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2016: Vision Becomes Reality November 23, 2016

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tasha-photoCamp 2camp 1Camp 3

If you have watched a Presidential debate, you will agree that public speaking has made a significant difference in the victor of a Presidential race. For ordinary people, public speaking is also a prelude to becoming confident and successful individuals.

How can we train our children’s public speaking skills?

My vision for Summer 2016 was to set up a camp for youth leadership and public speaking in our community with a fun, friendly, pressure-free, and encouraging environment. Every student would have an opportunity to develop and practice public speaking skills, which lead to increased self-confidence and leadership capability.

I am happy to report that the summer camp was an immense success.

What I learned the most by orchestrating the summer camp was leadership.

There are two types of leaders: those who lead by authority and those who lead by example and persuasion. The latter was what I strived for in leading the summer camp.

The summer camp team was composed of ten devoted volunteers who are some of the most respected professionals from a broad range of backgrounds.

I learned as a leader that I had to set my vision clearly, hold my vision unwaveringly and lead the process steadily. It was the determination and confidence that made me and the team do what others said could not be done. The vision drove us home.

The unique characteristic of the summer camp was having a fundamentals session called “Leadership through Goal Setting” before the “Public Speaking” session. The resulting two-session integration differentiated our summer camp from any public speaking workshops in the marketplace.

The “Leadership through Goal Setting” session was designed to create a developmentally appropriate experience for students, so that they would lay a firm foundation for their identity as well as a greater understanding for culture variations, and then they took active steps to achieve their goals.

One parent said that after the camp, she often heard her daughter present her father case studies from the session. She was fascinated by how her daughter led their conversations, and how her daughter helped her father worked through scenarios and reached solutions at the end.

The “Public Speaking” session was a learn-by-doing lab. Students were focus on improving their impromptu talks and prepared speeches. They also learned and practiced how to give an effective evaluation for their fellow students’ speeches. Through election of officers, some students had opportunities to take on roles such like President, Vice President, Secretary and Sergeant at Arms each week.

I am happy to see my 2016 vision become a reality that is changing lives; I am happier to see young leaders emerging from the camp. Who knows? Someday you might be surprised to find a future President come out from my summer camp.

Testimonial: What Camper Had to Say About Camp

“After only two weeks, my speaking skills improved drastically. I was nervous and unprepared when I gave my first speech, but I was extremely confident and ready on my final speech, a speech that everybody loved.

Furthermore, this camp boosted my leadership skills, turning me from a follower into the president of the camp. Lots of learning opportunities without sacrificing any fun!”

~ A.X.

Testimonial: What Parent Had to Say About Camp

“Although my son doesn’t speak very much, he told me that he liked the summer camp you organized. And he spoke a lot more than usual afterwards :)”

~ Y.L.

Quote of the Month

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

– Oprah Winfrey, media personality, businesswoman and philanthropist

My Vision for Summer 2016 June 23, 2016

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Dear Friends:  Recently, I shared a story at my Toastmasters club meeting. It was about how, before I left China 25 years ago, my Mom did not speak a single word for a whole week. During the meeting break, many members came to me and shared their concerns. One question people asked the most is “Why?” Why did she not speak?


I do not know.

But I understood her perfectly. To me, the situation was clear. Her message was well received.

If we believe that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken, my mom had expressed herself 55% in that regard. I saw tears welling out of her eyes. Whenever she was about to say something to me, tears streamed down her cheeks and trembling lips. I could feel her heavy heart.

You have to remember that Chinese culture is highly contextual. Many things are left unsaid, letting the culture explain. For example, my mom never said she loved me, but I know with all my heart she did all her life. Also, people in China believe the maxim that “actions speak louder than words.” My mom spent all her savings to support my dream to come to America. Therefore, actions spoke. 7% of words was not necessary. To me, to comprehend her point of view was not a problem. However, to the world, it is a challenge.

As populations increase, cultures and people become increasingly diverse. How do kids in families from a highly contextual culture learn and adapt an effective speaking style in this low-contextual society?

I believe I can do something to fulfill this need.

