Friday, May 18, 2007
Discovering the American dream
Executive of the Year builds fortune from scratch
Memphis Business Journal - by John Scruggs
Wei Chen was having trouble keeping his eyes open during the Small Business Awards ceremony.
He'd been traveling for weeks and was fighting a case of jet lag, having returned from China to Memphis just 24 hours before the event.
After being named the 2007 Executive of the Year, Chen says he still can't believe the success he and his business, Sunshine Enterprise, Inc., have found in Memphis.
"Driving home, my wife and I were remembering the days we both stepped off planes in Memphis, not knowing anyone here and not able to speak English," Chen says.
He has been in Memphis for 11 years now. His 9-year-old company employs more than 200 and continues to grow with offices in China, New York, Houston, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
"Memphis has been so good to us," he says. "And this is something I did not expect. The finalists -- everyone has bright companies and they are all bright executives."
Manufacturing, importing and distributing a variety of industrial and construction products, Sunshine Enterprise is the brainchild of Chen, who came to the University of Memphis on a scholarship for his international MBA in 1996.
"I want to thank the University of Memphis," Chen said in his acceptance speech. "They gave me a scholarship and it is where I met my wife."
John Pepin, outgoing dean of U of M's Fogelman College of Business and Economics, says Chen has, in essence, "found a better mousetrap" in the lightweight, modular scaffolding he distributes in the U.S.
"He introduced an innovation into the construction industry that has been embraced in the U.S.," Pepin says. "And he is using his cultural and language advantages to grow his
Sunshine has seen 273% sales growth from 2003 to 2006.
Chen has recently acquired two factories in China and he hopes to add distribution locations in continental Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia in the future.
Chen's plan with the most recent plant in China is to introduce American manufacturing and management techniques.
Giving employees the freedom to succeed without micromanagement is another business philosophy Chen embraces.
Chen recruits much of his staff directly from the University of Memphis, one way he can give back to the school.
"We have internships and give opportunities to University of Memphis students," he says. "We also are working with their placement office and most of our employees are from the U of M."
It's important that Chen allow his partners, as he calls his employees, to grow and succeed just as he has.
"Getting rich is good, but there's a greater meaning of life," he says. "And that is to contribute to the community and give your employees and customers the ability to succeed in their lives."
Sunshine Enterprise, Inc.
Importing, distribution, manufacturing
CEO: Wei Chen
Address: 2005 Fletcher Creek
Phone: (901) 452-0188
Web site: www.gostepup.com
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