a woman of TWO WORLDS

Enjoying a fine wine

Summer Chen on working in Asia and Europe.

As China’s middle class continues to grow at an impressive rate, so does the number of Chinese businesswomen.

In fact, China is seeing more and more self-made female millionaires. So how have the young Chinese females succeeded in overcoming the hardships of growing up in China? Could it be because of their international experience of studying abroad coupled with their understanding of the east and west cultures?

If you watched BBC3’s recent programme called the “Secrets of China” presented by Billie JD Porter, one episode focused on China’s rich and poor divide, with Billie interviewing a number of young Chinese women who were putting their careers before relationships and raking it in while doing so.

Many sacrificed losing face and falling out with their family because they were still single after the age of 30 and some said their status as a wealthy, independent woman sometimes intimidated men – whether they too were rich or not.

We spoke to a businesswomen from mainland China who is well travelled, internationally educated and does business with many Western countries.

Chen Xiaowen, or Summer as she prefers to be called, is from Chengdu and at the age of just 29 , she is already very successful.
Educated in an international school in Chengdu and then sent to university in London to study Economics, Summer has, in just seven years since graduating gone on to be a successful businesswoman sourcing fine wines from Italy and whiskey from Scotland and Ireland to sell back in China.

Summer says the Chinese love Western wines and liquors, especially ones that are rare and have an interesting heritage behind the brand, so those are the kind of wines and whiskeys she seeks out.

I’ve always been a bit of a wine connoisseur, and definitely partial to whiskey every now and then too, Summer tells us with a cheeky smirk. So I thought, why not make a business out of it.Chen Xiaowen

Now Summer owns several successful alcohol boutique stores in Chengdu and other major Chinese cities selling not just wine and whiskey, but also other drinks, including vodka, gin, beers and champagne. She also helps sell them to bars in China to serve to patrons.

But how has being a rich, busy businesswoman affected Summer’s social and love life? “I’m currently casually dating an Italian man I met travelling to Italy and luckily he is not so worried about the fact that I do not need a man to survive!” she laughs.

“My parents have always been a bit funny about it because they had hoped I’d at least be in a serious relationship that is going somewhere, but at the same time they are happy that I am doing well for myself and can afford to keep them and other previously poor family members living comfortably for the rest of their lives.”

So what advice does Summer have for other Chinese women hoping to be successful too? “I think whether you are educated in an international school is not an indication as to whether you get far or not but working and studying extremely hard and having an ambition with a clear cut idea and business plan is the best way forward,” she says.

She also added that, surrounding yourself with the right people with similar life goals, those who support you and getting yourself out there by networking are important too. “Being at least bilingual is a must too,” Summer – who speaks fluent English and conversational Italian – she adds, “Some Chinese children hesitate to learn English at school because it is not enforced in many of them, but it’s obvious you can’t do international business without knowing it well.”

On the topic of her ethnic identity and bilingual skills, Summer says she felt obliged and compelled to use them to her advantage. “I thought this would be an excellent market to get into, sourcing goods from Europe and selling it into China, without language barriers.”

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