Didde, diddle dumpling...

Published: 6 Jan 2015 09:30

EXPORTING CASE STUDY: A lucrative food production business in Edinburgh whose reach is as far as Spain

HAVING swapped interior design in Changchun to run an Edinburgh restaurant, whose dumplings are in hot demand in Spain, businesswoman Jian Wang serves up a fantastic example of how Scottish firms can break into European markets.

“If your vision is clear, others will follow you” ~ Jian Wang, Chop Chop

“If your vision is clear, others will follow you” ~ Jian Wang, Chop Chop

Wang, who was born and raised in north eastern China, is the proud owner of Edinburgh’s Chop Chop – a restaurant which now employs more than 30 staff.

She left the security of her own successful enterprises in interior design and TV advertising in Asia to set up shop in the Scottish capital.

From her own kitchen, Wang made the famous dumplings from her region then bought a small shell unit and dumpling machine from China to start production.

With a tiny freezer van, she toured up and down the UK – cold calling supermarkets on their own doorsteps.

After managing to secure a few orders, which were quickly sold, Wang’s famous dumplings have since grown in demand and are now being stocked in supermarkets up and down the UK.

They are also supplied to P&O Cruise Ships, exported to Chinese restaurants in Spain, and feature in her award-winning restaurant in Haymarket.

Wang has even featured alongside Gordon Ramsey in his TV show, 'F-word'.

Her latest venture, however, has been to launch further restaurants in Scotland.

Chop Chop now has planning permission to expand in the UK and its Glasgow restaurant is due to open this year.

Wang used crowdfunding site Angels Den to help finance the national expansion and quickly exceeded her £160,000 target for the construction and pre-opening costs of her first Glasgow restaurant, which marks the first in Chop Chop's national roll-out.

At the last count, Chop Chop had raised 113 per cent of its minimum target on Angels Den - with a total of 61 investors investing as little as £100 via the online crowdfunding platform.

Each investor is set to receive shares in the company.

Those who invest more than £500 will also receive VIP membership to all Chop Chop restaurants for three years.

The first of the national roll-out sites, in Mitchell Street in Glasgow, is due to open in a matter of weeks now that its Building Warrant and Planning Consent has been granted, with approval for a very contemporary, long glass frontage and illuminated Chop Chop signage.

Building work has already begun, with a finish scheduled for the second week in January - well in time for Chinese New Year on February 19.

But this is just the first of many new openings for Chop Chop.

The company plans to open a new restaurant in Edinburgh city centre this year and in at least three more UK cities.

And what, in Wang's opinion, makes an effective business leader?

"Self-belief above all. There are always people wanting to tell you how to do things but you must stay true to your own vision. If your vision is clear, others will follow you.

"My leadership style is more autocratic than collaborative but my biggest challenge has been finding the right team to grow my business.

"My professional pet peeve is staff not understanding my food.

"I wanted to open a restaurant many years before I actually did. I wish I had done so sooner but it's better late than never."

When asked what other organisation she admires the most, Wang replied: "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They are changing the world for the better for purely humanitarian, not political, reasons and influencing others to join them."

Wang grew up in China at a time when personal business initiative was just emerging. It resonated with her and, aged 30, she switched from government service to the private sector.

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