Moving from China to Canada when he was 18 for college, Yupeng Liu, WG’20, began his career in the food industry. While he was passionate about the industry, he had reached a plateau and sought new challenges. That’s when he decided to launch his own food business.
That was 10 years ago. Today, that business, Just Quality International, has grown to become a leading importer and wholesaler of frozen fruits and vegetables in North America. Its subsidiary, Global Growers Foods, has become a major brand for frozen fruits and vegetables across China.
As a successful entrepreneur, Yupeng is often asked why he decided to go back to school to get an MBA. “I tell people that being an entrepreneur can be lonely because you’re working on your business and struggle with hard decisions. I wanted an EMBA program to surround myself with like-minded people, to better understand all aspects of business, and to learn frameworks to make better decisions,” he said.
While there are EMBA programs closer to his home in Toronto, Yupeng came to Wharton for its rigor. He explained, “I wanted the full Wharton MBA in an executive format. Sometimes you hear that, at some schools, the ‘e’ in ‘emba’ stands for ‘easy’ but that isn’t the case at Wharton.”
Now that he’s approaching graduation, Yupeng says his answer for why he wanted an MBA has expanded. “I say that, as an entrepreneur, you don’t know what you don’t know. I thought I knew everything about supply chains because this has been my area of focus, but I sat through operations classes and thought, ‘Wow! I didn’t know that.’ This program is adding a lot of value for me and my company.”
Applying Classroom Learning
Yupeng points to several examples of how he applies knowledge from Wharton to his business.
“We used to carry over 600 items or SKUs, but I learned at Wharton how to use data to drive SKU decisions and marketing insights. As a result, I’ve cut over 100 SKUs, which saves storage, labor, and finance charges. That is pure savings for our bottom line,” he said.
He added, “Another big takeaway came from Prof. Americus Reed’s consumer behavior class. Prof. Reed says to ‘Always be collecting data or ABCD.’ I think about that all the time as I use data to make better decisions both for our products and services as well as to drive attrition and operational efficiencies.”
Faculty expertise and connections outside of the classroom are also helpful. He explained, “I’m currently working on a potential business that may revolutionize the Chinese food service industry and it’s great to have access to Wharton professors and the experts they introduce me to.”
Taking Advantage of Global Opportunities
The global learning aspect of Wharton’s EMBA program is adding an unexpected benefit for Yupeng, who has taken optional Global Modular Courses (GMCs) in India and Ethiopia, travelled to Sweden and Norway for the required Global Business Week, and served as a teaching assistant for a GMC on marketing to the Chinese consumer in Shanghai. He also did an independent study project with two other EMBA students on the Chinese retail industry, which provided the opportunity for the students to go to China.
“Wharton offers very authentic and well-organized global learning experiences. They are unique opportunities to learn about business in another part of the world and to meet local alumni in those regions. The GMCs are open to all Wharton students, so you get to know undergraduates, full-time MBA students, and EMBA students from both coasts,” he said. “I recommend taking advantage of as many of these global learning opportunities as possible.”
Spreading the Word in Toronto
Recently, Yupeng and an EMBA classmate, Santiago Bueno, WG’20, hosted an Information Reception in Toronto for prospective students. “I truly believe in the value of this program and want to help spread the word to others in Toronto. I also believe in the Wharton EMBA culture in which everyone supports each other, and this was a way of supporting future students,” he said.
He added, “I also can relate to the excitement and anxiety that prospective students face. You worry if you are good enough because this is a very rigorous program. If I can help address those concerns, I am all for it.”
Yupeng says that the reception covered a lot of topics, but there were three recurring questions:
Is the commute from Canada manageable?
“The commute isn’t bad at all. There are multiple airlines with reasonable schedules and costs. I usually travel with a few other classmates from Toronto and use that time to relax, study, or read. As for crossing the border, we have NEXUS, the equivalent of global entry in Canada, so you scan your card and go through customs without delay. I have a shorter commute than many of my classmates, who fly in from other parts of the U.S.”
What is the workload like?
“You can find easier workloads in other EMBA programs. Wharton is not easy, and the first year is especially challenging. However, the students who come here are looking for rigor. They don’t want something easy – they want the full Wharton MBA.”
Is Wharton worth the tuition?
“Everyone can make their own choice, but for me, if it’s not the best then I don’t see the point in doing it. As for the money, I can always make more money, but I cannot duplicate experiences like the GMCs or conversations with the caliber of people who are in this program. It’s definitely worth coming here.”
— Meghan Laska
Posted: March 25, 2020