Winter Term 2014: Free Day

Today, Jan. 11, we had the morning off and had a unique opportunity to explore the city without the structure of a tour guide and bus. Walking through The People’s Park, which was a large park directly across from our hotel, we saw glimpses of everyday life in Shanghai. From elderly women practicing Tai Chi to young persons waiting in line to see the Shanghai Art Museum, it was amazing to see the city out and about and experience life directly, rather than simply through the confinement of a vehicle and the lens of a tour guide.

After finishing our stroll through the park, we cut over to a side street and took in the sights from the local vendors who had set up shop. Whether it was shrimp flavored potato chips, pickled chicken’s feet, or children’s jumpers, the street vendors possessed a wide range of unfamiliar and intriguing wares. Among those shops most fascinating to my group was small bakery specializing in something they described to us as an “egg custard.” They were small pastries that resembled sugary quiches and, as we discovered later, had been imported to China from Portugal. We each sampled one and discovered, much to our delight, that they were delicious. If you ever find yourself in Shanghai, I would highly recommend trying one!

After our successful pastry endeavor, we were feeling brave and a few of us decided to partake in a more traditional Shanghai street, the steamed dumpling. With a soft, doughy outside and a decidedly “strange, tofu-y” inside, there was a divergence of opinion over whether or not the dumplings had been worth the Yuan we paid for them. Regardless of our personal tastes, it was an entertaining experience and a valuable opportunity to step outside our palate’s standard comfort zone.

Speaking of comfort zones, after our free morning, we were summoned to the lobby of our hotel to participate in what I can now only describe as the most intense scavenger hunt I’ve ever participated in. We were split into teams and tasked with the responsibility of traveling around Shanghai with a lengthy list of activities, questions to answer, and pictures to take. Even with the most detailed of travel instructions, my team managed to get lost several times and was never quite able to finish. We ultimately decided to cut our losses at the end of the afternoon and caught a taxi back to the hotel to meet with the other, more successful teams.

More than just simply completing the tasks on the list, however, the scavenger hunt was designed to challenge us to step outside our comfort zones and utilize our cross-cultural communication skills. Even though we got lost, we worked hard as a team to problem solve and glean as much from the experience as we could. We saw many things today that we may not have ever seen otherwise and for this I am truly thankful.

I now leave you with a sample of the list of pictures we had to take as a part of our scavenger hunt. To put it into perspective, this was the easiest part of the activity and every item was found easily during the course of the afternoon.

  1. A dog in clothes
  2. A grown person wearing pajamas
  3. A stone lion
  4. A person wearing glasses frames
  5. A small child in “split pants”
  6. 5 different colors of underwear hanging from a line
  7. A squid on a stick
  8. A man carrying things on a cart

Written by: Caitlin Cutchin


Winter Term 2014: Secret Ingredient, American Chamber of Commerce – Hong Kong and Hongkong International Terminals

Friday, January 17, 2014

Visits overview

Morning: HIT (Hongkong International Terminals)

Hong Kong is the fourth busiest port city in the world.  HIT is situated in the Kwai Tsing container terminal. A member of the HPH trust, HIT is a provider of logistics and port operation.  HIT plays a key role in the continuing development of the port of Hong Kong, ensuring the port has the resources, facilities, and people required to achieve smooth and efficient handling of container cargoes.


Afternoon: AmCham HK (American Chamber of Commerce – Hong Kong)

The American Chamber of Commerce – Hong Kong is an organization built to foster commerce among the United States of America, Hong Kong and Mainland China, and enhance Hong Kong’s stature as an international business center.  AmCham HK is structured around a set of core values, consisting of: private enterprise, free trade, rule of law, ethical and responsible business practices, transparency and the free flow of informations.

AmCham HK’s objectives are:

  • To represent a diverse membership on issues of common interest,
  • To provide a forum for networking and access to information,
  • To serve as a trusted and influential advocate with governments,
  • To encourage civic-minded participation in the Hong Kong community, and
  • To promote the Chamber’s core values.


Evening: Secret Ingredient

Secret Ingredient is a revolutionary start-up in the Hong Kong food service industry.  Its focus is on fresh, quality ingredients, delivered to your door.  The catch…you get to cook your food.  Given ten step instructions, labeled and portioned ingredients, and the need for the most minimal of kitchens (which Hong Kong is in abundance of), you can prepare your meal in ten to thirty minutes.  That’s much faster than waiting to be served at a restaurant, probably healthier, and at a cost that is well worth it.


So You Want to Start a Business in Hong Kong

Starting a business in Hong Kong (HK) may be one of the easiest things to do in the world…well, at least when it comes to paperwork.

The HK government, AmCham and Maximilian von Poelnitz of Secret Ingredient all state that it only takes three days to file paperwork and receive your permits to operate in Hong Kong.  The HK government has recently taken to promoting business ventures in HK, especially of the small and medium size (Small and Medium Enterprises or SMEs).  HK is striving to maintain its presence as a leading global economic hub.  Organizations, like AmCham and various programs through the HK government are available to help businesses break into the HK markets.