My vision for this summer is to set up a summer camp in youth leadership and public speaking in our community in a fun, friendly, pressure-free, and encouraging environment. Every student has an opportunity to develop communication skills, which in turn increases self-confidence and leadership skills.

Imagine it is summer, warm and golden. The shadows of trees dance across the classroom floor. Travel to school is a breeze. Jolly kids enter the classroom as the hour draws near.

Now hear a teacher calling the meeting to order promptly at the start time. A warm up activity in leadership through a goal-setting class is always a fun icebreaker. A game of tossing ball bonds students together as a team. A puzzle-solving game expands their imagination. A role-playing drama helps them walk outside their comfort zone. After every group exercise, students know themselves better than before, and they see their future unfold in front of them.

A topics-master presents amusing and thought-provoking questions, and excitement and eagerness builds as students are called upon, one by one. The meeting is fast-paced and full of energy.

In the prepared speech section, every student comes prepared with a speech on a selected topic. After each speech is delivered, the audience applaud enthusiastically.

An evaluator gives encouraging as well as honest remarks, with specific suggestions for improvement. Speakers appreciate the feedback they receive. Every student is sincere, friendly and cheerful. At the end of the day, they all look taller and more self-confident. They seem to enjoy life more.

They treasure the opportunity to make their lives more fulfilling and interesting. They make new friends and learn from other students. More importantly, admission to their dream university and a life of enrichment appear within their reach.

This summer camp program is being offered as a non-profit contribution to the community by Ivy Business Institute,Sofia University and bamagogogo. A small fee is required to cover the rent and logistics. For more information, please refer to the attached flyer or click here.

Since space is limited, please sign up today!  That will be the best gift ever you can give to the next generation. You will be helping your kids to bridge the two cultures and come out successful and confident individuals.

My Blessed Mentorship April 20, 2016

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I was holding a file folder in the middle of first row. Yuanqing Yang 杨元庆, CEO of Lenovo 联想,  was standing in front of a picture on the left side.


The club successfully hosted its first speech contest on March 16, 2016.


DSC_0165When I graduated from middle school at the age of 13, two paths were presented to me. One was to accept an offer from a sewing vocational school, which also granted me a stipend. Another, was to continue my education in high school, then compete for college entry, a one-in-a-thousand chance at that time in China. My Mom, who herself had not had the advantage of a high school or college education, inevitably preferred for me to attend the vocational school, so I could help reduce the family’s financial burdens.

I still recall the sheer uncertainty of standing at a crossroads, desperately seeking someone to shed some light and help me make the right decision. I ran to my teachers for help. Finally, words from my geometry teacher helped me to make my decision. She said, “Fight for life whenever you have an opportunity because there aren’t many” (人生能有几回博).”  That was it. I was back in the game. I realized my destiny was meant to become a fighter and I found my motto. Since then, I have cherished my geometry teacher as a mentor because her words inspired me to set a course to reach higher educational goals.

Have you ever been at a crossroads in life, feeling unsure about which way to turn and worrying about where your future might take you? Who is your mentor?  Do you have one?

Last June I volunteered to become a mentor for a newly chartered Toastmaster club, MoToast at Motorola. Since then, I have been excited and exhilarated by my decision everyday for the last 30 weeks.

The pleasure is all mine. Can you imagine what it means to a person whose native language is not English to mentor a group of people who are either English speakers or who speak more fluent English than me? I feel both, very  privileged and at the same time, terrified.

My first challenge at MoToast was to win their hearts and stay. As you can imagine, initially, the capable officer group did not feel it was really necessary to have a mentor there. However, with my ten years’ experience as a Toastmaster, I knew a mentor was extremely valuable for foundation building at a new club. The team was dynamic, enthusiastic and eager to learn, so we moved quickly. Pretty soon, we established a fine structure for the meetings, introduced good practices to members, and later conducted educational workshops such as how to give a good speech evaluation to members. At the end of my mentorship, I received a positive feedback from the team, “They (the old officer group) were very wrong. Good to have you there to point us in the right direction.”

