Looking at trends in start-up businesses, I interviewed a group of young entrepreneurs for a client to better understand their motivations and direction. One young man who piqued my interest was Lifu, a hip-hop aficionado born in 1989 who had turned his love of dance into a studio called Speed Control. But he wasn’t content to stop at teaching youth in Shenzhen how to bust a move. He wanted to translate the brand into merchandise that could be sold all over the mainland—and possibly the world. He was looking at different products, including street gear and towels, that could help him carry the feeling of bold expression that students experienced to an outside audience. Despite not having a formal business education and being a relatively low-profile personality, Lifu was confident. There weren’t many examples of other dance studios branching into branded merchandise, but Lifu was knowledgeable about the channels for creating, marketing, selling, and distributing. After all, he had navigated online communities all of his life to stay in touch with friends, dive deeper into his interests, and buy difficult-to-find items.
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