Andrea Rizzo (SCIS Class of 2013) looks back on her time at Shanghai Community International School (SCIS) with fondness. We were lucky enough to be able to see what she has been up to since leaving our campus to chase her dreams. She is a woman of many talents whose dedication and heart for children have grown into a business of her own. Andrea takes each challenge in stride and works hard to ensure that her dream of bringing magic to children all over the world becomes reality.
Welcome to Once, Always, a series celebrating the wonderful stories from former students, parents, and staff that all share something in common - their time at SCIS. #OnceADragonAlwaysADragon
Tell us a little about yourself, apart from China, where have you lived?
I'm twenty-seven years old and I'm from Italy. When I was in Italy, we moved around a lot, and eventually, we moved to Beijing when I was thirteen years old. After two years in Beijing, we moved to Shanghai. After that, I lived in Bath and London where I studied and opened my first Kids Entertainment company. In 2018 I returned to Shanghai, and I'm still here now!
What are you currently up to?
Right now, I'm juggling a bit of everything, I like to keep busy! I'm tutoring part-time, finishing my Events Management masters online, running a kids drama club twice a week, helping at my family's restaurant in Qingpu, performing Italian Folk Dance at Italian cultural events throughout the year. Most importantly, though, I'm the owner of The Storybook, a kid's entertainment and events company.
That's quite the busy schedule! Where did the idea behind The Storybook come from?
I've always enjoyed performing arts, theatre, costumes, dance, singing. I always knew I wanted to work for myself, but the idea came in 2014 when I was studying in the UK. I had several part-time jobs in amusement parks and for other entertainment companies, including Alton Towers, Avon Valley, Merlin. I wanted to make the magic that amusement parks offer but make it affordable and accessible to children on their birthdays. Which little boy or girl doesn't want their hero to show up at their party, meet their friends, and celebrate their special day?
From there I started brainstorming. I was working four jobs and studying to be able to afford my first entertainment company "Jasmine's Fairytale Events (JFE)", with every monthly paycheck invested forward to purchasing new character costumes, wigs, and party supplies. Over time, JFE has turned into The Storybook Events LTD, The Storybook for short, which is our current trading brand, but it has kept its traditional view of being able to bring magic to children all over the world.
What has been the toughest part of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
The toughest is not being able to turn off my brain. I'm constantly coming up with new ideas, new characters. I barely have any days off and I'm often working late in the night or over hours. I think being able to delegate work has been the most difficult part for me. I'm a perfectionist, and I'm very hands-on when it comes to costumes, wigs, etc. I always want to do everything on my own, but I am slowly learning it's okay to trust others with your brand. I'm also learning the importance of setting a schedule for myself. Sometimes you have to step back and look at yourself from a different perspective as being your boss means learning from your own mistakes.
At the end of the day, what is the most rewarding part of working for yourself?
Being able to be my boss, set my hours, and being able to say no if I need to take a holiday or a day off. During a party or an event, the look on kids' and parent's faces when a princess or superhero walks in is priceless. To me, that look says "Good job, Andrea, you've done it, you made this family's dreams come true". And that's very rewarding. We also get families messaging us months or even years after parties to tell us how their child remembers that special day when their favourite character joined them for their birthday celebration.
Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Try to have a clear idea of what it is that you want to do. What is your mission? Find something that is missing and make it happen. Once your idea is clear, and believe me this takes time, it will be much easier to move forward with your business or project. Keep a journal for everything, have a few things (objects, photos, songs) that you can go back to any time you are not feeling confident. Try to get involved with similar businesses as much as you can, whether it is paid or just an internship, attend training, learn from others, ask questions. It may sound cliché, but the most important advice is to stick to your idea and don't let anyone else bring you down or tell you that you are not good enough to make your dreams a reality.
Looking back, what do you miss most about your time at SCIS?
My time at SCIS was lovely and I remember all of it fondly. I miss the drama and dance classes, rehearsing for an upcoming show, walking up and down the stairs in the theatre. The quietness of the library after school. The teachers always believed in the students and were always ready to support us, especially my former English and Dance teachers. Oh, and the cinnamon buns at the café!
If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
What everyone else is doing is their thing, and whatever is working for them may not work for you. Be an individual, follow your heart, and believe in your dreams without letting others tell you that you are not good enough or your dreams are too big.
- once, always