Ray Chan is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and unique entrepreneurs within our city. Consistently going against the grain for him has paid off. Having just celebrated the 9th birthday of Candypants, global expansion is on the cards. But aside from a global events brand, Ray opened up his very own restaurant in 2016 too. MANS Market has revolutionised the Chinese restaurant concept. We spoke to Ray to gain some insights into his story, his businesses and also the future.
Intro: Tell us about yourself?
I’m Ray Chan, I’m born and bred Leeds and grew up in Horsforth. I never set out on a path to run a global events brand or own a Chinese restaurant but that’s how things have come together after years of following my gut instinct and going against the grain.
How did it all begin?
I moved to Headingley after Uni & all I did was go out, 5 nights a week. I got to know a lot of people and build good relationships, this enabled me to build a strong network and I guess that’s what broke me through into events. Candypants formed from spotting a gap in the market, we wanted to adhere to a broad range of professional people in which the night was more commercially led rather than just the music. We never built the brand around a DJ or a specific genre of music.
For Mans Market, we wanted to put a modern twist on the stereotypical Chinese restaurant and also the food. We live in a cleaner, more aware and healthy environment and that’s exactly what we’ve adapted this restaurant too. The interiors are Hong Kong inspired, which is where my family is from. It was all pieced together gradually which gave it its unique individuality, as it’s not premeditated.
What are your main inspirations?
The Chinese mindset generally is very negative, my family owned a Chinese takeaway and they were never open to trying new things to adapt to an ever-evolving market. This is something that I picked up on when I was growing up and I have made a conscious effort to do things differently and that all starts with being positive and not necessarily taking the easy option or route.
How does Leeds act as a breeding ground for entrepreneurs?
Leeds has always been a city full of entrepreneurial minds. And this comes from generations inspiring other generations. I’ve been very lucky to meet some great people in the industry. Nick House who founded the Mahiki brand would be one of them; he spent a couple of years studying in Leeds. But all you need is a positive mindset, and this city is certainly a great place to do it.
What’s the future looking like for your businesses?
- Future of MANS – To keep building the reputation of good food and environment. And potentially scale into other cities.
- New Candypants project – We have been developing something really interesting over the past 3 years within the brand. This will be will be announced shortly.
- Expanding into new markets with the Candypants brand branching into Ibiza on the 16th July, 10th August, and 14th August to start with alongside our weekly events in around the UK, Marbella & Dubai
If it was your last day in Leeds, would your perfect day consist of? (example: where and what would you eat, what would you do etc)
I’d probably start off with a little bit of training. A nice brunch at any of the independent coffee shops and then I’d see where the day takes me I guess.
Any standout moments or funny stories in Leeds during your time running your businesses in the city?
We’ve had some amazing characters come through the doors and there have been some brilliant stories through the years, some are better-kept secret. A big name that came I recall in 2009 when Lennox Lewis came to Candypants at Oracle and I was fortunate to share a few drinks with him and shake his monster hand! Wouldn’t have liked to be punched by him!
Funny event story, we organised a pyjama party in Newcastle. We were lucky to have the whole X Factor Tour come in onesies and PJ’s along with our usual crowd. I thought it was a good idea to bring some feather pillows with me and at the peak of the night I handed them out. 30 minutes later after a huge pillow fight between 300 people the club was filled with feathers literally up to your knees. I avoided all calls from owners and managers for a few weeks after that!
We have Season 7 of our Marbella parties which kicked off on the 28th April at TIBU Banus followed by weekly boat parties.