WHEAT at La French Tech Shanghai, March 2019
Meet our entrepreneur of the week:
Benjamin Patin from WHEAT
When he arrived in China, Benjamin was only 20 years old, freshly graduated from high school and absolutely no knowledge of Chinese’s culture and language. Ten years later, our entrepreneur of the week is now fluent in Mandarin and he has founded two businesses including WHEAT, a healthy eatery that helps urbanites to have & maintain a healthy lifestyle, without giving up the pleasure of eating fresh, natural & tasty food.
Website: www.my-wheat.comCan you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Benjamin, I am French but came to China in 2007 and have been living here ever since. I started to learn Chinese when I arrived here, started a trading company and later a healthy food service company.
Can you briefly introduce your company?
WHEAT is digital restaurant and platform offering healthy food and beverages deliveries, as well as meal plan programs and solutions for busy people in Shanghai.
Why did you decide to come to Shanghai?
After living here for more than five years, a nutritionist, who is now my partner, and I saw the lack of this kind of solutions in the city. Thus, we decided to start our project in order to provide Shanghai with more options of healthy food.
Can you tell us about the current events/news of your enterprise?
We have experimented different sizes and formats for our business but today we could say that we have found the perfect fit for Wheat. We are currently operating from a small location which is 90% kitchen: customers can order via their phones, there is no service staff, only kitchen and a couple tables for those who wish to eat there. Otherwise, people usually order take away and deliveries as we provide a delivery system of all the a la carte and meal plan for the area.
What are your prospects for 2019?
We want to standardize all the process and spaces to be able to grow and expand in a smart way for our investors and our future partners.
In your opinion, what France should bring to China?
France can give a lot of advices about quality and service, China still has a lot to learn in areas such as quality, service and standards.
On the other side, what do you think China could bring to France ?
China can offer a lot in terms of technology, WeChat and Alipay are the best examples, I find it super-efficient to be able to use your phone for everything in your daily life. When I go back to France, I feel like I am coming 10 years back in time. France hasn’t evolved a lot in that way.
Entrepreneurship in China
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur in China ?
Since I speak fluent Chinese, many officials are very nice to me and help me to get through complex procedures more easily; they are kind to foreigners who have made the effort and I don’t think I would feel that back home.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur in Shanghai?
Reactivity, Adaptation & Patience.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
Being curious and always eager to learn helped me in being an entrepreneur.
For you, why is Chinese tech ecosystem so unique worldwide?
Chinese Tech is ahead of any other Tech else in the world, they first do, then they analyze and adapt later.
What were the main challenges you had to overcome here?
One of the most serious challenges we still have today is fighting the miss-leading information for healthy lifestyle. Not giving up quality over pricing. Communication is also a big challenge for us as we still need to show people that delivery food doesn’t always have to be cheap and unhealthy.
Would you rather fail all your startups but have a rich social life or make your startup successful but use 5 years of your life cloistered like a hermit? Why?
There is no success without sacrifice, I know that to succeed we should spend a lot of time with our company like a mother with her baby. If you don’t spend days and days taking care of your company, its successes, its failures, its people, its areas of opportunities, you can’t expect it to succeed from it just being a great idea. However, every excess is wrong. I do not believe in sacrificing one completely for the other. Also, when socializing, you will have the chance to get new ideas, opinions and even critics that might help you grow; you need to see what is out there to adapt your company as well.
If you were a Chinese province, which one would you be? Why?
I would have to say Shanghai (municipality). I know that today there are big business opportunities elsewhere in China, but Shanghai is where ideas are born. This city never ceases to amaze me. Things happen so fast here, you need to learn and adapt constantly. People see opportunities everywhere and they aren’t afraid to give it a try. Things get done here and for me it is both vibrant and fascinating.
And for our readers, you can get a 15% discount on WHEAT with the code Frenchtech19!
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