Currants drying in a vineyard.

What is the best strategy for Coachella Valley-based Mojave Gold to export their nutrient-rich raising crop to China? A group of Mihaylo MBA students provided a blueprint for the company in their marketing course. MBA student Mandy Yan Zhu discusses her experience.

“The eyes of the world are on the Chinese consumer,” says Mihaylo MBA student Mandy Yan Zhu ’17. “Compared with other cultures around the world, the Chinese are very health conscious. They value happiness, good health and having enough energy for an active lifestyle.” According to Euromonitor, the Chinese health and wellness market is expected to be worth $70 billion by 2020, providing opportunities for businesses around the world.

Mandy Yan Zhu, a Mihaylo College MBA student, led a student team in bringing California-based Mojave Gold raisins to China.

Equipped with native knowledge of Chinese markets, Mihaylo MBA student Mandy Yan Zhu led a student team in opening two urban markets in China for California-based Mojave Gold LLC.

Zhu was part of a student consulting class project for Mojave Gold LLC, a California on-the-vine raisin company based in the Coachella Valley town of Thermal seeking to expand into the burgeoning Chinese market. Working as a team, Zhu led the students in analyzing market trends to develop a comprehensive report with recommendations on expansion to China.

Zhu completed her undergraduate degree in her native Shanghai, so she had experience with Chinese business, yet this was the first time she participated in exporting to the world’s second-largest economy. Using her knowledge of China, she was able to connect the raisin company with health food enterprises in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Mojave Gold began selling their product in Shanghai earlier this year.

“We targeted high-end consumer groups and highlighted the selling points of nutrition, health, safety, reliability, transparent supply chain and American producers, because the Chinese trust U.S. products,” she says. “So far, two batches of raisins have been successfully delivered to Shanghai. And the Hong Kong client is now in negotiations with Mojave.”

Completing the first raisin order was difficult, Zhu explains. “I had to fully understand the selling points and market positioning of the raisin product, and then integrate, sort out and translate the English materials before sending them to potential Chinese clients,” she says. “I used email communication because it was cost-effective and made it possible to save all the records of our exchanges. But because of the time difference, the clients would often send me an email in the middle of the night, and I would see it the next morning.” She noted that 5 to 10 p.m. Pacific Time was the best opportunity for correspondence.

“Before coming to U.S., I had extensive experience exporting Chinese products to international markets, including America,” she says. “It was just the opposite this time. This was a wonderful experience and provided me with a clear career development direction and enhanced my confidence.”

She believes her project will serve as a springboard for her career. “As a non-native, English-speaking international student, I thought it would be very difficult for me to start from scratch and be recognized and trusted, but my expectations were completely changed after the program,” she says. “I came to realize that I can bridge the divide between Chinese clients and an American vendor with my language, my cultural background, marketing knowledge and international trade experience. This not only enhanced my confidence but also exposed me to the opportunities and platforms for international students to succeed in the United States.”

Zhu also credits Mihaylo graduate faculty with the successful project. “I am very grateful for the support and encouragement from Melissa Lopez and Jeffrey Williamson in this program.”

For more on Mihaylo’s MBA program, future global travel courses and other graduate studies, visit Mihaylo MBA and Graduate Programs online or at SGMH 4210.

  1. Brandon Poore May 11, 2016 at 4:37 am

    Good stuff Mandy!!!!

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