Zero to Hero: Stacks Ice-cream Owner Alan Wan
How it all started
Who would have thought that a young actor and ex Mr. Hong Kong contestant would have turned out to be a successful entrepreneur? Many would say that his success is mainly built upon the fame gained from his past acting and modelling experiences. However, Alan Wan, who goes by the Cantonese name of 大隻仔 (which means ‘Muscle Man’ literally) believes that it is down to hard work, passion and perhaps a bit of luck.
Born and raised in New York, Alan has always dreamed of being in the entertainment business and particularly, Hollywood. What attracted him to this dazzling industry is the challenge one faces every single day and the diverse characters one will have the opportunity to play. After graduating from university, Alan was unsure what career he should pursue. Hence his mother decided to enroll him into the Mr. Hong Kong beauty pageant to try his luck. Moving to Hong Kong was a hurdle for Alan at first due to the language barrier: he only spoke little Chinese, and has no family and friends in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, he quickly overcame the challenge by working hard to improve his Chinese and made a new group of friends in Hong Kong. Despite losing the beauty pageant, he slowly gained popularity and was given multiple opportunities to act in dramas and host television shows.
So why the sudden change from being an actor to a businessman selling ice-cream? Alan explains that he has always been thinking about starting a business for a very long time. ‘Making money is very important but for me, being happy is my motto.’ he says, ‘Other than acting, I have always wanted to be a cook too! Thus I am very lucky to be able to not only pursue my career as an actor, but also start my own ice-cream business.’ The business was a success and Alan has definitely started a new trend of ice cream sandwiches which is different and unique from the current Hong Kong egg waffle and pancake with the ice cream trend. A few of his most popular or special series of ice cream sandwiches include the pineapple bun with selective ice cream and cookie sandwich with Thai ice-tea flavoured ice cream.
Starting from zero
Nonetheless, despite the success, one will definitely face all sorts of challenges, especially for Alan who has no experience in business management and making ice cream. Bigger problems that he had to overcome include problems with renting stores. ‘I was very unlucky, because I always came across situations where I was ready to sign the contracts for renting a store and ended up having another rival company signing it before us.’ Alan sighs. ‘This happened quite frequently!’ Furthermore, it is a known fact that that food trends in Hong Kong are extremely volatile and changes constantly. Hence to be able to succeed in such a competitive market is very hard. In addition, as mentioned before, language barrier was a big hurdle for Alan. ‘It’s not just about being able to speak Chinese but read and write too!’ he says.
Despite the issues Alan has come across, he never regretted coming to Hong Kong. ‘It’s part of your life experience’ Alan explains, ‘the reason why I came to Hong Kong was to explore the world, discover more and learn Chinese, because I am after all Chinese but I don’t know anything about the Chinese language and culture.’ To conquer all those problems that he came across, Alan travelled around the world, especially to California and New York in the United States to expand his knowledge of ice cream making and try out different ice cream around the area. Even when he was in Japan, all he did was try out ice cream. From these adventures, he realised that Japanese and American milk is very distinct. Therefore, to find the perfect ice cream taste, Alan had to gain experience, start from basics and explore the different recipes. ‘Internships are very important!’ Alan also adds. He suggests that if possible, intern in as many kinds of companies as possible because every person, every employer and every manager has a unique way of working. ‘Experience is what enriches your knowledge and understanding.’
When asked if he had any long term goals in the near 5-10 years, Alan replied that he never thinks about what he might be doing and should do in the near future. For him, it is about living the moment and doing what needs to be done. Nevertheless, he does have his lifetime goal that he wants to pursue: acting in Hollywood. One of the initial reasons that he came to Hong Kong willingly was because he was passionate about acting and he wanted to gain experience in Hong Kong. Even if he was given the opportunity to choose his career and life all over again, he said confidently that he has no regrets. Just like business, if you never step out of your comfort zone and take up the challenge, nothing will ever happen. The worse case scenario for Alan was that if he failed, he was to return to the United States. ‘No matter what, your family and friends will always be there for you!’ Alan remarks.
Never give up
It is vital to understand that starting a business or being an entrepreneur is not easy and effortless because we are living in a highly aggressive and competitive society. However, at the end of the day, as Alan puts it, ‘Just be creative and never be afraid. Go with the flow, be yourself and do what you like! These are my morals in life. Don’t worry too much because there are things in life that cannot be changed.’