Shanghai expat becomes accidental entrepreneur after launching WeChat group

Published:  23 Mar at 6 PM
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Tagged: Spain, USA, China, Money, Euro
Shanghai’s expat community is known for its entrepreneurial spirit, with necessity often the mother of invention and occasionally resulting in a successful business idea.

One young American expat arrived in the city some seven years ago, settling in a large apartment and building his new life in a very unfamiliar country. Just over a year ago he decided to move to a smaller apartment, but couldn’t bear to just throw away everything he couldn’t fit into his new lifestyle. A social media enthusiast, he decided to set up a WeChat page offering all his unwanted secondhand items for sale. Within just two weeks, the group boasted 500 members, with more joining daily. Now he has several more secondhand groups on WeChat selling everything from unwanted IT equipment through furniture and other electronic goods.

In an interview with reporters from the Global Times, Dan said he’d unwittingly solved a real need for the ever-expanding Shanghai expat community, which formerly had no idea how to dispose of unwanted items or buy inexpensive used household goods. It worked very well, he said, adding he’d not realised the massive need for secondhand item outlets until he’d decided to move. When expats return to their home countries or move to other Chinese cities, they’re now able to sell off their belongings to new arrivals rather than paying to ship them halfway across the world.

Taking the story further, the Global Times interviewed a number of expats on the subject of buying secondhand rather than new. Most said they didn’t see secondhand goods as rubbish as buying them in the USA or in Europe is accepted as a way to recycle and save money. According to Dan, the majority of his followers are expats who’re simply interested in getting a good deal. Lora from Spain is a real fan of secondhand WeChat groups, using them to furnish her home as long as they’re in good condition, and British photographer Tom relies on the groups to buy and sell his camera gear. Others are vintage fans and buy items with years of history behind them.

The moral of this tale is obvious, in that recycling is the answer to consumerism, but it’s also a demonstration of Shanghai’s attraction for younger expats brings out the best in their entrepreneurial spirits. Whilst they’re not exactly saving the planet or becoming the next dotcom billionaires, they’re letting their imaginations do the talking and acting to make their worlds more in line with their needs rather than their wants.
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