Shanghai Entrepreneurs: Zhang Chenling

By Alyssa Wieting, February 13, 2017

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Shanghai is a city of entrepreneurship. In our series, 'Shanghai Entrepreneurs,' we talk to people from different backgrounds and businesses about their motivations, experiences and what they have learned along the way.  

Zhang Chenling grew up in Shanghai and moved to the US when she was 18 to attend university. After graduating from Harvard, she started her career as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley in New York City. After seven years of banking, she decided to move back to her hometown, where she established VCleanse in pursuit of her entrepreneurial dream. Here’s her story. 

Elevator pitch: Tell us what you do in fewer than 50 words.
VCleanse is a premier healthy lifestyle company that sells healthy juicing products. We believe in the plant-based diet philosophy and apply it to all of our cold-pressed juices, nut milks and healthy food. We distribute our goods all over China. 

Why did you choose Shanghai?
I am Shanghainese and I love Shanghai; it is the perfect mix between the past and the present, the East and West. However, New York City is my second home and I hope to be able to split my time between the two in the future. 

What are the biggest challenges to setting up a business here?
In Chinese, the word jiediqi (接地气) means that you need to be able to adapt to your local surroundings easily, and I’m using this phrase more and more. I find that people with strong international backgrounds operate at a high standard, but we maybe struggle to adjust to the local situation at hand. That is the challenge here in Shanghai. 

“I find that people with strong international backgrounds operate at a high standard, but we maybe struggle to adjust to the local situation at hand” 

What is the greatest lesson you have learned doing business in China?
You should look for a partner that complements you. Creating a startup requires so many different skills and it is hard for one person to master all the aspects of a business from the very beginning, so it is best to have someone who can share the responsibilities. I have to say that my previous business partner and I shared a lot of common strengths, but left our weaknesses uncovered, which could’ve potentially been detrimental. I now have new business partners who complement my strengths to cover every need of the business. 

What do you wish you had done at the beginning of creating your business, but didn’t?
I think we should have taken the risks to expand to new cities more quickly, but we did not focus on that. Hopefully we will do better in 2017. 

What is the hardest thing you have done for your business?
My husband and I live in two different countries – him in New York and I in Shanghai. We only see each other about once a month, so the long-distance marriage is the biggest sacrifice I have made for my business. 

Where do you see your company in five years?
I want consuming a VCleanse green juice a day to be as common as getting a Starbucks coffee every morning for more people. 

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