Shanghai Entrepreneurs: Johanna Hoopes

By Alyssa Wieting, April 12, 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.  

Johanna Hoopes has spent the last seven years in China building Dragon Group Asia, a full-service PR and event management agency, from scratch. Her portfolio includes a range of clients from multinational corporations like NFL, Under Armour, Pac-12, UFC, Porsche and HSBC to grassroots nonprofits and start-ups. Hoopes isn’t one to back away from a challenge, and after many years of hard work, she is now seen as a key spokesperson for North American brands entering the Chinese market and a pro at creating brand experience projects for global clients. Here she tells us a bit about her journey.

Tell us what you do in less than 50 words.
Dragon Group Asia is a cross-border integrated marketing agency. We do creative content, partnership building, brand strategy, event management, social media and public relations. We're especially passionate about sports, entertainment, hospitality and real estate. 

Why did you choose Shanghai?
When I came on an MBA tour for the first time in 2009 the energy in this city was electric, booming with entrepreneurs who were excited about collaborating on new opportunities. 

What was your inspiration for starting your own business?
I saw gaps in the market, particularly in the event management industry. Once we had established some signature event concepts, brands began to approach us to assist with creative concepts, public relations and event promotion. We began working with multinationals from early on, realizing that we could deliver high quality work and exceed expectations. We'll always strive to go above and beyond for our clients. 

What are the biggest challenges for setting up a business here?
So many. You need to be ready to fail every day, learn on the go, fail again, get overcharged, go unpaid and work harder than you ever have. The challenges only become more complex and the stakes get higher as you grow, but as long as you're having fun every day and working with great people you'll survive just fine. 

What is the greatest lesson you have learned doing business in China?
Show respect and face to people you're doing business with. Be authentic and have integrity in everything you do and people will want to work with you. 

What is the craziest thing you have done for your business?
Not slept in seven years. 

And the greatest mistake you’ve made?
Taking losses personally. We work so hard that it's often difficult to separate ourselves from the work and easy to burn out. I put a lot of pressure on myself and our team to deliver. By hiring the right people I've managed to find time for sleep and stress less. 

Where do you see your company in five years?
We'll be developing creative and innovative projects with the world's biggest brands as a sleek and lean global boutique agency. 

Who is your personal business idol?
So many women in Shanghai. Margie Chiang has been a mentor of mine over the years, Charlene Liu has taught me so much about community building, Mercedes Yao is a powerhouse and Vanessa Narvios’ follow through is unparalleled. I'm also obsessed with ESPN sports reporter Erin Andrews.

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