For anyone that follows Ronnie Li on social media will know Ronnie as the globe trotting, cork popping, food loving face of Chrisanne Clover. Being the Managing Director of Chrisanne Clover, Ronnie truly believes in loving what you do and giving yourself fully to your dreams, and making things happen.
Here is a little story behind Ronnie's success and how he has become such a well known face in our dancing world...
Renowned for his effervescent personality and entrepreneurial passion, Ronnie Li (in some quarters he’s called “Typhoon Ronnie”) is one of the best-loved names in the world of ballroom dancing. But you won’t see his dazzling smile on the dance floor. Sure, at one time he had a go at competing, but he figured that his skills were better deployed in generating ideas and making things happen. Nowadays, based squarely on the business side of the footlights, he’s best known as Managing Director of the hugely successful Chrisanne Clover, the dernier mot in the global world of dance couture.
Introduced to the world of dance in China by his uncle, China’s ballroom star Philip Li, Ronnie grew up in Shanghai. After graduating from Beijing Foreign Studies University in 1995, he moved to London, where he developed business management skills at the dancewear company, Choice London. It was during this period that he had the great good fortune to meet his wife Maika, a top ballroom dancer in Japan. Last, but not least, he also learnt how to embellish dresses!
Ronnie Li’s first solo venture, Crystal Clover, had humble beginnings at a flat in Norbury, on the outskirts of London, but quickly spilled over into a shop nearby. In 2008, Crystal Clover Japan was born. By 2015, Ronnie Li had acquired Chrisanne, one of the best-known brands in the world of ballroom dance; the two businesses merged to form Chrisanne Clover, a sparkling union that brought together innovation, knowledge, and heritage. In June the following year, the first Chrisanne Clover flagship store opened its doors in Shanghai.
Ronnie Li lives by the mantra: “Do what you love. Throw yourself into it fully. Keep improving, and—above all—make sure you have fun!” His dream for Chrisanne Clover is to be a trendsetter and dream-maker, and extend the company’s market leadership with flagship stores across the globe. “Expect lots of excitement, activity, and movement!” he says cheerfully. Somehow, knowing this irrepressible maverick, we don’t doubt it for one moment!
Tell us a little about yourself: where you were born, where you grew up, where you are based, where you acquired your business acumen.
Ronnie grew up in Shanghai and achieved his university degree in English Program of Information Management at Beijing Foreign Studies in 1995. With the support of his mother, a store manager, and his father a legal consultant, he moved to London to begin his career in the dancing world.
How long had you been in the dancewear business before 2004, the year you launched Crystal Clover? What inspired your interest in the dancewear sector to begin with?
Ronnie was introduced to the world of dance by his uncle Philip Li, who was the leading Ballroom dancer in China at the time. Philip Li was a pioneer, introducing the Ballroom dancing industry to China and laying the foundation for the popularity it has today.
Captivated by the ambition, drive and glamour of the dancing world Ronnie decided to take a bold step and to move to London, the dance capital of the world, to take on a job with the company CHOICE LONDON.
Ronnie threw himself into the business and quickly got involved in all areas, from preparing and dispatching orders in the warehouse, to showroom sales, from accounting to dress making and even embellishing dresses.
During his time at CHOICE LONDON Ronnie met his wife Maika, who was also a Ballroom dancer, and two beautiful children now make his family complete.
By 2004 Ronnie was ready to venture out on his own and created his own business CRYSTAL CLOVER from his flat in Norbury. Focusing on colour-matching fabrics, prints and menswear, CRYSTAL CLOVER very soon literally grew out of the flat (with rolls of fabrics hanging out of the windows), and Ronnie set up his first shop in North Cheam.
By 2008 demand for CRYSTAL CLOVER in Japan became ever present and with the help of Masayo CRYSTAL CLOVER in Tokyo was born.
The premises in London kept expanding and by 2013 Crystal Clover presented itself from a beautiful shop with warehouse space and offices right next door to Dance Options in Cheam, the largest competitive dance studio in London.
In 2015 Ronnie surprised the dancing industry by acquiring CHRISANNE from its founders Peter and Christina Dobner and merged the two businesses into CHRISANNE CLOVER, the undisputed market leader in the industry. Jumping from eight to 65 employees was a bold move which is quickly paying off.
In line with the vision of having direct representation in all major countries a new Chrisanne Clover flagship store was opened in Shanghai in 2016.
Were you/are you a dancer? Chrisanne Clover sponsors several top Ballroom dancers, but do you follow what’s happening in the world of dance competition for its own sake?
Ronnie tried and failed to be a dancer … From the story above you can tell that dancing permeates Ronnie’s professional as well as his personal life, he has been able to make a business career out of his passion. Ronnie loves travelling around the world, meeting new people and building new friendships and relationships. In the dance world Ronnie knows everyone and everyone knows Ronnie!
The true friendships he has created within the business, the glamour and the stunning beauty of dancing has made this Ronnie’s love and life.
Do you personally have creative skills?
Ronnie’s skills are in creating opportunities, generating ideas, getting the right people together and making new things happen. It is not part of Ronnie’s DNA to slow down, so in some quarters, he is called ‘Typhone Ronnie’!
Regarding your acquisition of Chrisanne, did you just happen to see a good business opportunity? Was it a “smart gamble”, or were you as certain as is humanly possible that combining the two companies would be a good move?
Ronnie had known Chrisanne for many years. Although the two companies were competing in the same market Ronnie kept good relations with the Chrisanne team and prior to the merger the two businesses had in fact started to successfully work together on several projects. In 2015 the time was right for all parties, personally as well as for the businesses. In business terms it was actually a textbook merger combining the strengths of two leading players in the industry and catapulting Ronnie into a number 1 position miles ahead of any other competitor.
The integration is now completely providing a superb platform for future initiatives and growth. There is no shortage of ideas – expect lots of excitement, activity and movement!
What words of wisdom would you give to people starting out on the road to fulfilling their entrepreneurial dream? London Business School’s Gerard Danford says: “Entrepreneurs are usually authentic, preferring to work for themselves rather than a faceless company without a mission or social purpose. They do not want to have to check in their values at the front door every time they go to work." Do you have a mission for the next five years? Does this account for some your self-reliance? Are you a natural-born optimist?
Do what you love and then throw yourself into it fully, never stop improving yourself and the business, never be satisfied with being second best and – above all – make sure you have fun on the way!
In the coming years, we want to make sure that Chrisanne Clover is the partner of choice for dancers, the partner which they can rely on to help them achieve their dreams.
For our team, we want to be a stable enjoyable workplace which supports everyone to grow to their full potential.
What’s coming up next on the horizon for Chrisanne Clover?
Ronnie’s dream for CHRISANNE CLOVER is to further extend the market leadership in dancing with flagship stores across key cities around the world and to be the household name in everyone’s mind when it comes to ‘creating your dream’.
Watch this space! 😊