Live Your Dream: Gear up your Passion
In every generation, there will always be people who are unable to proceed freely in the pursuit of their ideals, as they struggle between reality and the ideal. Alan was previously a full time theatrical drama actor, but is now an independent café owner. Both careers may be something that many youth envy, but Alan’s path in both was neither easy nor romantic.
Alan came to Toronto with his parents in grade 10. In university, he participated in a drama that explored immigrant identity. It was this experience that stimulated his interest in drama, as well as renewed his thoughts on where his “roots” laid.
A few years later, he decided to return to Hong Kong and study drama at the College of Performing Arts. After graduation, he worked in Hong Kong’s theatrical drama industry for more than a decade. He participated in many large drama group performances and, at the same time, was also involved in high school drama education. After getting married, and with the birth of his daughter, he decided to go back to Canada with his family for a new beginning. This decision was made in consideration of Hong Kong’s political atmosphere at the time, and to give his daughter a better education environment in the future. How to provide his family with a better life was his primary focus.
“Would running a business in western society as a Chinese give him a better path than performing arts in Hong Kong?” he asked himself.
Alan 坦言，藝術路是艱辛的，要全心投入，是一條不要回頭望的路，一回望便會輸。太太亦同為藝術工作者，兩口子各自努力，經濟不成問題，但有了孩子之後便有更多考慮，尤其自由工作者 (freelancer)，收入不穩定。他亦想過自組藝團，不過一旦與商業掛鈎便很多制肘；即使獲得資助，亦要迎合要求，難以維持自己的藝術路向。相比之下，經營咖啡館的生意有多一點空間，雖然也要配合巿場，顧客的口味，不過，總可以自創一條路，靠自己的賣點突圍而出。
Alan admitted that a career in performing arts is a very difficult path to walk. You must immerse yourself completely, and cannot think about giving up or retreating; or you would lose. His wife was also an artist, and they did not have any financial problems as they both worked hard. After having a child, however, there were more factors to consider. Being a freelancer especially meant that his income could be unstable at times. He also thought of creating his own performance group, but there were many business-related constraints. Even if he did receive government funding, he would have to follow their direction and this would make maintaining his own artistic direction difficult.
The year before the opening of his café, Alan and his sister visited every café and coffee shop in metro Toronto for research. They discovered that in Toronto, there were very few mid-grade cafés and bars tailored to customers of 30-50 years old. In Markham especially, where most Chinese congregate, there were few cafés and bars at night for friends to gather and socialize. Alan saw market opportunity for this age group and decided to provide an alternative between chain coffee shops and bubble tea stores. Alan’s café opened at the beginning of this year. He named it “Zen”, which, as the name suggests, means comfort and tranquility were the main design concepts. The café provides organic professional coffee, red wine, and western style dessert items. The second floor has an independent VIP room that is very suitable for small gatherings. The café does not provide Wi-Fi.
From pursuing art to entrepreneurship, Alan thanks his parents for their support and understanding over the years. “Study Art? Nine out of ten parents would probably kill someone if they hear that!” He jokingly said, suggesting that even his parents were no exceptions. Alan’s parents have business backgrounds, and believed that you cannot find success working for someone else. He never would have thought that the business knowledge and skills he observed and learned from his parents while growing up could be of use today. Now, his father has become his teacher in business and often gives him sound advice. Even so, his parents understood that his passion towards art never faded. Alan wishes that once the café business is stable, he would open a workshop with his wife to nurture the next generation through art activities.
Alan 直言自己對藝術的一團火，曾經為了生活而熄滅，回加拿大後決心開咖啡店，而心中的藝術火種又再重燃。他強調，無論是當年報讀戲劇抑或今天開店，在追尋理想的路上，最重要的是敢於踏出第一步，離開自己的安樂窩(comfort zone)，否則只會原地踏步。面對現實的限制，要不忘心中的火種，才可活得豐盛。
Alan admitted that the fire he had towards art was once extinguished due to the realities of life. That fire was ignited once again after opening his café. Regardless of whether it was deciding to study drama in the past, or opening a café today, Alan emphasized that the most important thing was to take that first step when pursuing your dream. If you don’t step out of your comfort zone, you will only stay where you are. You need to face the limits of real life but you should not forget the sparks in your heart, so that you may live an enriched life.