Women Entrepreneurs for Good: How LiLi Time Runs a Social Enterprise Café with "Love" | emlyon business school Women's Day Special Event Review

Source:emlyon business schoolDate:2023-03-20

May love command our business

A highly mature commercial society, in addition to economic prosperity, should also be full of love and hope. emlyon business school has long held the value of "Business for Good" and is committed to cultivating business leaders who are determined to take up corporate social responsibility. We believe that "early makers" are not only disruptors of traditional business models, but also creators of a better life. How to properly practise corporate social responsibility? How to do the right thing for the public good with a long-term commitment? How to actively contribute to society? How to benefit special groups? These are lifelong questions that every outstanding entrepreneur is constantly seeking to answer.

In order to respond to these questions, on 4 March 2023, emlyon business school and VHR, as the organizers, invited GDBA students, emlyon alumni and VHR mentors to visit LiLi Time, the first coffee shop in China to be certified as a B Corporation, and have a deep conversation with the brand's director, Ms. LiLi Zhang. During the warm and heartfelt sign language and coffee course, we were able to further appreciate the value and meaning of social responsibility and gain insight into the bright future of social enterprises and the infinite possibilities of business for good.

At the beginning of the event, Ms. Yuping Li, Director of Alumni & Corporate Relations, emlyon business school Asia Campus, said that emlyon has always been committed to the improvement of the public interest and seeks to build a better society that is more equitable, solidary and sustainable. "Diversity, Equality, Inclusion" (DEI) is a key component of the strategic framework for SDG at emlyon, with a track record of excellence in the areas of curriculum, operations and research. The latest reported data shows that in the past year,

  • 1,107 emlyon students involved in 56 associations, groups and student initiatives;
  • 65,000 hours of commitment were carried out by emlyon students in associations with a social or environmental impact, and 1,184 assignments validated;
  • 40 of the 490 emlyon new projects were exclusively about social or environmental impact;
  • 70 external projects and 37 startups were supported by the emlyon incubator and accelerator;
  • for the 5th year, the Times Higher Education global employability ranking places emlyon as the 2nd French business school (top 40 worldwide).

Mr. Guoxin Qian, President of VHR and a current student of emlyon GDBA, called for more support for the development of charitable enterprises so that the love of the community can continue to be passed on. The students and alumni of emlyon come from a wide range of backgrounds, and they have made a positive impact on the industry and society by using innovative business models to support sustainable development.

Afterwards, Lili Zhang shared with the audience her entrepreneurial experience and business insights. She talked about the fact that the number of hearing impaired people in China has exceeded 27 million, more than the entire resident population of Shanghai. Nevertheless, the majority of them have been invisible and unaccepted for a long time, silently suffering from the injustice of fate.

In 2013, Lili Zhang returned to Shanghai from Germany and opened a community coffee shop. The following year, a deaf young man came to the shop and sent her a note with the idea of learning how to make coffee, which became an important opportunity for her to start her journey as a charity entrepreneur. After gaining a deeper understanding of the hearing impaired community, Lili Zhang realised that the so-called "deaf" and normal people's "hearing" is only a difference in status, and the society should not exaggerate this physical defect, which may deprive them of the hope of a normal life.

"Just as people in different countries speak different languages, the hearing impaired community is similar to that in some way. Although they can't hear or speak well, they also have their own way of communicating. It's just that we normal people can't quite understand what they are actually saying." In Lili Zhang's view, the greatest value of setting up LiLi Time is that through the professionalism and dedication of the deaf baristas in making coffee, the infinite potential of the hearing-impaired group will be discovered and recognised, and the traditional stereotype that "deaf people are a disadvantaged group" will gradually be changed.

She pointed out that running a charity coffee shop is not just about selling coffee to make money, but also about providing a medium for people to interact with each other, so that love can be fully exchanged and flowed in the café. For example, by helping deaf artists to sell their paintings in the shop, not only can the talent of the deaf be seen by the world, but also greatly improve the financial situation of their families, thus helping the next generation to regain confidence and hope; by organising regular small concerts for autistic children, more parents of special groups can leave their shame behind, feel proud of their children from the deepest of the hearts and discover children's different growth possibility.

Talking about CSR, Lili Zhang advocated that the practice of it must be done in conjunction with innovative business models. She reminded everyone that true charity should not just be donating, but also about creating a viable and sustainable career path for special groups, so that their talents can be seen by more people, and they will truly gain the right to pursue their dreams.

Professor Luk Ting Kwong, Professor of Marketing, DBA advisor and Director of Eurasia Centre for Brand Management at emlyon, has served for nearly 17 years as Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (one of the largest non-profit youth service organisations in Hong Kong, China). As a guest observer at the event, Professor Luk emphasised that "Business for Good" has always been a value proposition of emlyon, and emlyon has been committed to cultivating business leaders with corporate social responsibility. How to use innovative business models to help social enterprises achieve sustainable development? How to allow individuals and companies to fulfil their responsibilities in their own form? These are topics that we still need to explore in depth. The emlyon Global DBA bilingual programme aims to nurture scholarly business leaders to be "early makers". From the perspective of Asian business civilisations, emlyon GDBA students keep exploring important topics such as global economic growth, digital transformation, innovation and entrepreneurship, efficient management, sustainable development, etc. in both academic and industrial environments. And as a result, they have great impact on multinational corporations, SMEs, governments and communities around the world.

GDBA students Xiaoying Qu, Rong Dai, Zhihong Yu, Juxiang Qi, Wentao Yu, VHR mentor Qi Shao, and other guests further engaged in the discussion with Lili Zhang on topics such as the positioning and value of social enterprises, future development of youth, innovation in public welfare activities, career planning for special groups, and entrepreneurship.

After the discussion, Lili Zhang and LiLi Time staff together taught the sign language expression of the LiLi Time slogan "Love Is Life Illumed" and explained the meaning of this sign language: "love" is affirmation from the heart, and "life" is flourishing. Led by deaf baristas, the guests experienced cup tast, latte art and hand-brewing in groups to learn their professionalism in coffee making and see their talent up close.

At the end of the event, Professor Luk Ting Kwong, on behalf of emlyon, expressed sincere gratitude to Ms. Lili Zhang for her outstanding contribution to the field of business for good.