MBA Grad Goes Global As E-Commerce Entrepreneur

MBA Grad  Goes Global  As E-Commerce  Entrepreneur

by Ann Hayes

Southeast alumna Zhang “Violet” Jue ‘08 is passionate about cross border trade and says the time is ripe for e-commerce to revolutionize China.

Violet has had her hand on the pulse of the import-export business for about 15 years while working in international markets and the financial service industry, including four years with Alibaba, one of the world’s largest online commerce companies and one of the world’s most valuable tech companies. A year ago, Violet ventured out as an entrepreneur launching Beijing ZhongRuiQiMing (Rising Star) Investment Management Ltd. in Beijing, China.

With a resume that includes vast experience with a network of 27 foreign consulates, nearly two dozen foreign industry associations, overseas investment institutions and two years with CITS American Express Travel Service, LTD (Motorola), also in Beijing, Violet says she has a keen business sense for new opportunities and has an excellent strategic vision for new industry trends.
And that trend, she says, has spurred her to represent Chinese companies and assist them in exploring foreign markets. Violet spent a couple of months last winter in the United States connecting with buyers and sellers interested in selling their products in international markets.

Now back in her home country, Violet recently moved Rising Star into new office space in Hangzhou in the northwestern Zhejiang province. The business is headquartered in the Fuyi Granary–a former storage facility for rice more than 1,000 years ago during the Qing Dynasty and now converted to a world cultural heritage center. Violet says her company is working to build bridges with global 500 companies and is especially interested in forming strategic partnerships with warehouses of American brands of baby/mother, personal care and health products, furniture and jewelry.

Violet’s unflappable energy is rivaled only by her voracious appetite for e-commerce. She credits Alibaba for the network of business associates she has built and for the knowledge she gained in cross-border trade.

“Now, when I walk into the Chinese Embassy, they know I am an expert in this area.”

She says China has begun a transformative process and Chinese markets for U.S. products are enormous and growing. Agricultural products are in extraordinary demand as are U.S. consumer-oriented exports like snack foods, milk products, nuts, pork, fresh fruit, and wine and beer. Violet has a U.S. business partner who connects her with some of these American markets.

The majority of food in China is still sold in traditional wet markets instead of supermarkets. Additionally, the population is on the rise–more than 200 cities have more than one million people–and higher incomes have led to increased consumption.

Challenges, such as unclear import requirements, shelf life and labeling issues, import duties and food safety concerns have spawned China’s own eCommerce champions, Alibaba’s Tmall/Taobao. Their sales exceed those of Amazon and Ebay combined, she says, with more than 600 million Internet users. Alibaba’s single day sales in 2013 were $5.7 billion, more than U.S. Black Friday and cyber sales combined.
E-commerce is providing foreign suppliers with new channels to reach millions of Chinese consumers at ease all while allaying their customers’ fears, Violet says. Chinese consumers, she says, are confident in American brands.

The market to reach Chinese consumers is expansive. Violet says 20- to 32-year old Chinese consumers are looking for new American clothing styles, and 32- to 45-year olds “want better living products. They want to enjoy life more,” she says.

Violet is confident her company can meet these demands, and she is eager to share her enthusiasm for the international cross-border market. She is also quick to credit Southeast and its MBA program for preparing her well for her career.

During her recent work in the U.S., she also spent a couple of weeks in Cape Girardeau, talking business with her former professors.

“I found my place there,” she says of her years at Southeast. “I really enjoyed studying and getting back into campus life.”

Violet, who earned her MBA from Southeast in 2008, says, she developed a closeness with several faculty mentors, including Dr. Willie Redmond, Dr. Ben Dow, Dr. Jill Young and Dr. Stan Stough (retired). She particularly cherishes the regular Sunday evening dinners Young hosted for her students.

“That’s the charming thing about being an MBA student at SEMO,” she says, adding the evenings taught her much about American culture. “I cherish the opportunity to have come here, not only to study, but to find what is important in life.”

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