WOW! Three days is no time at all.  I’m sure you are thinking, “Where do I sign up?”  Hold your horses.  It’s not quite as simple as the websites promoting business in HK make it seem on the surface.

Funding is a key element to starting any business.  Although there are a plethora of programs available through the HK government offering funding to SMEs, the funding is extremely difficult to obtain.  Banks are always an option, but with the level of competition in HK, funding through a bank may be a little difficult.  According to von Poelnitz, there are a number of HK residents with a surplus of personal funds that are always looking to invest in a good idea.  This is how he acquired some of the funding for Secret Ingredient, along with a large personal investment.  Often known as Angel Investors, they are a great source of funding for start-ups in HK.

Rumor has it that the HK government isn’t exactly interested in helping out the small, small business.  It is more interested in companies that are considered small and medium but make big revenues and big profits.  But hey, it’s just a rumor.

Another catch to starting a business in HK is the need for a bank account.  Yep that’s right, you need a HK bank account to have a business there and make that three day paperwork happen.  Sounds simple enough, right?  To get that bank account you have to be in Hong Kong and have the right visa.  This can be tricky because you need the business visa usually to be a viable candidate for the proper accounts at the banks.  There are ways to get around all of this red tape, but we aren’t here to advise you on that.

The best way to go about getting around the red tape, and keeping it legal, is to hire one of the many consulting firms to help you through the entire process.  Of course knowing the right people never hurts.

Networking is one of the most important aspects of starting and maintaining a business in HK, and Mainland China for that matter.  Be it through social media, like Facebook®, or through organizations like AmCham that strive to create a network of community and business persons, networking is playing a vital role in the business climate of HK.

So do you still want to start up a business in HK?  It can definitely be done, but it may be a little more complicated than originally anticipated.  Isn’t starting any business that way though?

If you talk to the crew at Secret Ingredient, you will understand that it’s not too hard to operate a small business in HK.  It takes a lot of hard work, determination, a good attitude, quality product and service.  Oh, and don’t forget the three day registration period.


A big thanks to Max and Jesse at Secret Ingredient; Dr. Richard Vuylsteke (President) and Sally Peng of the AmCham HK; and the staff at HIT for a wonderful chance to get a brief look inside these organizations and for taking the time to talk with us.


Written by: James Campbell, Elon MBA Candidate



Winter Term 2014 – VF Corporation and Paul Hastings LLP

Cheers from the Blue Butcher Bar & Restaurant after an eventful day in Hong Kong!

Today’s itinerary included two company visits– VF Corporation and Paul Hastings LLP.

At VF we met with the General Counsel for Asia, Theo Pang. Mr. Pang was kind enough to give us a tour of the different brand showrooms, including Timberland, Napajiri, The North Face, Vans and Seven For All Mankind. Among our observations, the most apparent of which was that all of the employees seemed very in touch with and comfortable with all of the brands. As a result, brand development was a clear priority.

Our group was tasked with approaching the visit from an intellectual property and counterfeiting perspective. With that in mind, we were most surprised to observe that the relationships with the brands made it easier to accept the fact that counterfeiting will never be completely eradicated. With that in mind, this made it easier to approach the issue from a brand development and innovation perspective as opposed to a strictly legal approach.

Another observation that was particularly evident was the commitment to developing “lifestyle brands.” As we observed and learned about the brands through the showroom presentations, it was clear that whether they were established lifestyle brands or brands initially geared towards a single product or niche target market, VF’s goal was to make every brand one that conserved the lifestyle of each of its different customer bases. For example, one brand that particularly exhibited this approach was Seven For All Mankind, which has been known exclusively for its high end line of denim products. We learned in the showroom presentations that Seven jeans in particular was being transformed into more than just a jeans company, it would define a lifestyle.

At VF they say,”we fit your life,” and we agree.

Following our VF visit, we were invited to lunch with one of Professor Hicks’ colleagues, an intellectual property attorney from Beijing, Ms. Spring Chance. Over lunch we were apprised of many of the current issues related to intellectual property law in China.

Later on in the afternoon, we went to Paul Hastings LLP, an international law firm from the United States with an office in Hong Kong. Katherine Watlington, a second year associate at the firm with ties to Elon University, was kind enough to host us. The visit began with a presentation on the transactional details of the deal between Shuanghui International and Smithfield Farms. The presentation was particularly insightful in that it shed valuable light on some of the important considerations that go into a merger transaction between a Chinese company and an American company.

The overall day’s experience was both enjoyable and enlightening and we hope to keep in touch with the people that we met along the way.


