Shenzhen Chronicles Presents: Helen And The Sunstar Academy – Why Women Should Jump Into Entrepreneurship.
We personally wanted to get to know more about Sunstar Academy business and the motivations that Helen had for starting it. So we were pleased when she agreed to chat about her trials and tribulations.
I wanted to make my own schedule and work as I please. I started a small academy for gifted kids, where we cultivate their gifts and help develop their gifts. Math, music, arts, etc. We took students from ages 3 to 7 and placed them in schools in Singapore and Malaysia. 2 years later, the local parents heard of our school and they wanted their children to be called smart or gifted, and who wouldn’t? They were willing to pay the same money with simpler training however, I did not have the license to teach ordinary kids. I had more and more local students who wanted to join our gifted program so, I worked with a local friend and open a kindergarten with a local license. Now we have local kindergartens, teaching advanced lessons to ordinary kids and we are trying to make them gifted.
Working for yourself can be a lot of stress that brings with it some big challenges. What has been the biggest issue that you have had to deal with?
Yes. More pressure, more headache, more stressful, more challenging but also more exciting. I feel good every time I solve an issue. Authority, fire department, health officer, local police, immigration teacher’s visa, others like trouble kids, and some hard to please parents.
What encouragement could you give to other women that have a desire to become entrepreneurs?
DON’T BE AFRAID OF DEBT. Or don’t fear bankruptcy. Small, medium, giant businesses need capital to start, whether financial or debt of gratitude. You need people and you need finances to start your business. A lot of people are afraid of being into huge debt or fear being bankrupted before they even start the business. Do you know why there are more male business owners than females? First, a male has been in business longer than female. I think everyone knows that women were not even allowed to hold properties under their names or were not even allowed to hold credit under their names until 1970. Second, males are more daring, brave, and are always ready to gamble, some are impulsive and grab every opportunity they see without worrying about debt. Third, I think a lot of us females have a lack of financial skills or we tend to buy many things easily without thinking. To be a successful business owner you have to learn how to manage your wealth. Must have good financial skills. Fourth, women have lots of other duties like taking care if the house, children, etc. and don’t always have the time or energy for business. I think women who enter the business world must start with a small business first, especially, if they don’t have enough capital. Also, women should not be afraid of reaching out to people who can help them grow their business.
When we decided to delve even deeper into the topic of Sunstar Academy, this is what Helen had to say about her business.
I have had my academy since 2008. But it was not legally registered in Shenzhen until 2011 November. My Academy is like my baby. And the longer I work for my academy, the more I work and put my effort and care into it, the more attached I get to it. It’s not easy to run a school abroad, especially in China. I always fear that one day someone will take away my baby (my academy) I’d say hard to make plans at the moment because they are changing the policy almost every year, and I’m not in any position to do anything to stop it in case it happens.
In Shenzhen, I opened 3 branches and I wish I can open more branches in neighboring provinces. Right now we are doing an expansion project and plan to expand in other provinces. We will have one in Hubei next year. Because of the second child policy, I’m hoping the Chinese government will help take care of the businesses like us because the country needs our service. I like to think positive. In 3 to 5 years I plan to have one academy in Canada, maybe earlier if things go according to plan.
Our unique curriculum is our best selling point, all original and all unique. I design our own curriculum, make our teaching materials, design and make our own textbooks and train our teachers. It’s not easy for those who don’t know what they are doing. But at Sunstar Academy, all administrators are educators and so are the bosses.
Over the years we have revised changed and updated our curriculum and we still evaluate and revise it every year. We do this to meet the needs of many children. Unlike other schools, the bosses at Sunstar Academy are not like normal businessmen. Most employees care “how much” they will make, how much work and how much value the business will give them. So when the school administrators or teachers leave, bosses usually don’t understand them or can’t relate to them and can’t relate to why they leave. If an employee leaves, usually bosses will just get a replacement easily without thinking about the value of the employee. At Sunstar, all bosses and all the teaching staff are educators and parents. All teaching staff is trained to be great teachers so we have a really great team. We help understand each other and we can relate to one another. That’s why we solve issues easily. At Sunstar, we all love our work and what we do. We teach with heart and passion so the teaching and learning are also effective. We don’t have to spend money and time advertising. No website, no social media accounts. All satisfied customers or parents are just overwhelmed. You know how parents like to brag about their children? And if the child wins a national academic competition and or the child learns well in a short period of time, parents brag to friends or post it on WeChat moments or social media, you know? That’s how their friends know and their friends start to ask more about our school. However, we are considering to open a social media account now that we are planning to do further expansion.
For many businesses, “word of mouth” is always the best way to get reliable information. For school business especially choosing a preschool, parents must always be careful choosing the “first step in a lifetime of learning” for their children. Since preschool can greatly influence how your child views school and learning, you’ll want to choose wisely.
We were curious about how Helen has been able to achieve so much success. She expressed the most important things to keep in mind when starting her a business like hers.
Opening a school business you need 3 important things.
1. The curriculum (unique, useful and meet individual needs)
2. The educators (quality teachers and staff are top consideration. Teachers attitude and training are very important)
3. The leaders and administrators (it’s great if the leaders and administrators are parents and educators themselves so they’ll understand the staff, teachers, the parents, children, and curriculum well.)
So, if you are in school business and you have these three checked, easy to teach, learn and work. I mean if a teacher is professional and has a passion “heart” in teaching, he or she will be a very effective teacher. The student will naturally learn without pressure because he or she feels relaxed and enjoys learning every day. Plus the students and teacher relationship will be stronger. Once there’s a great connection between teacher and students, the teaching and learning are easy. The parents can focus on their work, will be relaxed and confident that their child loves school and the learning environment.
The administrator and leaders should also recognize this and think on how to make the teaching and learning environment better, by working and understanding the teaching team more. Most of the time, leaders think of making profits first, this isn’t always the best approach. The leaders at our school are focused on building a stronger relationship with the teaching staff. The closer we get the better we understand each other and the better we solve issues and work together.
In all businesses, leaders play a big role. All leaders should find ways to understand, support and help their team.