They have an entrepreneurial dream, and they realized it.
April 13, 2020

They gathered from all over the world
to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams
at CKGSB Global MBA

Everyone is special in their own ways
with different talents
from different backgrounds

Yet CKGSB is their common name

 

Cindy Mi
(China)
Founder and CEO of VIPKID
CKGSB Global MBA class of 2010

“I left the classroom like a hero.”

Never much of a rule follower, Cindy Mi dropped out of school at the age of 17 to found ABCEnglish, a brick-and-mortar English education company, with her uncle. Her parents were encouraging.

“They said to me, ‘Make the decision and don’t come back in tears.’ I learned the hard way early on in life that I need to be responsible for what I’m getting into,” Mi said.

She did a little of everything to make the small company run: sales, interviewing prospective teachers, teaching classes, grading homework. She worked early in the morning until 10 at night. When she finished, she worked on her own studies until 2 a.m., eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature through China’s system of incredibly difficult self-taught exams.

Eventually, she and her uncle grew the teaching business to $30 million in annual sales. But, like many entrepreneurs, she always wanted more: another challenge, more impact.

She then applied for CKGSB Global MBA Program, which has equipped her with practical business knowledge, social network, and inspiration. After earning her MBA degree, Mi founded VIPKID, which has now grown into a unicorn focusing on online language education.

“The classroom as we know had not really changed in over 200 years,” she says. “I knew there had to be a more efficient way to match this huge demand from China with a supply of the best English teachers, and I saw my mission to use a global classroom to create global citizens.

Starting a business is never easy, but Mi eventually made it with the support from her MBA classmates and professors.

“The Professors helped me create my business plan and I was paired with mentors from CKGSB’s Executive MBA program. The fellow alumni decided to invest by joining the company when VIPKID was just starting as a pilot.”

“I wanted to be the entrepreneur that makes a real change to the world, and CKGSB Global MBA has been an incredibly unique experience for me.”

* Learn more about Cindy Mi and her business.

 

Jesse Darja
(Indonesia)
CEO at GFI System
CKGSB Global MBA class of 2012

“The thing that shocked me most about China was the speed at which things go. I’ve no doubt that this century will be the Chinese century.”

In 2012, Jesse arrived in China for his MBA at CKGSB, knowing he’d return home to Indonesia after graduation. Since the late 1990s, the country had stabilized and was starting to follow China’s lead, transitioning into a center for manufacturing.

“I’d seen how China had developed. I wanted to get closer to China, learn some business in the process, and get some clues about how Indonesia might develop over the next decade or so,” Jesse explains.

“Another reason I chose CKGSB was because of its focus on entrepreneurship,” he continues. “In the back of my mind, I had the idea of starting my own business.”

At CKGSB, Jesse picked up the tools which would help him make an impact back home.

After his MBA, he teamed up with Henry, an old family friend. Henry was building his own guitar effects pedals as a hobby and selling them on eBay.

In just three years, Jesse helped transform an eBay seller profile into GFI Systems, a boutique guitar pedal company with five employees, five products, and global customers including Andertons Music Co., a big music store in the UK.

“What I learned from my MBA experience helped me jump-start the company,” he says. “I wouldn’t have been able to grow the company as fast as I did without it.”

“A few of my classmates introduced me to suppliers as well,” he continues. “At CKGSB, I learned about the dos and don’ts of business in China. When I went to visit companies in smaller, third-tier cities, I knew what to expect.”

Now, Jesse is living back in Jakarta as planned, and his aim is to turn GFI Systems into a go-to company for musicians around the world, and help put Indonesia on the map.

Jesse is happy where he is right now. But he knows that to really grow his business, he’ll probably have to set up operations in China, where most of his product components come from. With an MBA from CKGSB on board, he has the China knowledge to do just that.

 

Lina Ayenew
(Ethiopia)
Founder of Education for Ethiopia
CKGSB Global MBA class of 2019

“I am from Ethiopia, a country where more than 40% of the population is 14 years old or under. Education is critical for our development. I believe we can learn both from China’s successes and China’s failures. “

Lina Ayenew a graduate of Yale University and a renowned author on China-Africa relations, started her own business, Education for Ethiopia, aiming to bring low-cost and high-quality digital education to students in her home country.

When she wanted to make her venture more scalable, efficient and feasible, she decided that CKGSB Global MBA would be best for the insights she need to meet her goals.

Lina joined CKGSB because she is passionate about digital education. At CKGSB, she hopes to learn more about China’s economic policies that led to a large number of people being quickly and efficiently educated. She also hopes that the collective experience and resources of CKGSB’s massive faculty and alumni network can help her social enterprise, Education for Ethiopia, be more impactful.

After spending a few month at CKGSB Global MBA, Lina noticed that as a young and dynamic school, CKGSB is super invested in the success of each and every student, and the resources it devoted to students are far more intense compared with many institutions with longer history.

