Artem Zhdanov is a 29-year-old Russian entrepreneur who has lived in China for 7 years. Artem first came to China in 2010 and fell in love with the country.
Seven years later, he has turned his passion- bringing the unique expat experience in China to the world- into a booming start-up business.
“It’s our way of bridging the culture gap between China and the rest of the world.”
LaowaiMe is not your average apparel and novelty product brand. The brand focuses on selling the ‘expat in China experience’ in a fresh and, oftentimes, funny way.
Their biggest seller: a T-shirt with the phrase HELLO, THANK YOU, I DON’T UNDERSTAND (你好，谢谢，听不懂) in Chinese.
LaowaiMe’s line initially targeted fresh expats to China. The aim: use the apparel as fun conversation starters with Chinese people. Now, their products also highlight the unique “Laowai” (expat) experience and Chinese culture.
As the brand has matured, so has its global reach. Artem explains, “Our main market is not in China. There are less than a million expats in China, while there is 100 million people learning Chinese around the world. In fact, we have more sales in our global store than in China.”
Artem runs LaowaiMe out of their start-up offices in Shenzhen and Shanghai. For the China market, his brand sells on Taobao- China’s version of Amazon (but on steroids). It is also the perfect site for a start-up to make its mark on the Chinese market. For its global market, it has its global store: laowai.me/shop.
LaowaiMe’s fans love the brand’s novelty products. A mug with “Drink hot water” is a nod to Chinese medicine and the hot water cure-all culture. Chopsticks embossed with “Have you eaten?” is a cultural nod to a common greeting.
“The Chinese appreciate it very much, they like such a creative approach. As a result, a lot of them order gifts for their foreign friends at our shop on Taobao,” says Artem.
What’s next for LaowaiMe? They hope to continue expanding their product line into other sides of Chinese culture from cuisine to calligraphy.
After living in China for seven years, Artem believes that LaowaiMe serves an important purpose to the global community.
“Chinese people sometimes view foreigners as aliens. And since Chinese culture is so unique, living in China sometimes feels like living on another planet. Yet, LaowaiMe uses humor and wittiness to bridge Chinese and western culture in a way that is funny and consumable,” says Artem.