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“This is real life. You need a great support network to be successful.”
Vera Wei may have started out in the financial industry, but with the help of London Business School (LBS) mentors, she launched a start-up providing educational trips to the UK for Chinese children.
While she was studying on the Sloan programme, Vera launched her programme’s name-sake venture, Sloan Education. With 18 years’ experience in China’s financial industry, curiosity led her to ask: “What have I got left to learn?”
Vera says her story is “one of a 40-year-old woman, with years of experience and an educated background, who came all the way to London to pursue her passion.”
Fuelled by her experience on Sloan, Vera asked Jurek Sikorski, Entrepreneur Mentor-in-Residence at LBS, to help her find a way to share her experience of life in the UK with her compatriots. “I wanted to educate Chinese children and help them realise that speaking English could open doors,” she says.
Sikorski helped her to develop the company. Its first educational trip took place in July 2015, with 17 Chinese students aged 8–16 travelling to an English-language summer camp in Buckinghamshire. “For most students, it was the first time that learning English stopped being stressful and became a way to communicate with the world,” says Vera.
Now that she’s built the network and expertise in UK education she says she’s “bringing the best resources to China”.
When Vera moved to London to study, she had more to consider than just chasing her dreams. Her son Marc, who’s now 13, relocated with her.
Vera was unsure about uprooting him at first, but LBS’s Senior Admissions Manager Linden Selby reassured her: “Linden helped me through the visa process and other challenges involved in moving to a new country. It’s quite a daunting task to seemingly throw everything away and jump into the unknown. Having people cheering me on made me feel more confident.”
Once at LBS, Vera’s classmates helped her and Marc settle in. For instance, a member of her study group invited them both to a family birthday celebration. Soon her classmates became friends and confidants. She leant on them for support as she balanced home life with the demands of the Sloan programme.
“I told one of my classmates I felt a lot of pressure, but I didn’t want to share this with my boy in case it worried him,” she says.
Vera’s classmate replied at the time: “This is real life. You need a great support network to be successful. Don’t let Marc live in a bubble, share your concerns with him and he’ll support you.” It was, Vera admits, the best advice she’s ever had.
Marc’s a big support today. “Together we make a great team,” says Vera. “He often says that seeing me work hard makes him feel the impossible is possible. I feel I can really lead by example.
“He calls me an inspiration,” she laughs. “I’m a career mum doing something I’m passionate about. And that’s having a big impact on my boy.”