“One other reason that I came to CKGSB is because social innovation is part of the school’s DNA, and doing well in addition to doing good is related to my personal values, and I wanted to be in a classroom that cared about that.

 

Murtaza Jabalpurwala
(India)
Founder of Murtaza Sir’s Tuitions
CKGSB Global MBA class of 2008

“I realized that the corporate world wasn’t for me.”

Born and raised in Mulund, Murtaza had to fend for himself from an early age. At 18, Murtaza set up his own money-making scheme: buying lecture notes cheaply and selling them at a marked up price.

“I had that entrepreneurial drive in me,” he says. Together with his wife—a science teacher— Murtaza grew his tuition business. But later, things reached a plateau. Murtaza had the urge to try something new.

He’d always read about China in newspapers and magazines—its sheer size, its industry, the pace of change—and he wanted to experience it for himself. So he set his foot on China, and became a student at CKGSB.

For Murtaza, the CKGSB Global MBA was a journey of introspection and self-discovery—the experience taught him where his true passion lies.

“When my MBA started, it gave me a lot of time to introspect. I sat back and thought about what I was doing in my life.”

After graduating from MBA, Murtaza returned to India, but starting his tuition business again from nothing, was even tougher. “Then, I started applying what I’d learned from the MBA at CKGSB,” he says.

He became more practical and was less personally involved. He hired people to do the admin work for him. He rented all his premises instead of buying them. He made sure every teacher he hired had a competitor teaching the same subjects at the same time, keeping them on their toes.

“These were things I’d never even thought of before the MBA,” he says. “When you’re an entrepreneur, you think you can get away with anything, which isn’t always the case. An MBA gives you that holistic view. It helps you take a step back and look at all the options before making a decision.”

 

Raymond Tan
(Malaysia)
Co-Founder & Director at Manja Saja Sdn. Bhd.
CKGSB Global MBA class of 2015

“Since I was a young kid, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur—I was born this way. “

After leaving Deloitte, Raymond decided to fast-track his journey into entrepreneurship. His aim was always to move back to Malaysia—to make an impact in a developing country, and start a business there. But, first, he wanted to learn more about business in China—“the big boy in the neighborhood”—the world’s leading emerging economy.

From his first day at CKGSB, he threw himself into the experience—touring startup incubators, factories, and companies started by CKGSB alumni. He became the vice president of the MBA Startup Club. He joined the entire MBA class on a two-week international trip to New York and California in the US, visiting Intel, Airbnb, and the University of California, Berkeley.

“Right from the start, I saw my time in China as an adventure,” he says. “Seeing different CKGSB alumni doing things of their own, hearing about their stories, and knowing there’s a community that I can turn to for support if I need it—that really motivated me.

 

Rory Bate-Williams
(UK)
Founder & Director at Voodoo Chicken & Spice
CKGSB Global MBA class of 2013

“With a startup, no two days are the same. There’s always uncertainty and that makes you work so much harder. You don’t need an MBA to be an entrepreneur, but it gives you every part of the toolkit you need to grow.

Rory started his first business while still at school. He ran his marquee business all the way through university. After a stint in finance in London, he moved to work with Ranjit at the chicken company. There, he got priceless practical business experience, seeing firsthand what was going on across every aspect of the multibillion-dollar company.

“But in no area was I getting any theoretical education,” Rory explains. “I started to crave an understanding of how you can apply different management models to make better decisions, reduce risk, and move faster.”

Already considering an MBA, Rory spent an “eye-opening” week with a friend in China. He soon decided he was ready to take the leap. “I’m someone who likes to be out of their comfort zone and I thought there’s no better way to do that than by going to China,” he says.

During his MBA at CKGSB in Beijing, Rory went on a six-month exchange to Waseda University in Tokyo. He created his own UK module, taking Chinese classmates to meet with big-names like fashion designer Sir Paul Smith and Lord Nat Wei, the first British-born person of Chinese origin to become a member of the House of Lords.

And in China, through CKGSB, doors were unlocking everywhere he went. He’d later start a consulting business venture with a Chinese businessman he met through a CKGSB event in London.

“The MBA brought me together with so many established business leaders who’d give us their time, almost at the drop of a hat,” he says. “One day you’d visit Alibaba, the next day Tencent—it was like going behind the closed doors of the global economy.”

Rory returned to London’s tech startup scene after his MBA but, today, he’s doing something quite different. He launched his own food venture—Voodoo Chicken—selling grilled Cajun chicken, hot sauces, and other Creole cuisine from New Orleans, Louisiana.

“My time in China helped me see that anything is possible,” he says. “It gave me that confidence that I can start something up from scratch and achieve anything. I think that’s the most priceless thing—you can’t get that from a textbook.”

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