BBS Alumnus Hongyan (Annabella) Zhao shares her MBA story

In 2011, I decided to join the Brunel MBA full-time course. I joined the programme having already achieved my Master’s degree in textile material in China and having more than 9 years’ work experience.Annabella

The decision to embark upon a one year programme overseas was a difficult one. Although it was always my dream to study abroad and to learn Management theories to improve myself I was fully aware of the negative effect it would have on the company I was working for. As the Vice General Manager I knew that my leaving would not only affect the business but also have a financial impact on me. However, I followed my heart and decided to leave to head to London to join the Brunel MBA.

The one-year experience was fantastic for me. It was so enjoyable and made me very happy. Classmates came from everywhere in the world which added to the experience. The Brunel MBA modules were very intensive with many management related theories being taught. The classes were challenging with the different management experience some of my classmates had making the learning process demanding but rewarding.

Late 2012, I came back to China. My original company had kept my position open and invited me to go back. However I found the company was not the same, particularly as the owner had moved onto another business. I decided it wasn’t for me anymore.

So since July of 2013, I started my own company – AZ International (shanghai) Co., Ltd. The company is established to do some international business. My main business is to work as an agent for Italian textile finishing machinery suppliers, do sales and after-sales for them in China market. This is mainly because with my past working experiences, I have quite a network in the Italian textile field and the Chinese factories buyers. I selected 2 main suppliers and worked together with them.

To be an entrepreneur is very exciting but tough. Machinery business is difficult as the decisions from clients always take a very long time and the service requests are demanding. The business needs lots of care and it’s difficult to have repetitive orders from one single client. I started to build up my own small team and did many things on my own. Luckily with my past working experience alongside my MBA studies, it was not too difficult for me. However, systems needed to put in place and executed. There were times when it all felt a little too much but now after one year we have a very good small team. And thanks to all my team members and our hard work, it’s all paid off. We have generated over 1 million Euro sales for the first 12 months. We are still a very small company and there are many things to be built up but the future is looking good.

Meanwhile, I am also looking for one more good business opportunity to expand a different business line. Who knows if without my MBA I would have embarked on such a journey!

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