MBA@UNC Global Immersion: Shanghai - Day Two

MBA@UNC Global Immersions are offered four times a year as unique opportunities for students to travel to major international business destinations with their fellow classmates, participate in engaging discussions with their professors and elite industry leaders, as well as apply what they have learned to real-life problems they now have the knowledge to effectively overcome. At the Shanghai immersion, MBA@UNC students participated in a track focused on Challenges and Opportunities in China. Throughout the second day, MBA@UNC students focused on sustainability issues and entrepreneurship in China.


Session 1: Sustainability, Social Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

The first session of Day Two was kicked off by Richard Brubaker, Managing Director of Collective Responsibility and Visiting Professor of Sustainability, from the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). Brubaker has spent the last 15 years in Asia working to engage, inspire, and equip business leaders to bring about the changes in leadership and business models in order to move the world forward.

Brubaker began by explaining the role that sustainability has in the Chinese economy. Over the last 20 years, China has had incredible success in transforming its agrarian society into an industrial economy. However, now that the cities have expanded, China’s main sustainability concern is around delivering an economy to 7 billion urban consumers, including water, food, housing, jobs, medical services, transportation, and government infrastructures in an efficient way.  He then brought in multiple social and sustainable entrepreneurs to speak about how they are doing business to change the world and how China fits in to the big picture:

Monique Maissan, Founder and CEO of Waste2Wear

  • Waste2Wear, a sustainable textile company, works with local communities to educate the public on the benefits of recycling, incentivizes waste facilities to recycle trash instead of incinerating it, and turns plastic bottles into textiles.
  • Maissan discussed the unique entrepreneurship challenges she faced while building a multi-national company based on working with fractured manufacturing and distribution systems.

Alex Przybyla, xFriends Integration Manager, Haworth

  • Haworth is a multinational office furniture company, expanding into the Chinese market.
  • Przybyla told students about how Haworth moved into the Chinese market with office furniture, with the need to adapt materials and layouts to the new, collaborative style of corporate office spaces.

Shiyin Cai, Founder of Dialogue in the Dark, China

  • Dialogue in the Dark is an organization dedicated to changing the policies and behaviors of the Chinese people in regards to the blind.
  • Cai spoke about her strategy of using experiential learning to help Chinese policymakers understand blindness in order to change society’s perceptions of the disabled.

Sebastian Martin, Founder of Cambio Coffee

  • Cambio Coffee is a social enterprise that sources coffee from local growers in Latin America and imports it for roasting in China.
  • Sebastian discussed how he adapted his business model to meet the unique market in which it’s located, and how to play to your business’s strengths to open up new channels of revenue.

Session 2: Entrepreneurship and How to Expand Your Business in China

The second session was led by Kenneth Nealy and Scott Minoie, both with extensive experience in Chinese culture and business. Nealy most recently served as Chief of Staff for Congressman Andre Carson (D-Indiana) in the United States House of Representatives and has lived primarily in Shanghai since 2003. Minoie is a successful restauranteur and founder of Element Fresh, which serves western-style cuisine in over 20 locations across China.

Nealy began by going over the basics of Chinese people, communications, government, and business.

  • He spoke about the myth of the monolithic Chinese people. In fact, he pointed out that there are 56 ethnic groups, all except one of which are minorities. The majority group, Han Chinese, is 91% of the population.
  • When it comes to communications, the Chinese people use indirect methods, which can be frustrating for western business people. When doing business in China, Minoie recommends to be very patient, and not to expect direct answers to questions. The Chinese people consider it polite to tell white lies rather than saying “no” outright, to help save face.
  • Lastly, Nealy covered the differences in the structure of the Communist party versus the government structure, and how to navigate Chinese policy.

Huang Pu River Dinner Boat Cruise

To top off an amazing day, the students boarded a cruise ship for a scenic trip along the Huangpu River. Considered Shanghai’s mother river, the tour covered the entire length of the Bund, a waterfront area known for its diverse architecture and dazzling lights. Students were able to kick back and relax, while getting to know each other and forge connections to last a lifetime.