My second challenge was to find a perfect partner in the journey. I would be a fool if I didn’t know how to leverage the presence and participation of a partner mentor. As a wise man once said, “Two is better than one. If one falls down, the other can help him up.” Like building a startup company, finding a partner, another mentor in this case, is critical. I quickly drew a matrix in my mind, which listed all my strengths and weakness as a mentor. Meanwhile I filled in the qualities I was looking for, which would help to optimize the mentorship experience. With the qualities in hand, I found him, though he committed to join the meetings not weekly, but once a month. He is a great speaker and a wonderful team player. I was grateful to have the opportunity to work and learn from the best. He came on board on July 29, 2015.

My third challenge was to help the team get through tough times. I arrived on June 3, 2015. The club started strong with close to 40 energetic members. In mid-August, the company went through a transition, losing more than 70% of members due to layoffs. That was a sensitive period for each member and you can imagine that Toastmasters might not be the first priority on their minds. How to adjust our strategies? We decided to re-build the officer team, change the club status from closed to “open to the public”, and we arranged a great open-house event to recruit new members on 11/11/2015. As one of the Directors from the TM district stated, “this is the best open-house I have ever seen!” As a result, the club is still alive and is thriving.

An interesting anecdote is the connection I have with Motorola, a Lenovo company. More than ten years ago, I hosted an Executive Summit in Napa. The CEO of Lenovo was one of my guests. That was a brief but meaningful coincidence, because, here I am, ten years later, having the privilege of becoming  a mentor to Lenovo’s Toastmaster club in Mountain View!

My mentorship at Motorola, a Lenovo company, has been a rewarding journey. In fact, I am convinced that my mentorship experience has accelerated and enhanced my Toastmaster experience. I find myself having more passion, energy and motivation when it comes to helping people. In helping others, I am helping myself to grow as a person.

As the old saying goes, “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” and I agree. Or, in other words, “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life”.

Quote of the Month

“Nothing is meant to be, except for your freedom to choose and your power to create.”

– Mike Dooley, Thoughts from the Universe

Happy Spring!

Spring is here. If you want to take a look at my book, Journey to the Spring, a collection of inspiring stories and unfailingly honest reflections, please click here.

Leadership Workshop March 1, 2016

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Do you want to have someone help you to figure out what is next in your continued growth?

Do you want to have someone help you think through a tough question facing your business?

Do you plan to include someone who has your best interest in heart into your life?

It’s been a while since we were in contact. I hope 2016 is off with a great start for you!

Earlier this month, my client invited me for a lunch. She is an amazing woman. She came to the states as a foreign student to earn her Ph.D degree in her 20s, worked as a scientist in her 30s; realized her American dreams in her 40s. Though she has enjoyed successful and blissful life, she believes that women should continue to grow and enrich their lives and as well as others. After taking a break at home, she became an entrepreneur in a business of health.

After she attended my leadership workshop in 2015, she has achieved further personal growth and found a clearer perspective in work life balance. As a result, she has achieved both personal growth and business growth by helping many more people to improve their quality of life.

I look forward to walking with you on this journey exploring your wonderful future as it unfolds!

Until next time,


Quote of the Month

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead, anthropologist (16 Dec 1901 – 1978)

Spring Festival (春节) February 25, 2016

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Chinese New Year 2016 (monkey Year)

My favorite holiday during my childhood in China was the Spring Festival. It lasted for 15 days. Those 15 days were the happiest time of the year, and I missed them for the rest of the 350 days.

According to the lunar calendar, about a month or two before Spring Festival, my mom would shop for cloth, sew and stitch our handmade outfits and shoes. It was a tradition for children to wear brand new ensemble for New Year’s day. About 15 days before Spring Festival, most families would start the preparation with the following three steps. In the first and most important step, we would clean the whole house. In Chinese, the word Dust is the homophone of the word Old. By cleaning the house, we not only got rid of dust, but also removed all the old stuff. In order to have a new beginning, we were expected to have a deep and thorough clean-up of the whole house. After we swept the floor, we would rub it for several times until it became nice and shiny. We removed spider webs in every corner of the house. My daddy would paint the house with white paint, so it looked like new. Meanwhile, we threw away worn out house items, such as furniture, mattresses, or cookware. One important step in cleaning was to also wipe clean any debt that we owed because in following tradition we would like to start with a brand new slate in every area of our life, not only physically but also financially.

