What challenges have you faced as a young female entrepreneur in China?
It certainly hasn’t been easy, and I grew up really quickly since launching Zhuoman Culture in 2017. I was young and naive and there definitely were not a lot of young women opening businesses so it was quite groundbreaking, which naturally comes with certain challenges. One of the more harrowing experiences – which occurred frequently in PR – were the sexual innuendos from men who blur the line between work and play. I offer support now to similarly ambitious young woman on how to navigate the industry professionally and make your work ethic stand out above anything else.
Your Instagram account (@crazycheukyi) is highlighted with a plethora of colourful outfits and several pet appearances, with your dogs and cats even having their own accounts – how do you have space for everything in densely-populated Shanghai?
Oh, I know [laughs], but that’s what you work hard for – to enjoy the luxuries of home life too. I’ve just moved into a bigger apartment which has plenty of wardrobe space and a 100-square-metre outdoor area for the animals. I have five cats and two dogs. I feed stray animals on the street, sometimes they follow me, so I have to take care of them.
Due to the nature of western and eastern world social media platforms, and your industry, do you need a presence on as much as possible?
Yes absolutely. The world is smaller than ever because of global connectivity, and from a business perspective I need a balance of ‘Western’ platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to complement our ‘Eastern’ or Chinese presence on WeChat, Weibo, Little Red Book and TikTok (which is now obviously global).
How important has your strong English language skills been in your fast-moving career?
I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have by the age of 26 without being fully bilingual – speaking and writing – in Chinese and English. Having diversity in the workplace has never been more important, and my hiring policy encourages it. If we hire a Chinese intern, I encourage him or her to learn English immediately. I’m proud of the mix of cultures we have on our current team of a dozen employees, comprising Chinese, Canadian, Korean and Spanish team members, and even a German that manages our ‘Western’ social media platforms.
Let’s expand on that, tell us about your upbringing and how you were exposed to Western culture?
I was fortunate to have grown up under the guidance of higher-educated parents who wanted their daughter to speak english, and attended an international school in Jinhua, (also known as Kinhwa) a prefecture-level city in central Zhejiang province in eastern China. I interacted with most of the foreign students and was president of the student union which is where my communication skills began to develop. Thereafter I worked as a marketing intern for UBM Shanghai, a British creative consulting company, before stints at fashion magazine Yoho! and fashion brand Clot.