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Lou EDWARDS

International student Lou Edwards and Chinese student Moli Yang, graduates from the 2008 CKGSB MBA class, have partnered together in the Hunan's capital, Changsha, to bring native English speaking teachers to China's second tier cities.

 

Edwards and Yang met during the 12-month intensive MBA course offered by CKGSB, the leading school for entrepreneurs in China. When discussing their plans, the two realised that they both wanted to explore opportunities in China's less developed cities.

 

Edwards' Master's in Education and background in teaching combined with Yang's local business insight and connections as a Hunan native. Together with the skills learnt at CKGSB, their business experience helped them identify unmet needs in Changsha's training market. After acquiring seed capital from an Australian investor, Edwards and Yang opened their first training center on September 7, 2010. Within six months, more than 70 students had joined the Bounce Kids English (棒思少儿英语) program.

 

Asking Edwards what the biggest challenge of setting up the business was, he responded, "Adjusting to the local way of doing business. The concept of service is nothing like what it is in the West. Also, having a capable and trustworthy partner has been crucial." Early on, Edwards found that having a reliable local partner was the key to starting the venture successfully. He recalled, "The renovation phase was a particularly stressful time. The builders would constantly be looking for ways to cut corners, so as a result Molly had to literally be at the site all day to ensure the level of quality we required."

 

Yang said that being her own boss was the best part of the job. She explained, "I love working in an industry I have passion for. Sure, I have never worked this hard in my life, but it's satisfying. When the kids come out of the classrooms with beaming smiles and want to practice an array of exciting new English words and phrases with their parents, it makes me supremely happy."

 

Bounce Kids English is Changsha's only English language training centre for 4-12 year olds that employs only native English-speaking teachers. A recent addition to the Bounce Kids English marketing and promotion strategy was its new website www.bounce.hk. The site enables parents to see photos of their children in class, see what they have been learning, and read comments about their progress.

 

Edwards said building a website like this in Changsha was a challenge. "Though we used the best known and supposedly most reputable web design company in the city, we still had to be vigilant when managing the project to ensure the final product reached our high standards. We are unique in Changsha as we provide the best English language training available, at a price on par with the top centers in Shanghai or Beijing, and as such, every element of our business, whether it be the classrooms, website or training materials, has to be in line with that expectation of quality. Even if the final product takes more time and persistence than expected to complete, it's all part of running a business in a second-tier Chinese city."

 

Edwards and Yang expect to be opening a second training center in Changsha later in 2011, and plan to grow the Bounce Kids English brand across China. On asking if they preferred business to grow organically or through external investment, Yang said that all options were open. "Considering that from CKMBA 2008 alone, one third of the class has gone into VC or PE firms and another 20% has gone into investment banking, once we reach a critical mass in our current business structure there are many options for growth. Knowing where to look for investors won't be a problem." She added that there are possible financing options among CKGSB's EMBA alumni as well.

 

Edwards said, "As a foreigner looking into China, a place that is now regularly touted as the new 'Land of Opportunity', you'd have to wonder if it's actually true. In my experience, if you're willing to get in and do the hard work, and can find a partner who you can work well with and rely on, then the opportunities are indeed unsurpassed. For me, CKGSB's MBA Program was the perfect tool to acquire the local knowledge and partnerships I needed to start this business. Now it's up to us to make it a success."