Alice Chen had always been an entrepreneur at heart. Even while she studied to finish a science degree at the University of Toronto in 2003 and a law degree at the University of Calgary in 2006, she was constantly looking for her business opportunity.
She found it in 2010 when she launched Export Ventures Group, a company that in a few short years has become an industry leader in exporting Canadian wine to major markets in Asia.
While the desire for Canadian wineries to expand the market to Asia has existed for years, it has been challeng-ing to achieve significant exports to key destinations like China. Canadian suppliers have lacked the expertise or manpower to find the right Asian partners and complete the necessary marketing and administration to export. And Chinese buyers have not necessarily engendered confidence, with often-exaggerated sales demands, a practice that's a cultural norm in China.
"I took the time to really understand what was lacking on both sides, and we figured out a way to do it efficiently."
Today, the company has become a one-stop shop for all the necessary export promotion, sales and management for 40 Canadian wineries. Last year, they closed more than $1 million in wine export sales and the success in the wine industry has made Chen an in-demand speaker and the go-to B.C. representative on trade missions and trade shows in Asia.
With her existing success, she continues to expand her business venture, connecting Asian investors to investment opportunities in B.C. and across the country.
While her business keeps her busy, she still manages to find time to stay involved in the community. In addition to mentoring young entrepreneurs through the YMCA Youth Mean Business program and Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, she mentors older women in a Minerva Foundation program who are establishing a new career.
"I had many people who helped me and I just want to pay it forward. I think that entrepreneurship is so under- emphasized in the school systems, but I see it as a serious career path. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's also most rewarding."