In the second step, we shopped. We shopped for food since there was no cooking in the house for about a week, and we had to store enough food supplies and snacks. In the last step of the preparation, we decorated the house using mostly the red color, the symbol of good luck. For example, couplets were pasted on both sides and the top side of the gate. Chinese knots and lanterns were hung on windows.

The day before New Year, the whole family was gathered to prepare and cook food. I remembered my mom and my older sister spent their whole day in front of stove cooking while my sister and I helped to clean and prepare food. The house was fragrant with the smell of food.

New Year’s Eve was the climax of the holiday. The New Year’s Eve feast was supposed to be as rich as possible for each family. Normally it contained 10 dishes. Every dinner table had to have fish because the word for Fish was the homophone of the word Extra, meaning abundance. We wished the coming year we would have more food, more money and more luck. Other than fish, we also had chicken, beef, lamb, pork, and vegetables. All children would eat sticky rice cakes. In Chinese, the word Sticky is the homophone of the word Year; the word Cake is the homophone of the word Tall.  Eating sticky rice cakes symbolized that we would grow taller and healthier the next year.

At dusk, we wore our new clothes and new shoes, lit a candle in a lantern and went out on the streets to meet our friends. Outside, on the street, we lit firecrackers, sometimes fireworks. I particularly liked firecrackers. I tossed them in the air one by one and waited to hear the bang when them were falling. That was fun. We believed that the bang would scare away all the demons. After we were exhausted from all the firecrackers, we came back home to play card games with the whole family.

The house was bright since all lights were on. My dad was normally a serious person and never played with us, but not on New Year’s Eve. This is when he became a child again. He played with us, and his comic acts not only brought us to laughter but also himself to laugh deeply, loudly and hysterically. As the midnight hour approached , my mom would lead us to the dinner table to prepare dumplings.

In Northern China, no dumplings, meant no Spring Festival. Making dumplings and eating dumplings were significant activities in the Spring Festival. The shape of dumplings looked like an ingot (元宝), which was the currency used in old times, meaning “luck and fortune.”

After the clock stroke 12 a.m, we finished making dumplings, and my energy ran out. On this special night, children were allowed to stay up all night. Though my mind liked to stay awake, my body did not. So I often ended up on the bed and fell into a deep sleep quickly.

I was woken up by loud firecracker sounds in the morning on the first day of the New Year. Every family would light a string of firecrackers outside the street before having breakfast. My mom boiled dumplings for us. After we finished dumplings, my parents handed us red envelopes. Each envelope contained an even number of dollars, which symbolized we would be safe and sound for the whole year. Before we accepted their gifts, we normally would bow and greet them with good wishes.

A visit during Spring Festival was a social event, called “Bai Nian”, 拜年 in Chinese. We would travel near and far to visit all our relatives, friends and neighbors and wish them a happy and prosperous New Year. We also watched the New Year parades and participated in games organized by the government.

The 15th day of January was the Lantern Festival. Riddles were written on the surface of lanterns which were hung on the street. Whoever solved a riddle would win a prize. Lantern Festival is also called Valentine’s Day in China since the young people were able to date during the street festivities!

Although there are many traditions going on during the Spring Festival, I believe the heart and soul of the celebration is the family reunion, and the interaction and intimacy generated among family members and friends. We show that we love and care for each other. All the hurts and wounds in the past year have been forgiven; all the conflicts and disagreements in the past have been reconciled. It is like hitting the reset button on life. We cherish each other and are grateful for what we have – and we look forward to an even better and brighter life coming up.

That is the significance of the Spring Festival.

Exclusive Interview by cyzone.cn (创业邦) November 16, 2015

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December 2014 Newsletter December 18, 2014

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IMG_3180photo-6 photo-8 photo-5

Dear Friends,

Wishing you joyful celebration and abundant laughter as precious memories made during this holiday season and a healthful, prosperous, and propitious 2015!

In this particular edition, you will learn:

  • An  exclusive interview about me and Founder Butterfly, an Ivy Business Institute’s project, by cyzone.cn (创业邦), a popular online publication company for entrepreneurs in China and beyond.
  • Pictures of our team building Founder Butterfly prototype.