Written by: Jessica, Ryan & LeeAnne

Winter Term 2014 – Hong Kong

Today we arrived in Hong Kong, which had been a colony of the United Kingdom until 1997. We visited Victoria’s Peak in Hong Kong, which is inhabited by some of Hong Kong’s wealthiest residents. The view from the mountain was spectacular because it gave you a birds-eye view of the entire city. It was interesting to see a historic grave yard where British soldiers were buried. Up until this point we’d only seen one graveyard because China has a policy that requires the people to be cremated due to limited space. We also visited a market and we took a boat tour of the bay.

Written by: Jetonne’ Ellis and Tyrone Davis

Winter Term 2014 – Shanghai and Fine Furniture

Today was our fourth day in Shanghai and we all were all up bright and early to head to the coastal area of Shanghai to visit Fine Furniture. We arrived early in the morning and were greeted by security at a large gate that surrounded the 2.5 million square foot manufacturing facility.

Mr. Vincent Chua, vice president, provided a detailed presentation that explained the history, mission and manufacturing process of Fine Furniture. After the presentation, we were given a tour of the manufacturing facility. It was amazing to see the level of hand-crafted detailed work that the 1,000 workers completed on a daily basis. The company builds more than 1,400 different models of furniture out of the manufacturing facility that we visited. Additionally, there was an additional facility on-site that housed the owners’ other flooring business. Due to time we were not able to visit this part of the facility.

Mr. Chua provided his insight on how he believed the company would develop in the future and the difficulties of competing with other companies because of antidumping tariffs and other evaluations.

After lunch we were greeted by Simon Zhan, general counsel at Volvo Construction Company. When we arrived onsite we were provided safety equipment so that we would be able to tour the manufacturing and fabrication facility. Volvo Construction Company prided themselves on how they allowed their employees to provide suggestions about the workplace to be taken into consideration. It was amazing to see that the employees at Volvo are able to build an excavator in 28 minutes flat and build all the parts within two days. Mr. Zhan provided an explanation of the importance of government relationships in Shanghai and also told us his view of anti-corruption from a compliance officer viewpoint.

Written by: Monique Smart

Winter Term 2014 – Inside a Buddhist temple and more

Today we visited a Buddhist temple that was built by monks in the 19th century. Inside the temple we observed the religious rituals of the locals. It felt like we were being intrusive because we were being given a tour and taking pictures while they were worshiping, but they didn’t seem to mind our intrusiveness.

Next, we went to a room inside the temple where we tasted authentic Chinese tea: green tea, black tea and jasmine blossom tea. Presumably, this place was used as a place for bonding as people within the Chinese culture are really big on building relationships. The teas that we tasted are valued within the Chinese culture because they are central to maintaining health-even curative in some instances.

We also visited the silk factory where we saw how the cacoon of the silk worm is transformed into clothing and sheets. It was interesting to see the development of things that we use on a regular basis in the States because we usually don’t give any thought to how these things are produced.

We visited the urban planning museum where we saw a model of the entire city of Shanghai. The last place we visited was the Yu Yuan Gardens which was built in the 19th century by a wealthy man to please his parents. His father died before the Garden was completed, so he sold the Garden to the City of Shanghai. The Garden also had market where we were encouraged to negotiate a lower purchasing price for items. Some students were successful in getting as much as 50 percent off the initial price.

Written by: Jetonne’ Ellis

Winter Term 2014 – Glen Raven

Today we visited Glen Raven Asia. They are located about 2 hours away from Shanghai in the Suzhou Industrial Park in Suzhou, China. Suzhou Industrial Park is a joint venture between China and Singapore. The government turned a once rural area into a city thriving with businesses known all over the world.

We were able to tour the facility and listen to a bit about the company and their history in a talk given by the general manager, Mr. Hua Li, a graduate of NC State. Mr. Hua Li was a very generous host and we enjoyed hearing his comments and getting to spend time with him.

One of the most interesting parts about the visit was just how complicated the actual process of producing the fabric is and how much work is done to ensure the best quality product. One of Glen Raven’s products is Sunbrella, which can be found at many restaurants all over the world, covering the umbrellas or awning. The process involves multiple steps to ensure that the fabric is water resistant and durable.
The manufacturing area itself was very clean and it was clear that Glen Raven has high standards for safety and the workplace environment. We also had the opportunity to learn more about Glen Raven’s commitment to their employees. Their turnover rate is significantly lower than the average, they have a bus that picks up employees for work, and employees working 8 hour shifts get lunch in the cafeteria. They view their employees as family. Speaking of lunch, we had lunch in the cafeteria and ate a typical meal for employees. It was one of the best meals we’ve had in China. Overall, we were able to learn a lot about the market in Asia and China’s economy from our visit.
After spending time at Glen Raven, we went to the old part of Suzhou. We saw the old city wall that was built around 2,500 years ago. Then we took a boat through the canal and stopped at a local market. The old buildings and houses along the canal of Suzhou were fascinating. We also saw a Buddhist temple. It was a great way to explore a the history of China. It was also a good point of reference for comparing the old city to the newer urbanized part. It is an amazing contrast.