Fast food restauranteur, Calvin Tan

I grew up in old shophouses selling car parts till I was 10. I loved sports; I was a very “outdoors” person and very non-studious. As a teenager I became rebellious, made a lot of mistakes and learned things the hard way.
I come from a huge family, my dad has 14 siblings. As older people say, “Last time there was no TV!”
I quit junior college after a year and planned to go to the States to study. While looking at schools there, I was amazed by the size of the country and how different prices were compared to Asia. I was stirred into doing business instead of pursuing an education.
I opened my first company in 2000, dealing with automotive parts. I started small, but it built up pace and I started to get more passionate about it.
I spent six months in China on my first trip and traveled to 17 cities alone; just knocking on doors, trying to get sales.
Carl’s Jr. was the only fast food I could eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner because it felt like it was proper food. After signing the deal for the franchise, I went to the US to train for four months, feeding fries into the fryer and learning how to be a restaurant manager; that’s when I fell in love with the food industry.
People thought we were crazy back then, the market was already so crowded. There were 147 McDonald’s, 56 Burger Kings and more than 70 KFCs. For a moment I asked myself too, “Are we crazy?”, but it’s been five years so I think we’re safe.
We want to say, “Burgers are not for kids anymore”.
I’ve had a piece of paper with me that last 10 years. It’s a saying from Meng Zi (Mencius), which tells us that if great responsibility is given to a person, he must go through hardship, pain, hunger, total loss and emptiness. Only then will that person be stable and withstand all challenges in life to come.
I carry a personal pair of chopsticks because I think about the trees that die just to make chopsticks for cup noodles. I cherish life a lot, it shouldn’t be wasted.
Whatever extravagant lifestyle comes with the job is a plus point, but it’s the mental satisfaction that I look for in business.
My passion in life is art, because to me, everything is art. I have a full body tattoo about the life of Zeus. I want to show the world that being tattooed doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.
I want to help youngsters out there. I want to tell those who’ve made mistakes not to give up. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
I won’t say in terms of wealth that I’m successful, but in terms of people, I’m very successful. People are more important than anything.
I started writing a diary when I started my business, and I still write today because what’s happening today is important.
I hope that the people who are with me now will walk with me my entire life. The day a person leaves this world is the day that you will know if they were successful; it’s what’s left behind.