During this season, Ivy Business Institute takes time to reflect upon the good things we have …you. We appreciate your ongoing support and friendship.

A Very Merry Christmas and a Bright New Year!

Sophia Liu

Quote of the Month

“Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.”

– Paul Klee, painter (1879-1940)

October 2014 Newsletter October 7, 2014

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Jerry - JackPebble Beach
Photo © HYSTA 2005. See www.hysta.org

Behind the Story of Alibaba and Yahoo at Pebble Beach

Knowing that Yahoo finally hit the Alibaba IPO jackpot last month, a $25 billion record-smashing success, was a milestone for me. It meant that people showed an inherent faith and belief to make miracles occur, and that anything was possible.

In May 2005, a short conversation between Jerry Yang and Jack Ma along a beach line planted a seed for a strategic partnership between Yahoo and Alibaba. The intention was quickly accelerated and morphed into what became known as “Project Pebble” inside Yahoo. Here is the famous photo of “Pebble Beach walk” taken at 5:26:07 PM on Monday, May 2, 2005, at HYSTA’s Executive Summit.

Back then, not many Americans had heard about Alibaba. As a matter of fact, Alibaba was not the 1st player in the marketplace in China either. Jerry Yang placed an inherent belief and faith in Jack Ma, a person who failed twice in China’s national college entrance exams, who did not graduate from a prestigious university, who had no technology background whatsoever, and worst of all, who did not have a proven track record of success. However, today, Alibaba made the largest IPO in US history.

It takes faith, courage, and the ability of foresight to make miracles happen.

Yahoo has done that, and undoubtedly the HYSTA’s Executive Summit in 2005 did the same also, with no experience in running international conferences, a small and lean team, insufficient financial resources, a less well-recognized brand, and in fact, the project encountered many objections and hurdles when it took off.

However, as Executive Director of HYSTA, I was primarily in charge of the Summit, and I firmly believed that something GREAT would come out of the project because it had the following three traits:

First, A Big Vision. The gathering of top technology business leaders from China and America was unprecedented in terms of scope and scale. The 7-day event had over 1,000 attendees. Participants traveled over 500 miles in the Northern California going to each venue. It truly was a one of its kind event.

Second, A Strong Execution. Sometimes it was easy to aim big, but the devil was in the details. If a big vision represented a number of zeros, a strong execution would represent the leading one. Without the leading one, no matter how many zeros, it was still a zero.

Last, but not least, was the precept which myself and my team followed: we were Mission Driven. The team and I believed this project would have a positive impact on both American and Chinese societies. Many new ideas would be stimulated, new knowledge would be imparted, and new connections would made. We were sure these things would result in something valuable, like partnerships, resource sharing, and new job & business opportunities. With belief in a mission strongly implanted in our hearts, even the utterly impossible seemed interestingly doable. I foolishly volunteered to pay a deposit of $50,000 to secure Pebble Beach’s venue with a few of my credit cards when the association did not have any money and there was no sign that anyone would come. 😦

I urge you to follow my example and have an inherent faith and belief that anything is possible and miracles do occur. I hope you are able to identify a wonderful opportunity next time before it happens, and act on your beliefs.


New Opportunities for Ivy Business Institute

Ivy Business Institute has been selected as one of 11 finalists to participate in the two-day workshop, sponsored by eBay Foundation. The workshop delivers a condensed version of Santa Clara University GSBI’s proven methodology, with a focus on fundamentals for building a financially sustainable organization for social entrepreneurs. click here for more details.

Ivy Business Institute has been selected to pitch our project at the 2014 Opportunity Hack event on Oct. 11-12, hosted by eBay Inc. Opportunity Hack is a 2-day hackathon focused on solving problems for nonprofits and social enterprises. click here for more details.

We Value Your Opinion

Ivy Business Institute empowers women to start and grow their businesses. We provides luncheon networks and online tools that enable women to collaborate with each other, access needed resources, and learn the right strategies to be competitive in the local and global marketplace.

Please fill our a short survey for us to better serve you. Thank you!


