eLab Brought Me Confidence and Clarity to Pursue my Vision

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eLab Participant

eLab Participant

My name is Zhao Renxiu and I am a filmmaker and entrepreneur from China. During my six weeks at eLab, I’ve learned extremely useful entrepreneurial knowledge, but for me, what is even more important is the change in my conscience. Since finishing the program, I have become more confident, and my mind and ideas are now much clearer.

Before joining eLab, I operated a video platform called Subtropical Asia. I founded it with the purpose of providing Asian artists with more international exposure and opportunities in the form of documentary storytelling. Unfortunately, there were some things that distracted me from my vision - a company in Shanghai invited my team to run a cultural space, and three months later, they kicked us out because they thought we were too edgy. After that my business partner decided to leave China for personal reasons and I knew that partnership was over... I felt frustrated with everything, but I opened my computer to look over all of the documentary footage I had taken and I suddenly realized that I needed to get back on track!

I chose eLAB because the time I can fully invest in a training program was quite limited, so the condensed curriculum was perfect for me. Also, I love Berlin and wanted to learn more about the city, especially the startup ecosystem there.

Our first formal course was Entrepreneurial Mindset. Under the guidance of Michael Katzmann, we set ourselves a clearly measurable entrepreneurial goal and shared it with everyone. When I spoke my goal aloud, it sounded very ambitious, but I got sincere approval from Michael and my classmates, and at that moment I realized that my inner uncertainty and shyness suddenly disappeared. Traditional Asian culture usually does not encourage women to be too ambitious or powerful. Although I always considered myself a cool girl living outside of traditional expectations, this cultural influence still snuck into my personality. For example, my ex-business partner is a very social and persuasive person. I used to hide behind the scenes most of the time and let him do all the showing off and networking, but his sudden departure forced me to go out and deal with people on my own. I was uncomfortable at first, and even wanted to find another partner to replace his position, but I was steered towards independence at eLab.

During the mentoring session with our eLab Berlin regional manager Bastian, I got a positive push. He told me that I was fully competent, with my own charm and attitude, and that this could easily be converted into persuasive techniques. He even made a specific plan for me that outlined how many people I needed reach to and how many quality contacts I needed to get. Sure enough, in eLab's massive networking events, I pushed myself to take the initiative to communicate with people, talk about my entrepreneurial ideas, and all the positive feedback I received made me super excited. I realized that I didn't need a new partner to go out and socialize with people. I could do it myself, and I am doing it well!

eLAB has also helped me to make it clear that Subtropical Asia is a social entrepreneurship program that is not purely profit-oriented but rather driven by social impact. Social entrepreneurship is not that popular in China compared to Europe, and most entrepreneurs still lack any sort of social responsibility awareness. In Berlin, I feel that my entrepreneurial values ​​are widely respected, and people came to me and told me directly that what I do is very meaningful. This gave me the drive to realize that I will persist and succeed.

My Mentor Edlira told me that many entrepreneurs will experience a period of confusion or even chaos, and this is normal, no need to feel frustrated, reviewing your business canvas and analyzing competitors, can bring you more clarity. I did what she suggested, especially the competitor’s analysis and it benefited me a lot. I made a big table sheet, listed all of my competitors and analyzed them from multiple dimensions. Even though these competitors have been very successful, I still found my breakthrough point and unique value proposition, which is to create a social impact through documentary storytelling. Consequently, our shooting theme, artist's selection, and marketing method all have a clearer path!

It’s been one month since I completed eLab and during this time I realized that the knowledge and sense of initiative I learned while on the course have deeply affected me. All of these changes happened during the 6-weeks at eLab and whether I was working or making an important business decision, I could feel the impact of these changes positively affecting my progress. I feel grateful and proud to have been a part of such a powerful program!

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