Starting a company – or receiving a six-figure investment for it – is not something that many 23-year-olds can say they’ve accomplished. But Lei Zhao, a senior at the Fox School of Business, has done both.
After founding HeyHome Education Consulting Company in 2016, Zhao is beginning to pave her professional path.
HeyHome seeks to connect high school students in her native China to safe environments and host families in the United States, an idea at which she arrived after relating to other students who were expressing difficulties with their host families. Unlike other consulting companies, HeyHome’s mission involves making weekly visits to assess living situations, to ensure that students are enjoying their stays, and addressing the learning quality in U.S. schools.
“I wanted to extend my horizons because it’s a totally different culture here,” said Zhao, who studies Marketing. “I love to talk to different people and know their experiences so that I can learn from them and build my strength. I talked with my professors about the potential solution of all the issues I was hearing about, and went from there.”
After placing second in the Chunhuibei Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, held by the Consulate of China, Zhao’s determination led to meetings with possible investors to further the development of the company. With a $100,000 investment, Zhao plans to build HeyHome’s website and complete greater marketing research to build a firm customer base.
“I learned a lot from talking to so many investors and politicians,” said Zhao, a native of Beijing. “There were a lot of things that I didn’t know, such as the restrictions of starting a company. I talked to different investors about their offers, adjusted all of them, and chose the best one.”
Next, Zhao will take part in Temple University’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl, but afterward the possibilities are endless. While the company is still relatively new, she hopes in the near future to meet with more investors, establish a successful online community for HeyHome, and eventually service Japan and Korea.
Zhao’s dreams extend to her culinary skills, too. She has a popular online cooking show, “Starfish Kitchen.” She considers cooking one of her hobbies, and she is always inviting trying new recipes. She’d even welcome the chance to bring her show to a U.S. audience.
But all in due time.
“There’s no hurry,” Zhao said. “You have to finish every step perfectly; otherwise it’s going to affect your next step, and the step after that. Do what’s best first and then build long-term.”