures of Old Beijing, like the Confucious Temple, Beihai Park and the Hutongs.
“I’m not a history buff…” he says, “but I love that Beijing has such a long history dating back thousands of years and it’s cool to see different parts of that all merged into one city.”
E-bikes in particular make it more convenient to get around – especially in the heat of summer – and are a fun perk he doesn’t see other tour companies offering. For Dominic, the goal of his tours are not just to make Beijing a less intimidating place for tourists or new residents, but a way to make connections with people. “I’m just here to put smiles on people’s faces and show them a good time,” he says.
A city of opportunities
Though he admits B Electric is his first entrepreneurial gig, Dominic finds Beijing to be an ideal environment for young innovators. “Beijing is just such a friendly open place,” he says. “If you want to know something or you want to do something, there’s going to be someone who can help you. All you have to do is ask.”
He credits his friends, business advisor and the foreign community at large with helping him thrive in the city. “It’s the people,” he says. “Definitely the people.”
In the future, he’s considering expanding the company, hiring more tour guides or perhaps collaborating with other organizations. For the marketing pro, his mind is always whirling with quirky branding ideas, but he’s learning to slow down a little. “I’m just trying to stop myself from exploding all in one day,” he says. To recharge, one of his favourite spots is Badachu Park, a complex of quiet temples and picturesque mountains on the outskirts of Beijing.
“It’s a magical place,” he says of the city. “It’s an adventure over here.”
Booking a tour:
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Connect with B Electric
Phone number: +86 185 1512 8245