Five minutes with ShaoLan Hsueh
Chinese has long been considered the most difficult major language but it took ShaoLan Hsueh teaching her British-born children the language for a breakthrough to be made. ShaoLan Hsueh realised the problem they faced and created her own method of learning Chinese characters.
She here shares her belief that in order for a vibrant economy to succeed and flourish, businesses must take more responsibility for their impact.
“Without a vibrant economy there is no way that we can achieve innovation”
A vibrant economy is everything. Chineasy would not have been where it is today without having the foundation of the vibrant economy, especially in the UK. I arrived in the UK 15 years ago and went to study at Cambridge University. I decided to stay and the country accepted me – they opened the door and I was integrated into the society. It’s not always like that elsewhere in the world.
“The only way to build trust is to be constantly producing high-quality work”
Trust is something that nowadays is very easy to see through. With so much choice, and such easy access to the work of competitors, you have to be producing consistently high-quality work to keep the customer engaged. The second thing is, if we come up with something original, something authentic and effective, then the validation testimony from the hardcore followers is our best promotion. So, since we started we have spent no money in any currency on marketing. It’s all been word of mouth and a lot of exhibitions that people did for us – we didn’t pay a penny and we don’t even have a marketing person in the company. Through social media we have been able to create authentic communities where people share and talk about their experiences.
“True integration comes through understanding”
It’s always tempting to just learn how to understand and say ‘thank you’ and ‘good morning’ but you always need something deeper. The language is the first step and from there onwards there are a lot of subtle points that we need to pay attention to.
“As a start-up, I only see advantages coming out of innovation”
In the form of crowdfunding, technology and flexibility with things like shared workspaces. As a new business, all of that is ready to be turned to our advantage. Take social media and open-source learning, for example, which have made it easier and economically viable for smaller start-ups to reach people the world over. Chineasy could not have been created without technology, innovation and disruption. We are part of this dynamic ecosystem that allows young start-ups to reach international audience and build massive impact with limited resource.
“As a start-up company there are challenges”
In particular during those early days. For example, before you launch a product or a service, the challenge is understanding how your customers will perceive and receive your product. Linked to this is how to build trust into a small brand that no one has heard of. How to build trust and how to communicate with the customers are very important points, and in our case we have been lucky because I launched the project and worked very hard to gain that validation and credibility.
“We take copycats as flattering”
There were lots of people taking our idea and moving with it themselves when we started. However, be sure, if you have the better idea and plan, if you move faster and you are authentic, and at the same time you are more sincere about communicating with your audience, you can succeed. That is what we have experienced. We were a little bit irritated but now we take it as a compliment – we must have been on to something good.
“Society may not be perfect but I cannot see anything better”
The UK is very accommodating and if you read a newspaper there is always talk about the pros and cons of living in a multicultural society. I’ve lived both in Asia and the UK. My growing understanding of two very different cultures played the most important role in the development of my business. My aim with Chineasy is to help people to understand China, Chinese culture, its language and to bridge the gap between East and West. Business and society are so linked in so many ways like that.
“It’s a constant juggle between what we want to do and what resources we have”
Not only in our business but in so many things that one can do in order to build your dream business. In our case it is such a large language, it goes so deep and there is so much to share with speaking reading and writing. At the same time our audience is basically around the world.
“We are building a vibrant learning community”
We use social media so that we can share what is happening with us right now, as well as allowing our users to become friends and communicate with each other about their learning journey. We encourage our students to do that. The community helps each other. We don’t have a fancy website to build this platform and so, in our case, we use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites to act as our marketplace and as a community meeting point to ask our users: ‘How can we help you?’
“Ask yourself, are you creating a new demand or a new way of thinking?”
That’s how I like to think of it. If the answer is yes then I think you’re helping develop a vibrant economy.