The Germans and their green thumb, a love story that has reached a new peak in recent months due to corona restrictions.
One person who benefits from the trendy holiday between leek and pergola is David Zhou. With his online shop "VBLED" he sells LED lighting for indoor and outdoor use. In the past few months, the business with garden spotlights has been particularly brisk. "We have 50 percent more sales, our warehouse was almost empty at times. Especially our "Gartus" outdoor lighting system is in great demand," says the Chinese company founder.
Closed home improvement stores in March and April did the rest to boost online business with garden products. But even after the stores have opened, people still buy a lot from Zhou. Up to 100 packages leave his warehouse every day.
The fact that Zhou came to Bremen in 2013 was due to a trade fair that the 40-year-old entrepreneur visited back then in Shanghai. There he got to know Bremeninvest and the possibilities of expanding in faraway Germany. He liked the fact that Bremen was a compact city with a conveniently located airport, excellent infrastructure and a large Chinese community. On top of that, Bremeninvest's direct approach and offer of support convinced him there and then of Bremen's merits as a business location. Zhou had long toyed with the idea of moving to Europe.
The past seven years in Germany have been full of ups and downs. The beginning was not easy. "In Germany it takes a long time to do business." That surprised the Chinese at first. At home, the initiation of business is different, cooperation comes about much faster.
He now has over 400 different products online, most of which come to Bremen by ship, but sometimes also by air freight. From his small warehouse in the east of Bremen, Zhou and his employee then ship to the European market.
"We develop our products ourselves - and always respond to customer feedback," says Zhou. This was not always the case: the first products he brought from China to Germany were designed by him and his engineers according to personal taste. What the Chinese liked, however, met with little enthusiasm in Germany. "Since then we have been working closely with our customers and collecting feedback. Our advantage is that we can react very quickly to wishes and developments. This way we are constantly improving."
In his 60-man factory in China, Zhou has his own development and production facilities: Lights, controls, accessories, everything around the LED. He regularly discusses new ideas with his team in video conferences.
In Germany it takes a long time to do business.
Twice a year he flies to China to personally check upon his factory. Otherwise, however, he has become completely a citizen of Bremen. A good decision, as David and his wife Xiumei "Lica" Zhou say looking back. The family - two daughters go to school in Bremen - feels at home, Lica Zhou also works in the company and takes care of accounting.
"Bremen is a small but very beautiful city. We can go for a walk in nature every day after work, we enjoy that very much. We also like the way the city, but also Germany as a whole, has dealt with the corona crisis," explains the online entrepreneur. He regularly meets with other members of the Chinese community in Bremen - entrepreneurs who have similar experiences and challenges.
For the future Zhou wants to expand the business of his Barite International GmbH. Currently he is still looking for new employees to support him in the warehouse. "I would like to become even more active in the area of industrial applications in the future, I still see a large market there," he says about his further plans. In addition to the consumer business, Zhou also sells his products to wholesalers and electrical shops, which could rely on him even more in the future - if he had his way.
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