Sabrina Wang is ethnically Chinese, but she grew up in Vienna, Austria all her life. When she turned 22, Sabrina decided to move out permanently and has not looked back since.
Sabrina is currently taking the PKU-UCL MBA program in China. In this article, she shares how her Peking University BiMBA experience encouraged her to be independent and grow her startup.
Watch Sabrina’s full interview with China Admissions here (10:59):
From Corporate Life to Pursuing Her Passion
Did you ever feel like corporate life isn’t for you? That you would rather not be working in a big company, but you would like to try new experiences, take risks and you are hungry for something more? Well that’s how Sabrina felt.
“I realized I’m not a person to work in a corporation. I want to do startups.”
After completing her Bachelors of Art in European Economy and Business Management degree at the Fachhochschule des BFI Wien in Austria, Sabrina took a gap year and went to China to do an internship for six months.
Sabrina then went to Germany after her internship. She started a career in the logistics industry and took on various roles with multi-million companies such as Lufthansa and FedEx.
The turning point came when Sabrina realized corporate life wasn’t meant for her.
With an idea in mind to reduce furniture waste to save the planet and a firm belief in circular economy, Sabrina, together with a co-founder, built their own startup in Frankfurt, Germany – a furniture subscription company called Mobelo. The company name comes from the word Möbel which means furniture in German.
Mobelo serves a specific purpose, to give everyone the flexibility they deserve. What does Sabrina exactly mean?
“In a globalized world, everyone should be able to stay flexible and mobile. Many people, especially in my generation work in a certain place for one to two years and they move on. The last thing we want to do is settle in one place, in one apartment. It starts by not owning your furniture.”
Mobelo changes the way people move and consume furniture by providing a subscription model for customers to use luxurious furniture in their own apartment while still enjoying their freedom.
Once customers decide to relocate, Mobelo helps them feel like home at their new destination. All of this can be done with a few simple clicks on their smartphone.
The BiMBA Experience
Coming to China was a personal decision for Sabrina. The desire to know China better, coupled with the need to boost her entrepreneurial skills and elevate Mobelo, Sabrina decided to come to China to study an MBA.
Impressed by BiMBA’s reputation and culture, Sabrina saw the PKU-UCL MBA program as a way to gain a deeper understanding of business and Chinese culture.
“It was crucial to me that I can study in the country of my origin and live there for a while. Born in Germany and raised in Austria, I have never had a cultural affiliation as I feel in Beijing.”
BiMBA was the perfect choice for Sabrina as it brings together two world-leading universities (UCL in London and PKU in Beijing) from the West and the East together in Beijing. It helped her gain valuable insights into business management and entrepreneurship from different perspectives.
“I knew that If I want to do something big career wise, I have to go to the best university in China and that’s why I enrolled to the PKU-UCL MBA program.”
BiMBA boasts of an academic experience like no other. The business school’s excellent program structure and curriculum ensures that every student has an in-depth understanding of China’s market environment as well as attain a global mindset.
Sabrina remembers enjoying two courses at BiMBA the most: “leadership” and “MOB”. While business models and theories are essential, Sabrina believes leadership and management are even more critical in entrepreneurship.
“In leadership, I finally understood that becoming a great leader requires time and effort on self-development. Most people only see the result of a good leader; however, many are not aware of the hard work behind the scenes.”
During the course, Sabrina was appointed as the leader in a team of six people. She was able to use learned theories in the course and apply them in practice. It was the first time she acted on behalf of a team and not for herself. Leadership means leading people towards one mission.
In her MOB course, each student had to complete an online self-assessment test before the first lecture.
“The results were accurate and they gave everyone a foundation of different aspects of one’s personality. I was able to realize the particular strengths and weaknesses that I have not been aware of.”
Through the course, Sabrina spent many precious hours on her reflective paper. She wanted to understand and thoroughly analyze herself better.
“Only after gaining the understanding that I can make the first step towards developing myself and become a better version of myself.”
