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Her story is a story of revenge, of endurance, of overcoming many difficulties and finally of great success. In Italy everyone talks about her and wants to hear the incredible story of this young woman who arrived in Italy at the age of three, without knowing a word of Italian, and today she is one of the most successful young enternpreneurs of Italy.
Giada Zhang is a second generation Chinese and is the founder and director of Mulan Group, a company specializing in the production and distribution of oriental dishes. From an early age she learned that to achieve great goals one must make great sacrifices and ‘eat bitter’ as indicated by Chiku, the cornerstone of the oriental work ethic. It is the first company to have brought high quality oriental ready meals to large Italian supermarkets.
Her story begins with the transfer of parents who arrive in Cremona from China, without having anything, not even their little daughter who were forced to leave by their grandparents in China in order to devote themselves solely to work. They opened a restaurant and got busy with a lot of determination and a spirit of sacrifice.
At the age of three, Giada, who had not seen her parents for a long time, joined them in Italy. Everything is strange and different to her. She didn’t understand the language and she didn’t even know her parents. In kindergarten she was the only Asian little girl in the whole school. She was extremely shy and communicating with her was almost impossible. But Giada did not give up. As her parents she too had the same determination and from a very young age she committed herself to learn a language which was so different from hers. At the age of seven, she bought a children’s dictionary where she painstakingly searched for all the new words that she then transcribed. For her, going to school was not easy for several years, she couldn’t event rely on the help of her parents who did not speak Italian, she had to do everything by herself and she also had to face many emotional difficulties such as being laughed at because she was not fluent in Italian and because her appearance was different. But after some time the teachers realized that Giada was no ordinary child. She studied, tried to understand, read many books of Italian literature and they encouraged her to continue her studies.
In the fourth year of high school, Giada flies to the USA where she studies for the entire school year. At the end of his studies he enters Bocconi where he graduates with full marks in International Business Economics. This is followed by a training period in New York where the people he met said “Are you Italian of Chinese origin? How Cool “. Little by little, Giada realized that in fact her diversity was her strong point.
Mulan Group was born precisely to create a bridge between China and Italy starting from the concept of food as a universal language. Starting to offer dishes from the family restaurant to a supermarket, Mulan Group now covers about 6,000 stores and Amazon with dishes made up of 95% made in Italy ingredients, while soy and bamboo come from Asia.
A Chinese value that Giada cares a lot about and is related to work. It is part of the work ethic of Confucianism and is the ability to continue to face and overcome difficulties without ever stopping and breaking. In other languages we would use the word resilience. Chiku literally means ‘to eat bitter’ and that's what it needs to be done to get the sweet.
Withstanding the impact with innovation
Italy is teeming with SMEs and family businesses, all of which will suffer the strongest backlash. How do you handle the blow, beyond the support of the state? "You have to work on new products and new channels, and innovation is the key. You need to communicate to the whole team and employees, with a great deal of internal communication. True leadership is also needed, and there are four themes: protecting your people, being able to map potential points of failure and creating levees, minimizing the economic impact on the company with cash flow to move forward and show a mission, that is to show what we want to be “after.
The Chinese virus
China - which is the starting point of the epidemic - is undoubtedly experiencing a lot of controversy over emergency management, in addition to the fact that the term "Chinese virus" is increasingly used, almost in a discriminatory exacerbation. Giada knows the phenomenon well. “In 2002, when SARS came, I was in elementary school. Suddenly, the children no longer wanted to play with me: their parents said things like "don't play with the Chinese, which brings disease". At that time, I was the only oriental child in the class, by the way. It was a big psychological impact ”. Last January, with China in full storm, Giada therefore tried to anticipate the effect that she knows could be disruptive: with the Chinese community in Italy she became a spokesperson to avoid racial discrimination, looking for Chinese companies to help Italy with various solidarity initiatives. "My biggest concern is that the virus will disappear, but discrimination will remain, because we are afraid of the uncertain, and if we don't have answers the fear increases."