As a child, growing up on the small windward island of Dominica, Shagi Defoe could turn a profit from almost anything he could get his hands on. From new school clothes he didn’t want to the sandwiches his mother, a business woman herself, would prepare for him, Shagi loved selling.
What was most exciting for Shagi then and still today, was not the money but the thrill that came from understanding what his customers wanted and the challenge of figuring out how to fill that need. He also enjoyed establishing a standard of business and customer service that was unique to him – his brand.
While Shagi enjoyed his childhood hustle, he never seriously considered it as a career. Instead, as a teenager, he aspired to be an Architect, a Chef or a Writer.
Fast forward to August 27th, 2004. Although it’s been over 13 years since his arrival to Beijng, Shagi still remembers the exact date he arrived. At the time, Shagi came to Beijing to pursue an undergrad degree in Marketing at the Beijing International Studies University. His experience unfolded to be much more.
In 2007, while still pursuing his degree, Shagi came together with another international student to fill a gap they both noticed in the Beijing night life scene. At the time, Shagi says that there were many international students from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa but no parties that catered to these communities which were accustomed to more vibrant affairs. To meet the need, the boys established an entertainment agency branded Street Hustle Promotions. In under a year, the company quickly grew from hosting small parties to bringing in international DJs; and to landing a contract to run a marketing campaign for Kanye West’s first concert in Beijing. This experience re-ignited the passion for business that Shagi had in his adolescence. The boys continued to grow the business successfully for four more years until greater opportunities took them out of the country.
The skills gained from his venture with Street Hustle Promotions became a valuable resource to Shagi as he moved into marketing consultancy for various brands. Recognizing his serious talent in the industry, it wasn’t long before Shagi decided to form his own marketing consultancy business which is just one of the businesses that he still actively runs today.
Perhaps the business that Shagi is currently best known for in Beijing is his Dienastie – Eyewear and lifestyle brand.
Combining his skills with the talents of his two business partners from Sweden; Dienastie was born as a brand and tribute to the upcoming game changers, entrepreneurs and innovators of our time. The brand’s slogan “Play hard, Dienastie” is the modern day take on carpi diem and serves to suit the style and mindset of our generation’s new bold leaders.
While the boys started small, the business has grown significantly in the 5 years they have been running. Their feats to date include being registered as a foreign known enterprise; being licensed and trademarked in about 15 countries; and having the brand currently being sold in over 100 stores that they handpicked across China, Hong Kong, Manila and Indonesia.
While Shagi is proud of what he has accomplished and loves being an entrepreneur, he warns that it often looks like success from the view of the general public, but it’s never easy to come this far. Shagi confesses that building up clientele for Dienastie took years of pounding the pavement and that wasn’t even close to their team’s biggest challenges. Twice, several of Dienastie’s trademarked designs have been copied and the company also lost about 1 million RMB to a client who vanished from the face of the earth with without paying.
When I asked Shagi how he dealt with both challenges, he said it was part of doing business. He sees being copied as proof that Dienastie’s designs are well liked. As for losing close to 1 million RMB, he said it was one of the greatest mental challenges he has ever gone through and a great feat that he is proud to say he survived.
It’s obvious that Shagi is a big supporter of entrepreneurship. He encourages those with an idea for a business to try it out.
If you are thinking of starting your own business check out Shagi’s tips here from his tried, tested and very real experience in the field.