Cracking China

Bridget Pearson, of Barnsley company Your Bridge to China, pictured on a visit to Southern China
Bridget Pearson, of Barnsley company Your Bridge to China, pictured on a visit to Southern China
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When a Barnsley cake-maker wanted to export scones to a burgeoning afternoon tea market in China, finding a local woman who speaks fluent Mandarin was not so much the icing on the cake, as the jam.

Silkstone 25-year-old Bridget Pearson runs her own cultural liaison and interpretation consultancy, Your Bridge to China, which supports business people who want to sell into China.

Carlton-based Haywood and Padgett, the UK’s leading scone producer supplying major supermarkets, turned to Bridget when their presence at a trade fair in China led to export enquiries from Chinese hotels and caterers.

“Export orders look hopeful. All things traditionally Western are very popular with the young Chinese,” says Bridget, who set up her company a year ago after studying for a degree “on a whim” at 18. “I’d enjoyed my French A level and thought tpurism with Chinese would be really interesting,” she said. “I didn’t realise how hard it would be. Only four out of the 26 on my course made it to graduation.”

Neither did she realise she was making a wise business decision. Latest government statistics show that since 2004 UK exports to China have quadrupled to £12.5 billion. Yorkshire’s exports amounted to £200 million and imports from China into Yorkshire were £2 billion in the decade.

“My Mandarin got me into a growing field. Doing business with China is a priority growth area for the UK,” added Bridget, who spent 10 months of her studies in Beijing.

“It opened my eyes to the culture and how the Chinese live and work. The basic ‘dos and don’ts’ I tell clients are: Pass your business card Chinese wording face up, with two hands to show honour and openness; don’t discuss Chinese politics and do expect to do the deal over a banquet dinner - at which you will be asked lots of personal questions. The Chinese like to find out about the person they are doing business with.”

Bridget,has now linked with another Chinese-speaking Yorkshire entrepreneur, Richard Ward of Halifax, who is based in Guangzhou in China’s south. The M.D. of Banfa International Trading got in contact on Linkedin and the duo now offer a comprehensive two-way import and export advice service

“It’s our mission to help bridge cultural and language gaps,” said Bridget. “Richard works in China going direct to factories securing the best deals for UK clients sourcing goods, while I work with companies here giving them the confidence to explore selling their products into the fast-growing Chinese economy.”