Ting Ting Liang
Founder of Roxie and RIINK
What’s the vision behind your two businesses Roxie and RIINK?
Both Roxie and RIINK were created to fulfil a need. Creating a business around fulfilling a need makes a big difference.
They are not just bars. Both Roxie and RIINK provide a platform where different people can meet and feel good about them self. This has always been very important to me. Having empathy allows me to serve people better, it makes me better in the work I do and to understand why I’m doing it. The business model for both bars includes: providing a more personal experience, serving quality drinks and snacks, and doing these things consistently. My vision for both bars is to grow them by keeping in mind what we do and not to forget why we are doing this. This is directly one of our selling points.
How have you built such a strong community around your businesses, particularly Roxie?
After moving to Shanghai I saw a big gap for lala (lesbian or bisexual) women to connect or most importantly to meet.
My mind started rolling around many questions like why are there so many gay bars and lala bars seem to come and go so quickly? Why do people here say lesbians don’t go out? Why is it just assumed gay bars are a success and lesbian bars aren't? I started observing everything surrounding LGBT in general and the nightlife. And I asked myself the question “why am I in Shanghai?” The answer was “for the city.” The city meaning the people as well. I came to the conclusion that it’s not the community that’s lacking. Every bar is shaped by people. And even more so for LGBT bars, but often the operational side is left behind. So we had to start thinking about what our ladies wanted. Instead of looking at the gay bars & lesbian bars in the same way.
My goal with Roxie has always been to focus on connecting people and to continue being there with our quality drinks. We are a meeting spot and a community bar. One of the challenges is to connect different people from different backgrounds. So we do everything bilingual. The reason behind this is so everyone will feel welcome no matter where you are from.
Tell us about a risk you’ve taken as an entrepreneur that paid off.
I guess for most businesses it’s the same. You take a risk of continuing running the business, paying rent/ investing your own time. Running a business is not about buying a place and hiring people, that’s only the start. Running a business is about continually trying to develop and nurture it, adding oil to the motor everyday then it will eventually get some soul by itself. When it runs well, it goes by itself. The risk is what you face before it has an automatic running motor. I would say this is a good 6-12 months of every new business. So for the first year you will be dealing with the set up of the business. We try not to act spoiled and expect everything to have a return just because we believe in it. We have to stay realistic and face the fact that everyone has different tastes and needs. This mindset helped me as a bartender a lot.
What challenges have you faced when starting your businesses? What have you learned from these challenges?
Money and support. I realized no one would get the concept of what I was trying to create until it materialized before their eyes. So the support you are trying to garner from friends or family might just be about having a listening ear. You know what’s best for your own business, because the idea started with you. I learned it’s not about how much help you have. It is about how persistent you are. Being persistent about the way you want to run your business and what the goal was from the start. Money wise I have learned that throwing money to something doesn't solve the problem. So don’t spend it all at once. You might need it in other places. I try to think through every money decisions we make.
In your opinion, what are the biggest obstacles facing female entrepreneurs? And how do we overcome them?
Now it’s not such a big deal. But in the past I found people assumed I didn’t understand a lot about different things, general stereotyping, such as a girl wouldn’t understand anything regarding construction or mechanics, and they try to fool you. I don’t think of them as an obstacle, we are not here to teach anyone a lesson or prove anyone wrong, arguing with people is a waste of time, just get it done towards your own goal, work mentally and physically, action speaks. There are many ways to run a bar. But we do what we do. We put out a respectful platform out there for people to enjoy and we expect respect back.
Having run and started multiple businesses (Inferno, Roxie, RIINK) what kind of mindset does an entrepreneur need in order to be successful?
You cannot be lazy and just let it be. Keep on going until it’s done. But also take some “me” time ;) stay focused but don’t forget the world is changing all the time. Be willing to serve people and in general be a polite person. Be curious about the industry and what it involves.
What do you do to unwind?
I like nature. So once in a while I go and hike.
Shanghai also has a lot of good F&B places. I love to go to different places and enjoy the service/ food & drinks as a customer.
I also like to organize my stuff – haha! It’s very satisfying. I believe if the surroundings you live in are a mess your mind is a mess. So I need my surroundings to be clean and organized in order for me to focus.
If you would like to find out more about Roxie or RIINK you can find them at: