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Success Stories

Among the three million European SMEs that are exploring the global market, more and more are succeeding in China. Read their stories below to find out how they have benefited from the services at the EU SME Centre and made their first entry successfully in China. 

Success Stories

Catering Artisan Cuisine to Chinese Palettes

Marco Polo Import Export is a food & beverage company with a special focus on Spanish gourmet food. Setting foot in the China market, first in Guangzhou, as early as 2008 to export red table wines, the company saw the demand for authentic Mediterranean cuisine and soon expanded its product portfolio to a wide range of artisan food, including cured ham, fish & vegetable preserves, chocolates & sweets and frozen prepared food. Marco Polo aims to deliver not only staple Spanish gourmet to high-end hotels and restaurants, but also a fine dining experience through restaurant design and catering management. 
 
Currently Marco Polo is making progress on two frontiers: using a franchise model to sell a leading Spanish chocolate and sweets brand Torrons Vicens (founded in 1775) in Tianjin; and collaborating with more distributors for their high potential frozen prepared food products, which are easy to make, very safe, and convenient to prepare.
 
The EU SME Centre has become a primary contact point for Marco Polo in its market approach. Through the Ask-the-Expert channel, the Centre’s enquiry help hotline, our experts assisted Marco Polo in understanding standard and conformity issues for imported chocolates, provided legal advice for franchising, and helped in identifying partners for business development. The company also got the chance to attend the World of Food Exhibition (2015) in Beijing and met face-to-face with our experts there.
 
Finding the right business partners in China can be a very challenging task. The Centre helped introduce Marco Polo to local contacts, as well as to deepen their cultural understandings to obtain more valid feedback. 
 
“My tip for SMEs: get someone on your team that speaks Chinese. It demonstrates your commitment to the market and will give you an understanding that you otherwise wouldn’t get.”
 
The future looks bright; Marco Polo is now looking to open a store in northern China and is in negotiation with business partners in Tianjin, introduced by the EU SME Centre. 
 
“Our company registered with the Centre and participated in various online seminars regarding different business areas for China, which we found to be very concise and useful. Furthermore, there is always a professional reply to my enquiries from your expert team…I felt grateful to receive those comments and to know whether our company is going the right direction or not. China is known to me, however it is changing ever so fast and it is always difficult to keep up with! “
 
-Marco Piccioni, Marketing Director, Marco Polo

Visit Marco Polo website

Slovenian Tech Dynamises China's New Energy Vehicle Market

Background

Elaphe Propulsion Technologies Ltd.is a Slovenian company and a global leader in development and production of in-wheel and direct drive propulsion systems for vehicles. In October 2015 Blaz Stefe, today general manager of APG-Elaphe Propulsion Technologies, Co. Ltd, contacted the EU SME Centre in Beijing.  Mr Stefe wanted to understand better several aspects of entering the Chinese market, local legislation, business development and partnering with Chinese companies. 

What We Did

Mr Stefe met at the EU SME Centre in Beijing Ms Hyklova, Legal Advisor, and Mr Jimenez, Business Advisor. He received advice on legal and procedural aspects of creating a Joint Venture (JV), was recommended to pay attention along with his lawyers to some of clauses, location implications for the JV were discussed, while the EU SME Centre also shared information about the New Energy Vehicle (NEV) market opportunities in China, which in 2015 were not that clear as they are today.

Success

The Chinese investor partnered finally with Elaphe and a JV company was established in August 2016, which is today leader in the production of in-wheel motors for passenger and heavy duty vehicles. Operation of production line started in January 2018 in Hangzhou.  

"We appreciate the quality information available at the EU SME Centre, and certainly we will accept the proposal of the EU SME Centre to draft a Case Study so our experience in China can be shared with others for the benefit of EU SMEs."
-Blaz Stefe, General Manager of APG- Elaphe Propulsion Technologies, Co. Ltd.

Visit Elaphe’s Website

Pampering Tianjin Expats with French Cuisine

Maia Orgogozo fell in love with Tianjin during her first visit of the city. She then spent more and more time there before eventually moving over from France. She realised some foreigners in Tianjin love the city very much, while some are homesick.  In order to contribute to the happiness of both groups, she decided to make use of her cooking skills and opened a restaurant. 

After almost two years of conducting all necessary registrations and setting up her business, Oh My Gourmet became operational in 2012. With Oh My Gourmet, Maia does not only offer dining at the restaurant, but catering, private dining and cooking lessons as well. Step by step, Maia managed a healthy growth of her business, always focusing on ensuring the top quality of service and food. The business is thriving, being amongst the top five rated restaurants in Tianjin on the website of TripAdvisor. 

This success is based on the very hard work of the French entrepreneur. Maia said: “For an entrepreneur, there are new challenges every day, there is always work to do. You do not really have the time to sleep and can forget your social life in the first year of a new start-up, apart from that concerning work. It is very tough.” The second key factor to Maia’s success is that she rather invested more time in the beginning to ensure that her business is set up properly and compliant with all laws. Maia was not deterred by the long registration process, she feels that: “Those legal procedures take long everywhere in the world, it is just that China gives the idea that there are lots of possibilities for short cuts. This might be the case for locals but certainly not for foreigners.”

To ensure the legal compliance at all time, Maia needed the help of the EU SME Centre. After going through all the relevant guidelines on the Centre’s website, she enquired with the Centre's legal experts. In order to find out the exact scope of Oh My Gourmet’s business license, the Centre’s legal expert launched an enquiry with officials in different cities and in the end secured a definite answer from officials in Tianjin. Maia appreciates the reliable and independent advice from the EU SME Centre and says that it helped her a lot during the initial phase of setting up her business.

When asked about the advice that Maia would like to give other European entrepreneurs in China, she recommends: “The competition in Tianjin as well as in China is very tough. There are new obstacles and challenges to your strategy and original ideas every day, so many things make you doubt. It is easy to lose focus on the original plan. It is of course important to stay flexible, adapt your product and strategy to each situation, but it is very important to stay focused, too. Never lose track of your goals and do not get distracted.” 

Chinese legislation and regulations are often not very clear and the Centre was a great help in assuring me of what is allowed and what not. They conducted a real legal investigation for me; I myself could never have done that because I lack the knowledge and resources.

-Maia Orgogozo, Founder&CEO, Oh My Gourmet 

Tapping into China’s Corporate E-Learning Market

Gothia Logistics AB is a Swedish company that develops online training programmes in logistics, lean production and purchasing in order to help clients increase efficiency and improve productivity. Active in China since 2003, the company has been offering online training courses in both English and Chinese for employees in factories around the Yangtze River Delta region.

With the help of the Centre’s business development team, Gothia Logistics found a list of companies to participate in a research project on the difference in continued education between companies with various cultural backgrounds.

The Centre’s webinar on “How can foreigners establish an office in China?” helped the company acquire essential information on setting up a legal entity in China. Gothia Logistics also received comprehensive advice on employment arrangement forms available for wholly foreign-owned enterprises (WFOEs) in China.  

We used a great deal of services from the EU SME Centre’s website, especially the online enquiry service which allowed us to ask more specific questions on HR & legal issues. In addition, the Centre’s webinars are good sources of more resources. The EU SME Centre has been a great support for us when setting up our business in China. 

 

-Kjell-Åke Rönnberg, CEO, Gothia Logistics AB

Visit Gothia Logistics AB website

Taste of Galicia in China

The Galicia Food Cluster is a non-profit association that provides support services to food and beverage companies from Galicia in Spain. In September 2013, the Cluster successfully established itself as a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (WFOE) in Shanghai in order to better serve a growing number of Galician SMEs interested in the food and beverage market in China.

The move to establish a WFOE in Shanghai was not a snap decision for the Cluster; instead, it involved over one year’s comprehensive market research and strategic business planning. As a crucial first step, the Cluster carefully compared the pros and cons of different legal entity options available for foreign organisations in China, such as a WFOE, a Foreign Invested Commercial Enterprise (FICE) and a Representative Office (RO). The Centre’s legal team helped the Cluster evaluate the feasibilities of each legal entity option, and revealed the difficulties for a foreign association to register a WFOE in China. As a part of the solution, the Centre’s legal advisor suggested the Cluster to register a company in Spain and then have this new company register a WFOE in China. 

As to its future plan, the Cluster aims to expand its network in China step by step and develop more partnerships between Galician food and beverage SMEs and their Chinese counterparts.  

Visit Galicia Food Cluster website

Accessing China's Fashion Market

Just Campagne is a family-run business based in France, designing and making 100% hand-made leather bags and accessories. With three boutiques, two in Paris and one in Biarritz, the company is looking to develop in the Asian market, in particular in China.

In their early days in China, they carried out a market study in Beijing by organising private events for potential clients to show them their products. The feedback that Just Campagne received after the events was very positive and encouraging.

Célia Berkouk, Head of Marketing & Sales at Just Campagne, first heard about the EU SME Centre during an event organised at Capital M by VIVA – a Beijing-based women’s professional network. After being introduced to the Centre and receiving advice on the Chinese fashion industry from Rafael Jimenez, the Business Development Expert at the EU SME Centre, Célia very quickly got valuable advice to get started.

“They fully understood that our product category is not aimed at the mass-market, ” said Célia. China is a high potential market for Just Campagne, because customers are in search for niche and exclusive products with great quality and service. The Centre suggested exploring in detail the showrooms scene in Shanghai which, despite being relatively recent, is a fast way to approach the Fashion Complements market in China.

 “Getting to know in detail how the supply chain works for the so-called showrooms is a bit tricky without the counselling of true experts. The EU SME Centre reacted fast informing my company to whom to contact in the Shanghai fashion scene to navigate through the world of showrooms.”

Understanding payment methods of Chinese travellers and “daigou” was also very useful for Célia. Just Campagne adopted Chinese payment methods for developing brand awareness for Chinese people travelling abroad and visiting one of the stores in France. All the boutiques accept UnionPay and the ones in Paris accept AliPay as well.

No less important was the insistence on registering the company’s trademark in China. Early on, the Centre referred Célia to the China IPR Helpdesk to seek advice on their trademark issue.

A top tip from Célia is “always check your trademark registration status in China before going any further. Small companies don’t always have this in mind straight away, but especially for Chin, this is the very first thing to be done!” 

Visit Just Campagne’s Website

Supporting Chinese Hospitals with Clinical Products from Ireland

The Irish company Serosep is a leading producer of laboratory diagnostic products that are broadly used in hospitals and clinical practices. After identifying China as a market with huge potential for their products, Managing Director Dermot Scanlon and Export Sales Manager Eoin Kelleher had the idea of opening up a wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) in China. However, after attending a seminar of the EU SME Centre and enquiring several times with the Centre’s experts, they realised that it would be better to start with working with a distributor instead.

Dermot and Eoin then found Beijing ALT Biotech, a Chinese distributor with knowledge of the healthcare market in China. Together they completed the lengthy process of registering their company and products in China. This took more than 6 months, but then sales could finally start in China. At the time of the interview with Eoin, he expected the first order to be coming in the following weeks and it shipped from Serosep in May 2014. For the beginning the target clients are private practices and laboratories that work for private hospitals.

Serosep first got to know the EU SME Centre through another Irish SME. They took part in many of the Centre’s webinars and used the documents in the Knowledge Centre on the EU SME Centre website. In the beginning they sent several enquiries about setting up a WFOE in China through the Ask-the-Expert service. The information they received from the Centre made them change their perception of how to do business in China and how difficult it would be to enter the market. It directly impacted Serosep’s change of strategy.

We appreciated the competent advice from your experts very much. The seminar was brilliant. The legal expert who held it could answer every single detailed question. We left without one open question still in mind.

-Eoin Kelleher, Export Sales Manager, Serosep 

Visit Serosep Ltd. website

Exporting Greek Soft Drinks to China

Green Cola is a Greek soft drink brand that produces cola products with natural ingredients, containing fewer calories while maintaining the cola taste.

In the late 2014, Green Cola was introduced to the Chinese food and beverage market with the support from the importing company Fortune Park (Beijing) Trading Co. During the next few months, Green Cola conducted a series of market research on Chinese consumers’ preferences in soft drinks and found out that the country has a growing number of consumers seeking healthier and fashionable products with great flavors from other countries.  In 2015, Green Cola began to export a few containers to different ports in China and to sell directly in the imported commodity centers mostly located within Free Trade Zone areas and high-end super markets.

In November 2015, Green Cola exhibited for the first time at the World of Food Fair in Beijing within the Centre’s European SME Pavilion. The World of Food is one of the largest international food & beverage trade fairs in Northern China.

During the exhibition, the Centre introduced Green Cola to Emmanuel Stantzos, Minister Plenipotentiary for Economic and Commercial Affaires at the Greek Embassy in Beijing, and arranged a series of individual business meetings with Chinese distributors, retailers and buyers.

“Attending the exhibition and the Centre’s European SME Pavilion provided us with a good opportunity for the brand to get direct feedback from consumers in terms of flavor preference and price elasticity. It also helped us gain more valuable contacts and expand Green Cola’s sales channels in China”, said Mr. Jay Xu, Managing Director of Fortune Park Trading Co,.

Jay stressed that logistics is often the primary challenge for imported fast-moving consumer goods in China. In addition, the speed to market and fast delivery to consumers are the key to success.

 “There is no doubt that the China market is one of the most attractive for all prospective exporters. But it has to be approached with a long term perspective and with respect to the culture and to the consumer habits. For us, this means that it is significant to present a selling proposition that will bring an added value to the Chinese consumers. But no matter how good this proposition is, no exporter can succeed without the right associate from the China side”, said Antonis Terzis, Export Manager Green Cola Hellas S.A.    

The next step for Green Cola is to make the products available for more consumers by distributing through different sales channels. To achieve this, Green Cola is working to have the Chinese label printed directly on the bottle to comply with China’s new food labeling regulations. (Find further instructions for China’s food and beverage labelling requirements in the Centre’s Guideline.)
 

Visit Green Cola's website

Exploiting China’s High-end Anti-pollution Mask Market

Christopher Dobbing, a young entrepreneur from the United Kingdom, launched his anti-pollution mask business in China in 2013. As the Founder and CEO of Cambridge Mask Co, the company targets the high-end anti-pollution mask market. Now selling masks through a number of local hospitals, schools, corporations and retailers around the world, Chris has successfully diversified his distribution channels both online and offline. 

In his preparation to set up a company in China, Chris used the EU SME Centre’s consultation service to understand the company registration process and certifications needed to sell his masks on the China market. The Centre also provided him free temporary office space while he was looking for affordable offices in Beijing.

As to the challenges faced by European SMEs in China, Chris put recruiting and retaining staff as the most pressing one. Instead of having three underperforming staff, Chris suggested SMEs invest more in the most dedicated one.

The EU SME Centre was a valuable resource to help me accelerate my start up business selling anti-pollution face masks in China. Having a professional looking space to hold meetings in central Beijing is great, and the legal advice and information guides have proved to be really useful at this key point in setting up here. I would highly recommend the Centre to any small business looking to get started here.

-Christopher Dobbing, Founder and CEO, Cambridge Mask Co

Visit Cambridge Mask Co

Getting Chinese Tourists on Board

In 2012, over 83 million Chinese tourists travelled abroad and spent more than €75 billion overseas, making China the world’s largest outbound tourism market. Dreamboat, a Czech SME providing travel services for tourists and business groups from Asia, began to gain a foothold in this booming market in 2012. The company identified European cruise trips as a niche market that has not yet been fully exploited in China, and began to partner with Chinese companies and the Czech Tourism Office in China to organise Danube River cruise trips for Chinese tourists.

The EU SME Centre supported Dreamboat during its early stage of establishment in China. The Centre’s free hot-desking service provided its staff a professional working environment while it was developing partnerships with local travel agencies in Beijing. The Centre’s guidelines and webinars explaining changes in China’s visa rules also kept the company informed of updates that affected its employees working in China. 

Among the advice offered to SMEs preparing to do business in China, Zofia Guranova, the company’s China sales manager, mentioned that conducting proper due diligence on potential Chinese partners is one of the most important first steps to take.

“I can highly recommend the Centre’s hot-desks to any European SME that wants to start up a business in China or is coming to Beijing for a business trip. The Centre also offers benefits that I personally find really helpful - for instance a consultation with an experienced specialist in both the legal and business field. Moreover, the location is perfect and the atmosphere is really friendly; the staff is always willing to help.”

-Zofia Guranova, Sales Manager, Dreamboat

Visit Dreamboat website

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