I had travelled from my home immediately after being dismissed from a three-year stint in the army. Starting with a year in New York, I then returned eastward, reaching past my Israeli home to India for 10 wonderful months of roaming, and further east still, deeper into new cultures until coming up against the South China Sea. I had followed my inspirations, but hadn’t found my dream. Though, I had learned it would be in a creative field. In the last few months we’ve had a few influential individuals writing for this column, and they all have something in common — they enjoy what they do. Evidently those who make a difference do it with a positive drive while trying to benefit others as well as themselves. This is key for good life and it’s the same for good business, not only in Dongguan, but anywhere in the world. My specific story was truly made possible only in this city. I created and founded this magazine in August of 2005, and as you already know, this is our 100th consecutive issue. Back in 2005 I’d been in Dongguan two years and was teaching private English classes and trying to do some trading without much success. I was young and I was excited about the city’s increasing international flavor. New restaurants and bars were slowly popping up, international schools were opening and new hotels, as always, kept showing up all over town. People could feel it in the air. Dongguan was becoming a good place to live.
The idea for HERE! came up in a casual conversation and I loved it right away. I had no money at the time, and after a fallout with a potential investor for the venture, I was quickly back to square one with zero resources and a desperate attitude, which apparently is what you need sometimes in order to come back better and stronger. I believe Dongguan is one of those places that allows a testing of limits and imagination by providing the feeling that you can do anything. You can start talking to a guy on the street and – next thing you know – become good friends with new opportunities opening up.
I believe Dongguan is one of those places that allows a testing of limits and imagination by providing the feeling that you can do anything.
So in May of 2005 I decided I was not going to just quit, and since I had nothing to lose I started working on HERE! Dongguan from home. At the time there weren’t many English periodicals in China, so it was hard to research and learn from real life examples. I had to go with my instincts and listen to as much advice as possible from friends and family. I started going around town gathering information, as I believed a good city guide should start with a good business directory that includes only those places our future readers would need and want.
I learned to say in Chinese “Can I get your business cards?” And I practically hiked the streets of the city looking for establishments that fit the interests of my imagined readers. I must have walked tens of kilometers under the Dongguan sun, but it was what needed to be done.
Later on when the first issue was printed, I had to go strolling the city once again, this time with an old large, heavy suitcase filled with copies of the 16-page first edition, trying to convince coffee shops, hotels, bars and others to take and introduce it to their customers. I still recall the blue suitcase breaking down on me somewhere around New World Garden. It was not fun, but it was worth it. A good Chinese friend helped source a printing factory, which I remember was so small and dirty compared with those we print with today, but they did it well enough and improved the quality over the following months. Another friend helped me print the first sample of HERE! Dongguan (still stored securely in my safe at home) with his home printer and I was all set to start showing the future magazine to potential clients. After the first issue came out in August, expats started contacting me asking if we need any help with writing or with anything else. Some of those contributors were writing for free for a very long time until we could start paying them, which was a huge help.
Yes, I was lucky. It all came together, in the right place and at the right time. Many times over the last eight years I’ve thought about that beginning; the hard work, the challenges I had to overcome and learning the complexities, while experiencing them on the job. Every time I get to the same conclusion: it had to be Dongguan.
I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it in any other place. It was the right time for the community and luckily I was the guy who had jumped on that chance. And with the help of a community craving for English guidance and entertainment – foreign and locals – what was just an idea once became the only popular and widely read English guide to this bustling city, eight years later.
Ziv Glikman spent three years jumping out of airplanes with the Israeli Army. Upon discharge, traveling and friendship brought him to China where he met his soulmate Michelle and is now raising two great kids, Daniella and Zen.