Amelia lives in Shanghai. She used to work as an engineer for a racing car manufacturer until she decided it just wasn't her jam! So she started her own jam and chutney business instead.
Moving to China? Get in touch!
I started up a company in Shanghai making and selling jams, chutneys, marmalades and fudge - anything that can be potted and sealed easily using local Chinese ingredients.
My day-to-day involves:
I was an automotive engineer working for a racing-car manufacturer in Shanghai. I worked there for two and a half years with two different companies.
I never dreamed of owning a jam and chutney company but I've always dreamed of owning my own business, and I've always wanted to do something that involved cooking! The more and more I struggled in my old job situation, the more I wanted to work for myself and have some control over what goes on.
I couldn't think of what I would do next - I just knew I had to leave. Fortunately in Shanghai there is always an opportunity to teach so I resigned knowing there was some work I could do while I contemplated my future.
While chatting with a friend in a park one sunny Sunday, we came up with my new project. I was going to make a company involving food and all things homemade and wholesome. I latched specifically onto the idea of making jams. My mother has always made jams, marmalades and chutneys back home in England and I thought... why not do it here?! We're always scrounging around for some affordable jam and we can barely ever find chutney.
To be honest, I didn't do a lot of planning! I just bought a big cooking pot one weekend, acquired some cook books, and started practicing by making batches of plum jam. I then made as much as I could of all sorts of different things until the Christmas fairs began in Shanghai.
It was a massive effort but it paid off. I had a very english looking stall and my jams, chutneys and marmalades sold out. From this trial run, my company was born. I had some money that I had saved, plus I was owed a lot from my previous job.
Also it really hasn't cost a lot so far. Over six months I have spent just 4,000 GBP of my own money. With a couple of hundred left I am scraping the barrel. Last month I covered my costs though, so fingers crossed for this month.
The biggest problem is how to move forward. Licenses and a kitchen cost money so a business plan and a loan are the next steps if I'd like to expand my business. To supplement low sales at the beginning I am teaching English, and soon will be giving baking classes - almost anything to get a few RMB.
I'm living very much hand-to-mouth at the moment, but I am enjoying the challenge of having to make a sale to move forward. Sometimes I still long for the days of a solid income though!
I think the hardest thing is yet to come. This has been the easiest bit: testing the waters to see if people like it. Now I know they do, I've got to make it successful. I've now got to put in some really hard work to make this happen, with as little investment as possible. That means working all hours to get things done and still not feeling like you're getting anywhere.
There is also the feeling that you can never let it go and just leave the nightmare in the office. My house is my workspace so it's always there and I just can't stop thinking about it.
I just try to remember the small things that I achieve - like potting 80 jars in one day in my tiny kitchen and not making a bad batch... hmmm that doesn't happen too often!
I also love having the freedom to do things as and when I please.
And the SALES. It is so satisfying selling something to someone and getting great feedback, knowing that I've made the product from scratch. It is very rewarding. I love working in my house and it has such an English country feel, whilst right in the heart of Shanghai.
Don't be afraid to talk to anyone and everyone about what you're doing and not to be afraid (in my case) of approaching people who I think might be interested in selling my jams/chutneys for me or in using them themselves for their restaurants.
Be confident in what you're doing. If you enjoy doing it, you like your product and you've had good feedback then it's got to be good, so go out and sell, sell, sell!
Also, simple internet searches. There are lots of great websites out there on making jam, and I can read about other people in Shanghai who have done something similar.
My mothers experience - I often make a phone call home to find something out!