mardi 4 janvier 2011

Interview entrepreneur: Hortense Hallé-Yang, H!TANG& China Creative Connections, French


Among all the people we had to see in Beijing, Hortense was the first one on the list. She was also the first woman entrepreneur we interviewed so far, and the first one in the cultural industry. Besides, she was also the first European person we had seen speaking a perfect Chinese until that day. You have understood Hortense is a special person (in a good way, of course) and that is only the beginning…

Hortense fell into Asia when she was young. She spent 2 years in Japan followed by 7 years in Hong Kong where she started learning mandarin at school when she was young. She came back to France for her final year of high school and for her graduate studies in Paris. Right after her master degree, and after a few internships in China, she found her first job in China, working for Bongrain as a brand manager for two years. Speaking the language fluently, and loving the country (she is also currently married to a Chinese from Beijing) she could not picture her future at any time outside China. Even though she targeted Shanghai as she made a couple of internship there and really enjoyed the city, she chose to live and work in Beijing, as both the job offer and the company in which she was offered a job were better in Beijing, which made her pick the 2 years contract in Bongrain. As the company was getting restructured at that time, both parties agreed to terminate the cooperation.

As she always knew she wanted to do something related to events management, and with a passion for music, she considered looking in this direction. As many people were asking for help on such kind of projects, she started to help launching some artistic events. The more she was working on these projects, the more her network was growing and the more she then realized that there was some potential from an artistic and an entrepreneurship perspective and therefore recruited one trainee and subsequently 2 or 3 other people quite quickly to help her. A business partner joined her in 2007 while moving into bigger offices. Her friend had already registered a company in Hong Kong, which they decided to use for international clients, while relying on Chinese partner companies for local clients.

Even though the whole process of creating a company may seem quite natural in Hortense’s case, she was never intending to live such a life. Indeed, she worked in 2000 in Hangzhou for an entrepreneur and thought at that time this was a life she did not want as it is far too time consuming. But as she enjoys a lot launching projects, and being in a leader position, she quite inevitably followed this path as it gave her much more freedom. The kind of company she created allowed her to be in between business and arts which is a brand new concept in China. The purpose of the company is to offer artists opportunities to develop, as she needs to feel useful and create things. She provides services such as artistic content for events and incentive, corporate training via artistic methods, conferences on innovation, mediating strategic partnerships (sponsoring)...

4 years after she launched the activities of H!TANG& China Creative Connections, she confessed that she was very frustrated and should stop heading the company in January as she currently works part time for a corporation and expects to work for this corporation full time by that time. Her frustration arises from the feeling that she has not moved forward in the past 4 years as she has not learnt as much as she expected.In her opinion, it is easier to feel that you learn something when someone else is providing you with the knowledge, even though she recognizes that she did learn a lot while creating her own business. Having put the minimum level of financial investment in this company, she had to deal over the last years with unqualified resources (which were obviously cheaper, such as many trainees) and a high turnover among her employees who would leave the company after a few months. As a consequence, she and her partner had to spend most of their time training newcomers and could not focus on sales and more interesting activities. That gives her the feeling that she has been doing the same thing over and over again. The lack of financial investment was due to the fact that it is very hard to raise funds in a cultural industry for one thing, but also because this company was created for pleasure much more than return on investment which is why she did not invest a lot of money in the business. This lack of funds created some limits that she now identifies with the experience that she gained.

Hortense explained to us that she was to create a business again she would probably do it as it made her knowledgeable in many areas as she had to do everything by herself. She would however do things differently, such as hiring more qualified staff that can actually bring knowledge and expertise to the business. The business would have expanded more quickly and she would have had lost far less time in training people on the same tasks. She would finally advise to look for people who have different skills and personalities as these people bring more value to a company, especially in a small structure where having different people with a wide range of skills is required to perform well.

Thank you Hortense for this interesting dinner which finally showed us the “dark side” of entrepreneurship, and good luck with your new challenges!!

Benoit

2 commentaires:

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