Leon sits down with Peng Lin, CEO and founder of VIVA Scandinavia, a consumer-centric glassware and accessories brand. Peng has a wealth of experience in manufacturing high-end products and managing consumer and sales data. Peng and Leon discuss Peng's unique background, his entrance into the glassware market, and why Kickstarter is such a powerful tool for product design and development.
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Special thanks to E and Y for helping us bring you today's PEO Leadership Snippet Podcast. Welcome to our Snippets Podcast. I'm Leon Goren, CEO and President of PEO Leadership, North America's premier peer to peer network and leadership advisory firm. We've been off the air for a few months, but we're back today. And I'm very excited to welcome Peng Lin CEO and founder of VIVA Scandinavia, and the CEO of DKK Enterprises. Peng joined us at PEO Leadership in the middle of COVID, while our meetings were in the backyard of my home, and he's been an absolute gem to not only our platform group, but to those he's who he's been able to interact with in the PEO leadership community to date. Peng, it's great to have you with us today.Peng Lin:
Thank you, Leon, thank you for being here.Leon Goren:
So Peng, you have a very unique background coming from overseas born in China, maybe just give our listeners and our members a little bit of background of where you grew up, and how you ended up here.Peng Lin:
Well, yeah, sure. So I was born in the northern part of China and Siberian China, in a city called Handan being a small city with 9 million people. And when I was about 11 years old, I moved to Denmark with my parents. So we emigrated there. And I pretty much had a change of my life, have come to learn Danish and starting school over there. So in Denmark, I studied business and two years into university, I unfortunately had to drop out to run my IT business back then, where we make mostly integration between ERP system and web applications. So I did that for four to three years. And then one day, when I went to China to visit my grandmother, this guy from my office building asked me to find this small magnet for him for Zwilling, it's a German knife-maker. And I went back and they and found found the factory doing that, and I saw this margin is pretty good. This is back in 2001. So instead of this, this is good business better than this it thing. So I got out of it, and started to import from from China into the market. And I did that for a while until 2006, where I met my wife, who's Australian. I have three kids (5, 7, 9) here in Toronto. So funny enough, I met this Australian girl in in China where I was traveling to see she had apartment, so it was a bit of opposite of normal. And we got along really well. So we decided that it's time for me to move back to China. So I moved back to China. And instead of buying from local vendors, I started a factory over there. And from then and I guess even till now, we have been producing for some of the biggest and most known houseware brands globally and basically produced for them on a contract basis. So they will give us drawings and we will produce for resaleLeon Goren:
Peng, just to clarify that. So that's an- it's a glass factory essentially, is what you're making, glass product, which is-Peng Lin:
We will be making glass. Everything from canisters to water glass, the candles or pictures, when pictures, lights and so on anything in glass. Our niche is to make very high end glassware combined with other materials, and we were really not we never competed against local Chinese we were competing mostly against the Polish and the Czech Danish manufacturers so so for our customers that could come to China get a European quality at half of what they will be paying in Europe.Leon Goren:
So that- since so today, I mean, you're still doing that for a bunch of luxury brands. But really where your heart is, I mean, you're I know you have a passion for tea. And so you've launched your own brand on that. The other thing that in our group, at least we're all very fortunate we got these whiskey glasses that you you make they're under the LIITON brand which has just been fantastic. Talk to us a little bit because you did things differently in terms of building your brand. You went, you're going straight to the consumer. Well, you're doing both right, you're doing b2b, a little bit-Peng Lin:
-direct consumer. Yeah. So so like I said, we we've been producing for global brands, and retailers. And I've seen, you know, most of these brands will mark up our costs by up to 12, 18 times the production value, so we'll be selling it for them for $2. And they will be selling it for 20, or even more 25. So, so I realized that the consumers are really not getting a lot for their money. So imagine that you're paying $100, but only 15 of it goes to the product itself. Everything else is just what's around it, you know, I have a passion for tea. So we saw a hole in the market of well made functional, designed tea accessories. So we started the brand, to fill that gap. And it's also one of the reasons that we moved to Canada because I wanted to be closer to the customers. When we lived in China, we were 10 hours flight from my nearest consumer. So we never had a good idea of what people really wanted. So coming to Canada, my mission was to sell to my neighbors, like I said to myself, I want to sell to my neighbors, my next door neighbor. And we said to my neighbor buys a lot of clothes, whiskey, he drinks a lot of whiskey, so he buys. And so I went really from being pulled far from consumer to almost obsessed, selling direct to consumer. One, I want to give the consumer most value for money, but also just to get the understanding so that we in our design process are customer centric.Leon Goren:
Yeah. So you and I could talk for hours, there's so many sources here. But one thing I wanted to bring to the members was until I met you, you know, I'd heard about Kickstarter, how people use it. But you've really developed a couple of products in terms of how you're developing your products and bringing them to market. And I wonder if you can share, you know, one or two pieces of that of how you do that? Because I think it's just an amazing idea for product development.Peng Lin:
Yeah, I mean, Kickstarter is definitely a good platform is part crowd funding generator, it's a fantastic platform, it's, it's a tough platform, because you are facing 10s of 1000s, if not hundreds of 1000s of consumer directly. So the good thing is you get the truth about your product. So bad thing is also that you get to choose about your product. So in that process, in a we have developed a process from finding or scouting the product ideas, all the way to when they launched get launched on Amazon. And Kickstarter plays a big part in this entire process, where we start validating the ideas through some of the technologies that we have developed. And once a product is validated, and we know there's a good market fit, Kickstarter is ultimate validator. Because you are selling an idea and ask people to pay for your idea. Anything is produced. Right? So So Kickstarter. And another thing that is very interesting with Kickstarter is once you're done with Kickstarter, you have already sales data that you can show to if you do retail afterwards, you can show the buyers down to the postcode, you can say, you know In, in New Jersey, we sell this and this many and the demographic that we sold to because on Kickstarter, we do surveys, so we have data on every single customer. In the latest campaign. We reached about $1.2 million with about, say 11,000 customers and for every single of those 11,000 we know exactly who they are. And not only where they live, we also know where they work, their job, their income. And also we ask questions like, How can we improve? You know, what would you like to see on the next version? So that we can we can use that learning for, for for the future products?Leon Goren:
Oh, that's great. You know, it's funny. I know people listening to this will be okay, can I reach out to Peng and understand it a little more. And I know you're so busy. But I know you also respond to emails once in a while. Peng if people are looking to hear your products, if they're looking for your products today, I mean, shop VIVA number one, where are they buying-Peng Lin:
ShopeVIVA.com, LIITON.com, or just on Amazon.Leon Goren:
All right, so and those whiskey glasses, we didn't say what was so unique about them. But the mountains that you've put in those glasses is what really distinguishes it from anything else. You've been building these mountain collections within the glass itself. And if you get a chance, I'd urge all of you to take a look at it. And they're absolutely fantastic, Peng. Like I said, we could go on for hours here, but I really wanted to thank you for your time and thank you for sharing some of your insights with us today. If you're interested in any of our live webcasts, the way forward live or any other snippets, please take a moment and visit us at PEO-leadership.com. You'll find on our site various previous recorded webcasts which include guests as Morgan Housel, Professor Janice Stein, and the early days, we had Harvard's Rosabeth Kanter, Michael Beer, they're all still there, Dr. Jason Selk, Mitchell Goldhar lately, Vanessa Bohns was just added early this year. As we cover such topics is mental health, leadership, the new world, and a host of others. Thank you for joining us today. Have a great weekend, and we look forward to seeing you again shortly.