July 2014 Newsletter July 3, 2014

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The Gift of the Tradition

ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT. THAT WAS ALL. My sister counted bamboo leaves. Since the bamboo leaves were dry, she soaked them in warm water to tenderize them. Meanwhile, she poured two bags of sweet rice into a big round pot, filling it with enough water to soak it too. She went back to count the bamboo leaves again. It was one hundred and eight. “There should be two hundred and sixteen dried jujubes to go with it,” she murmured to herself. So she opened a closet and fetched enough bags of dried jujubes. After she finished preparing the dried jujube, she pulled the bamboo leaves out and soaked them again in fresh cold water. As she used a brush to clean each leaf, she counted them again. One hundred and eight. And the next day would be the Double Fifth Festival, or the Dragon Boat Festival, and my sister would make zongzi and give them out as gifts.

The zongzi, as you know, is the food eaten at the Double Fifth Festival. The expression of appreciation my fellows show during festivals is usually manifested through food, zongzi on this occasion. When that happens, every zongzi turns into something magical, and when it is unwrapped and tasted, it makes a ripple of sincere kindness and compassionate waves amongst us.

Though she has lived in the United States for only three months, my sister’s list of people she would like to thank is long. For example, you would definitely find her English teacher’s name there, her neighbor who gave her a ride to the supermarket was also there, and a person who once showed her how to use a vending machine from her morning exercise class was on her list too. To her, these people are important in her life.

The zongzi is an old-time favorite in the tradition of complicated and time-consuming home cooking. It is moist, aromatic, and delicious. Also it is like a nugget of treasure that you search for in the center. Because the cost-benefit of making your own zongzi isn’t much, for many young people in China, making zongzi at home has become a distant childhood memory.

However, to my sister, because the time and effort put into preparing zongzi are not trivial, home-made zongzi is special because it is a labor of love. It is embedded with its maker’s handprint and emotion. It is a gift with a soul.

To prepare the zongzi, my sister tucks rice inside each bamboo leaf and wraps it four-sided with pointed ends. After it is boiled or steamed for more than one hour, she lets each rice packet cool down then soaks it in cold water again for another 8 hours. Only then, the rice becomes fully cooked, formed and sticky. As for flavor, my sister likes the Beijing style the best – bury two dried jujubes into plain rice. Dip in sugar or honey prior to eating for an instant sweet treat. The two dried jujubes symbolize two red hearts; the sticky rice creates a powerful bond. What a clever idea. It makes a perfect gift for family and friends.

Don’t miss out on an important connection with family and friends by remaining silent when you are grateful – express your gratitude … in traditional ways!

The Book I Read

“Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh
Description: In Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh – the hip, iconoclastic, and widely-admired CEO of Zappos, the online shoe retailer – – explains how he created a corporate culture with a commitment to service that aims to improve the lives of its employees, customers, vendors, and backers.


Monthly Ivy Business Luncheon in June

Chinese businesses continue to have a high level of interest in entering the U.S. market in the consumer web, real estate, energy and other business sectors, both high tech and no tech. The purpose for having a presence in the U.S. may be to market and sell products or services, research and development, investments, acquisitions or other reasons. With so many rules at both the local and national level, however, Chinese businesses usually have many questions and concerns .

Last Ivy Business Luncheon was hosted on Friday, June 27 at Royse Law Firm in Palo Alto. The speaker was Mr. Fred Greguras. His presentation provided an overview of legal issues for setting up a subsidiary corporation in the U.S. including the type of legal entity, where to incorporate, tax planning and issues in hiring employees in the U.S. The program had provided a practical understanding on the basic issues in each of these areas.

For the deck of Mr. Greguras presentation, please click here.

June Luncheon Summary July 1, 2014

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Many thanks to everyone who came to the Ivy Business luncheon on Friday June 27. It was a fruitful and productive meeting.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the meeting.

Mr. Fred Greguras seems like a good lawyer who is very knowledgeable with abundant experience working with global companies. He was really candid and patient answering our questions one by one. I found his presentation easy to understand without lots of Jargons.  In the meeting,  Fred talked about advantages and disadvantages of Sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, Corporation, CA vs Delaware Corporation and what is applicable for people arriving from China setting up business in the US.   Due to a large volume of questions, we were not able to finish the slides.  But overall, it was a great lunch meeting.