Another notable characteristic of BiMBA is its unique teaching styles delivered by world-class business professors and some of China’s foremost academics with extensive China and global experience.
“The professors at BiMBA inspire me in so many different aspects of my life. I have learned so much from them.”
Above all, BiMBA encourages students to be independent and build their own startups. Through entrepreneurship courses, students are taught how to build businesses from scratch.
“If you have Peking University backing you up and giving you encouragement, you feel like you can do anything. A Peking University degree itself is a business card. It has a ‘wow’ factor and you’re immediately somebody smart or interesting.”
Sabrina is all praises for BiMBA’s beautiful campus and great environment. It is located in the beautiful Langrun Garden which used to be a part of the Old Summer Palace. The summer palace is just across the road from the classroom.
She finds the Hutong/ancient-styled classrooms unique and inspiring.
“Everytime I want to take a break, I would walk around the BiMBA campus and see the beauty of China.”
Finding Balance Between Her MBA Studies and Running Mobelo
When Sabrina arrived in Beijing, she was faced with a different cultural environment and mentality. Although she spoke Mandarin, her reading difficulties became a massive barrier.
This challenge didn’t stop Sabrina. Instead, it motivated her to improve her Chinese skills even more.
“There is no doubt that the beginning of my Beijing chapter was challenging, but it was also incredibly rewarding. Even the smallest tasks, such as ordering a Didi to an unknown location and describing to the driver where he should pick you up was satisfying. In Germany or Austria, this would have never been an issue, but in China, I had to start from zero.”
While studying MBA at Peking University, Sabrina was also managing her early-stage startup in Germany. Due to the time differences, she and her partners held online conferences after midnight.
Sabrina remembers attending classes, managing group projects, and staying up late for weeks. Time management has been a primary vital instrument for Sabrina in order to overcome challenges. During the hard times, she learned how to prioritize activities.
For Sabrina, Beijing’s fast-paced lifestyle was both exciting and overwhelming. It meant meeting new people every day and dealing with the stress of daily life.
“Nevertheless, I enjoyed every minute of it – as I was able to develop myself exponentially and expanded my network in the Chinese ecosystem.”
For students who want to come to China, Sabrina emphasizes the need to create their own picture and free their minds of common misconceptions about China.
Sabrina has been living in China for the last couple of months, but she shyly confesses facing quite a culture shock in the beginning. Today, Sabrina has fully adjusted to her new life in China.
“The good thing about living in China is you have a personal achievement every day. Reading and speaking Chinese has been a challenge, but I see my improvement daily. Small wins make me happy.”
Sabrina is impressed by the degree of innovation and technology in China. She credits these success to China’s strict data protection law as well as the innovative mindset of the Chinese, which she says is lacking in some western countries.
In the long-term, Sabrina plans to bridge the gap between China, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. For her, data exchange is important in a competitive world and other countries can learn from China. With her ethnic Chinese and international background, Sabrina is confident that she can do the job.
“China is an amazing adventure. I’ve only been here for four months, but I am such a different person. I have been on a roller coaster and that roller coaster is not close to an end. It’s still moving, ups and downs… but it’s how I like it!”
Halfway through the semester, Sabrina had to return to Germany because of the pandemic. With the whole economy changing on a global level, she may have to delay her plans for now, but this savvy entrepreneur is driven to pursue her goals more than ever.
“I still want to become a successful international entrepreneur and empower more young women in the world to live their dreams.”
About the BiMBA Business School
BiMBA Business School of the National School of Development at Peking University (previously Beijing International MBA Program at Peking University), was established in 1998 and is situated in Peking University’s beautiful former royal garden, Langrun Garden.
BiMBA not only has world-class Economics and Management professors, it also cooperates with top global universities such as the US University Consortium, Vlerick Business School in Belgium and UCL in the U.K. to provide excellent business education.
BiMBA is known in the business world as the ‘Business School within a think-tank’. The world-class MBA program at BiMBA has been ranked #1 in China by Fortune (China) and Forbes (China) for years, and BusinessWeek has described it as “An MBA with a Heart”.
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