I’m all about sustainability and have been trying to do my part as well as educate and influence the companies I work within and with to think more sustainably. It always saves money in the long run and is good for our planet and consequently us as Humans. Combining business and environmentalism is always what I thrive for.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Crystelle Desnoyer. Crystelle is the VP of International Marketing at ToJoy USA, the US operations of ToJoy Holding, a China-based accelerator/VC firm (approx. 250,000 accredited investors). The office’s goal is to select Seed/Series A US companies and facilitate their China expansion. Based in New York, Crystelle has a successful track record of leading successful international expansions between Europe, the US and China and driving business turnarounds, working across multiple industries. She has lived and worked in Europe, Asia, Australia and the US.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was very fortunate to grow up in France in an international setting with French, British and Turkish origins, which enable me to speak fluently these 3 languages, in addition to German and Mandarin Chinese which I studied later at the European Business School in London, UK and where I obtained a Bachelor in International Business. I have always had an interest for different cultures and building companies so during my studies I lived/worked in Germany, Australia, China, Turkey and Belgium. After graduating, I then decided to move to the US to learn more about that part of the world and decided to do my Masters in the same field and graduated from HULT International Business School in San Francisco, CA. My studies there took me to Dubai, UAE and Boston in addition to California with a rotation program.
Like many Europeans, my dream was to live in New York for being the capital of the world in many industries, and off I went. I started my career at a boutique management consulting firm, by helping over 26 European tech. companies in many fields (e.g. machine automation, augmented reality, open source data analytics software, eCommerce Saas software, electronics, mobile apps, digital agencies) serving as their part-time and full-time, interim and long-term Marketing Manager aiming at developing their business in the US. In addition to Marketing, I helped build strategic go-to market plans by completing market studies, redeveloping national distribution & sales networks, recruiting and training clients’ key team members, advising on business development and partnership strategies, etc.
Early 2017 I transferred full-time to a client, a Chinese contract-manufacturing company specialized in consumer goods and sustainable product manufacturing, to grow their business and brand in the US/Western Europe. Accounts from crowdfunded startups to Fortune 500 companies have now become clients through those efforts. After having successfully established that company’s US presence, I now work on the VC side for ToJoy USA, to build the US operations of ToJoy Holding, a Chinese firm. The office’s goal is to select Seed/Series A US companies and facilitate their China expansion should they be a fit with our model. We also help Chinese companies, already accelerated through the ToJoy platform, enter the US market.
Can you share an interesting story about a challenge that you faced, and how you overcame it?
It is definitely not easy for a foreigner to do business in China. I am fortunate that I work for Chinese companies so this doesn’t really apply to me but I can share stories of companies I advised, who were trying to either manufacture in China or expand there. Relationships are key in China and they even have a word for it: “GuanXi”. Luckily for my company that is what they offer to foreigners: access to their extensive nationwide network.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
I can’t talk much about the deals we make but we are working on very interesting China expansion plans for US companies. They cover a few well known US brands in the food, fitness & leisure, education franchises and many more.
What advice would you give to other business owners to help their employees to thrive?
It always depends on the budget I suppose but if business in China is key to the US business’s success I would either recruit Chinese speaking staff in the US and/or send the relevant US employees to China and visit the partner companies or make it a part of research so they understand how they operate there and the culture. Doing things remotely is very difficult and facetime is a must in China for teams to work well together.
What do you think are the new untapped markets in China that may become the next “big thing”?
There are many untapped markets in China but here are 2 big ones I am watching:
Due to its size and growth potential, China’s healthcare market is one of the most attractive in the world. China is the fastest-growing healthcare market of all large emerging economies especially in medical devices and health products. Yet, the Chinese healthcare market is still relatively immature with only 6% of its GDP in healthcare spending per capita.
Pets, is the new cool in China. The surge in Chinese demand is not only great news for global pet food players like Mars Inc and Nestle SA, but also rapidly growing Chinese pet food and product companies, as well as entrepreneurs setting up everything from dog salons for grooming to fancy pet hotels and everything in between.
We keep hearing about the “Trade War”. What are your thoughts about it? Given the unknowns, how do you plan to pivot?
ToJoy is in the financial industry so it doesn’t really affect us. We raise money in China for JVs formed in China with a US company. On the contrary, China is more and more open to foreign companies entering its market especially in the Franchise area. Then if you speak about manufacturing (a generally low margin business), the cost of goods will increase to compensate and the American people will have to be the ones that pay. Nothing is really a done deal for now so let’s see how everything unfolds.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Do Business In China.” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Do your homework: Understanding the Chinese market and the different geographical region as well as how things are organized in your industry in China is key to do business there. Relying on partners only is not enough. You want to know enough to be dangerous.
- Build relationships: How many companies decide to pick a partner to work with and never goes to visit them? Way too many! If you are a small fish in a large pond with the partners you are in business with, then you can generally expect some very costly delays, errors, etc.Go visit your partners, spend some time with them and show that you care about your own business.
- Partner with vetted local companies: Choosing a partner to do business in China is key especially for first timers to reduce their risk and thus cost. Picking those partners like trading companies, lawyers, manufacturers, etc. needs to be a very organized planned activity including thorough reference checks.
- Plan ahead: Everything takes a lot more time in China as it is a very bureaucratic style of doing business. For example, in Manufacturing, you need to include 4 weeks of sea-transportation of goods and 2 weeks custom clearance etc. in addition to the potential issues you might encounter while prototyping/DFM/tooling. Major holidays in China like CNY (Chinese New Year) disrupt the cycle and if not taken into account ahead of time, can break a small business. Many articles were written on this topic which I’d recommend reading.
- Protect your IP: This is also part of doing your homework but really preparing to do business in China if you have any IP. You want to make sure you work with the right local lawyers that will have your best interest at heart. Reference checks are also essential here.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Information is power” is the first one that comes immediately to mind. This has helped me always push myself to be curious and learn about things I didn’t know. Sometimes “useless pieces of information” that you learn along the way might come in handy in the future. Staying open is key because if you are not the rocket scientist type — which I definitely am not -, knowing more than everyone else can help.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m all about sustainability and have been trying to do my part as well as educate and influence the companies I work within and with to think more sustainably as it always saves money in the long run and is good for our planet and consequently us as Humans. So joining business and environmentalism is always what I thrive for.
Originally published at medium.com