A Russian born Sinophile, Ashley Dudarenok has used her passions for China and psychology to create businesses and training courses to help others develop business relationships with China.
What’s your story?
I was born in Russia in the last years of the Soviet Union. At 17, I moved to Chongqing, China to study business before relocating to Hong Kong in 2010. After some years in the corporate world, I started my China-focused social media agency and began sharing insights on LinkedIn and YouTube — doing thought leadership. On this entrepreneurship journey, I gradually diversified my business model from social media marketing to include training, content subscription services, strategy, research, video courses, publications and more. The biggest mental shifts for me were brought by the study of psychology and doing thought leadership.
What excites you most about your industry?
I have a passion for building bridges between China and the rest of the world. China is a vibrant and complicated market so it can be hard for foreign businesses to get in as an outsider. It gives me great joy in helping people and brands understand China and achieving success. Marketing, e-commerce and tech adoption in China are simply unparalleled. I get to witness, research and report exciting trends and cool innovations every day at work and it certainly feels like I am watching the future being built.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
I am a big believer that business isn’t a chore; it is about fun and achieving constant growth. I am in love with what I do. This passion and enthusiasm do not only drive me but also motivate me in building others up, especially women in business. I am an active supporter of women in leadership and that is also the reason why I created a self-development program for female leaders, called FIRE. I would love to empower more women to start their businesses and get into thought leadership.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
Psychology and mindset. As a leader, you will always need to understand and master the skill of positive psychology, i.e. learn how to be a calculated optimist, how to boost your energy level. Control your mindset as it can create a culture and new reality for you and also the people you work with. I have taken several mentorship and self-development courses in the past 3.5 years. Nothing has impacted and helped with the success of my business more than my understanding of psychology.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Ask yourself better questions. With better questions, come better answers. Our brain works in miraculous ways, it will always find the answer for you (it’s like Google, but grander). When you ask yourself better questions, you will gain a new perspective so you begin to tell yourself empowering stories. For instance, when I encounter difficult tasks, I would ask myself questions such as how can I do this and still have fun? My brain will then tell me more enjoyable ways to power through these daunting tasks. Try doing that yourself, the answers you get can be surprisingly powerful.
Who inspires you?
The list is a long but good one – including visionaries with positive energy like entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Jack Ma; calculated optimists like business executive Robert Iger; empathetic and charismatic leaders like Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey; persistent, focused and determined people like actor Dwayne Johnson and Wu Zetian, the de facto ruler of China from 665 to 690; creative geniuses like poets William Shakespeare and Alexander Pushkin; unapologetic people that build their path, like soviet actress Faina Ranevskaya.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
The digital economy doesn’t make your product or service cheaper. You don’t need to discount your product through this new medium. For instance, earlier this year I had a belief our China Marketing Masterclass was the most impactful when delivered face to face and doubted brands would pay the same full price for the online version. As Covid19 hit, all offline events were out of the question. We started running online training and soon realised we could incorporate an array of interactive features to deliver even better value, and the brands are happy to pay the original price for it.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, all the different experiences made me who I am today. This is not to say I have been doing everything perfectly, but rather that some of these “hiccups”, “mistakes” or “inefficiencies” along the way are some of the things that made this journey much more valuable. People associate negative meanings with “failures”, but it can also be a win if you manage to learn and grow from it. I am very grateful for all the encounters and would not choose to walk my path in any different way.
How do you unwind?
I love to play board games, card games, and recently got into Mahjong for an extra China flair. What I love the most about these games is that it represents a compact version of the world and brings out a lot of life lessons, philosophies and self-reflection. Mahjong is a new but passionate hobby. As our teacher says, through Mahjong you learn to play with what life has handed you. No matter where and how you started, you can always turn it into a winning hand if you are patient, strategic and hop on opportunities at the right time.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
If something in your business is broken, work on improving yourself first. Think big. If you think big, you are conditioning yourself to have that mental power and capacities to do big things and to ultimately succeed. Thinking success conditions your mind to find solutions to achieve the success you envisioned. At the end of the day, your business will never outperform the psychology of its founder.
Everyone in business should read this book:
AI Superpowers by Kai-fu Lee and the trilogy published by Yuval Harari – Sapiens, Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
Shameless plug for your business:
I run two China-focused businesses. One is Alarice, a social media agency. We develop tailored digital marketing strategies for China and execute them, i.e. conduct consumer research, manage brands’ social media communities (WeChat, RED, Weibo, Douyin), develop content, execute campaigns, work with influencers and live-streamers, etc. The other is ChoZan, an insights and training company. We provide consultation, training and resources for in-house marketing and e-commerce teams working with the mainland. If you are looking to expand in the China market, come talk to us.
How can people connect with you?
The best way is to connect with me on LinkedIn as I share daily insights on China, marketing and leadership. I also share daily China-marketing focused videos on my YouTube business vlog, called Ashley Talks. You can always send me a note via the contact form on our site www.chozan.co.
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