Entrepreneur-In-Training In China
I came to Hong Kong in September 2010 to spend my junior year studying abroad. In February 2011 Todd Kleperis (Class of ‘93) hired me to work for IContain Ltd. during the spring and summer.
My work for IContain has consisted of sourcing peripheral products for electronic devices and new models of our electronic devices, doing quality control checks at our suppliers and doing product testing on our electronic devices, working with international clients to secure orders, and arranging international shipping for our products to be sent to our clients.
Sourcing in China: The first thing I learned when trying to find OEM manufacturers to work on projects for us is that more than 85% of the companies you find online who say they are OEM manufacturers are just trade companies trying to make a profit on foreign companies who don’t perform proper due diligence. Something else I learned very quickly is that no matter how clear you are about what your quality standards are, and no matter how many times your OEM partner tells you they understand your product needs, you are going to have your first order come back to you with quality that is significantly below your standards. For example, tablet cases may be packaged for the customer, yet half of them have frayed and loose sewing. Or on a tablet itself, they may have downloaded different versions of the OS, despite the fact you provided them with a specific OS and told them there couldn’t be any variations. It was at these points that I would sit at the OEM factory all day, go through EACH product individually for inspection, point out EACH mistake, explain that this is not good enough quality, and have them make the necessary adjustment or fix. While I would normally consider this wasted time, I have been taught that it is a necessity of sourcing in China.
Working with International Clients: One of the most valuable components of my experience has been learning how to manage the sales process from CEO Todd Kleperis, who prior to founding IContain and serving as President of Sky Detective, has 12+ years of Sales experience, a bulk of which is Asia focused.
Managing International Shipping: Aside from now speaking conversational Mandarin, I now speak conversational shipping. International shipping is a whole other animal for people who have never done it before with large quantities, especially when the place of origin is a 3rd world country where the addresses are in a different language and the ideas of time and priority aren’t consistent with Western notions of time and priority. Additionally, logistics and shipping are areas that can be money-pits when incorrectly handled. In starting my own company, I will have already have learned from mistakes in international shipping and will be more aware because of it.
Summary: As an entrepreneur-in-training, I could have not asked for a more comprehensive crash course in one of the largest and most dynamic markets currently and likely for the next several decades. I had the opportunity to see a start-up in action, to experience first-hand business in China, experience Chinese culture and enhance my Chinese language skills. I am thankful that Todd Kleperis has given me generous amounts of his time, and I am thankful to Babson for facilitating these types of relationships and opportunities.
Ryan McNamara, Undergraduate Student