The most valuable lesson I learned at Ryerson was who I didn’t want to be. As my classmates were hunting for entry-level positions as analysts, project managers, and everything else in between, it dawned on me that I wanted nothing to do with traditional business.
I ended up in Shanghai going through the training wheels of affiliate marketing. What’s that you say? In its simplest terms: Find a product you like. Promote it to others. Earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.” I quickly realized that if I wanted real success I had to create something of value that no one could copy. This led me to branding.
I had no idea what I wanted to make at the time, but “teatox” stuff was blowing up on Instagram — something similar to that seemed like a solid idea at the time. I knew I wanted to go all in, so I decided to go to China and find a factory to make my product.
I landed in Shanghai with $3000 CAD in my pocket, zero knowledge of Mandarin, and a dream. Six months later I had “Bootein”, a protein-infused coffee scrub brand, online. Yes, I thought I was a genius.
The venture failed spectacularly, but not before racking up thousands of dollars in sales, getting the attention of 50+ influencers on Instagram and getting hoards of people genuinely interested in what the heck a protein infused coffee scrub could do.
I showed an established Shanghainese friend of mine what I was doing at the time and the failure that was Bootein. He was amazed that I left everything in Toronto behind and despite having no contacts or knowing Mandarin managed to get a product made, warehoused and online in less than a year. He eventually put me in contact with a lot of people who opened doors for me. (Thanks Mr. Xue.)
3 things I learned from this failure
1. Dreams matter.
It is incredible what you can achieve with just a vision. Forget the plans, proposals and forecasting. I was a guy with big dreams working out of a crap apartment willing to do everything to make that protein infused coffee scrub happen.
2. Embrace failure.
If Edison failed 10,000 times before he made the light bulb, I should be willing to fail 10,000 times to reach financial freedom too.
3. Passion is infectious.
When you do things that excite you and that you believe in 100%, doors open for you. People want to be a part of what you are doing.
Mr. Xue told my story to a friend, who shared my story with the owner of a digital marketing firm here in Shanghai and I was hired on the spot. Three years later I am the director of content marketing at one of the largest digital agencies in China. Bootein may have failed, but I’m pretty happy about where it got me.
Haruun Dahir, Business & Technology ’16, is a digital marketing specialist. After graduation Dahir moved to Shanghai, China to pursue his dream of building an e-commerce empire from the ground up. It didn’t work out exactly as planned. Today, Dahir shares what he learned about business, himself and the world at failcare.com.