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27 June 2016

An Entrepreneurial Journey
Bridging East and West

Aaron Weithaeuser’s (MBA 2009) career path has resulted from his keen sense of adventure and a little serendipity thrown in along the way. From a family background doing business, Aaron thrives in the entrepreneurial environment. It is a story that has taken him from studying at MBA Program, meeting his current wife, and founding five start-ups, ranging from e-commerce to traditional B2B wholesaling, and real estate business. His latest venture is the glasses disruptor Eyeglass24.

Aaron (centre) seen here engaging happily in a pre-course Outward Bound before taking his MBA studies

An Independent Spirit

A native of Germany, Aaron first worked in tourism and hospitality for United Airlines, capturing the needs and expectations of their customers through customer relationship and marketing. Working for the marketing department of the airline, Aaron looked at the subtle, but absolutely critical elements of marketing — how a brand is perceived, and what effect this has on pricing models. It was through this that he decided to pursue an MBA to gain knowledge in other aspects of businesses and see the holistic picture.

While Hong Kong is a long way from Germany, having access to Asian and China markets was a key reason that Aaron chose CUHK. He credits the course with helping him discover diverse sides of Hong Kong. “The first week we went to Outward Bound (adventure and team-building camp). It was an eye opener because who would have known Hong Kong has such beautiful nature while it is the most crowded concrete jungle in the world,” he describes.

The mixed cultures in Hong Kong made it welcoming for foreigners. Not only does Hong Kong have a contrast of cultures, but it also allows a blend of urbanism and nature, something that Aaron adores about the city.

Upon completion of the 2-year full-time MBA Program, Aaron (centre) relishes in a joyous moment with his family at the graduation ceremony

Thoughts on Being an Entrepreneur

Upon graduating, Aaron moved back to Germany to start a company, the Newmen Group GmbH. Based on his MBA experiences, Aaron saw a great opportunity for the long-standing conveyor belt business. The business in Europe was low margin due to the high quality requirements in products. Aaron started looking into alternative suppliers to create a production line in China, working to advise them on improving their product quality without compensating on cost, and establishing Europe as a channel for them.

The next step for Aaron was to develop his own business. His latest company, among his five start-ups, is called Eyeglass24. The company disrupted the German eyeglass market by moving many elements of the traditional optical business online. “Most challenging is to start a business absolutely in the blue ocean. How to make people aware of your service? How to tell people what they are doing for decades can also be done online?” Aaron expresses.

For Aaron, this blue ocean environment is the greatest part of being an entrepreneur. “Being an entrepreneur, the strategy and direction of the company is solely dependent on how you decide to run it. This is part of where the pressure comes from. But having complete liberty on how you mold your company, it gives you a bigger sense of accomplishment in the end,” he explains.

As an entrepreneur, Aaron (1st row, centre) travels to China regularly to negotiate with business partners for supplier contracts. In the early stage of his career, Aaron helped bridge east and west by providing his business with skilled suppliers in China, while helping those manufacturers open up new markets in Europe

Networking is Key

Aaron’s CUHK experience demonstrates the importance of networking. Being personable, and constantly meeting people, is a discipline and skill he has cultivated along the way. “I always emphasize this — one of the biggest value adds I got from the MBA program was the network. It is about learning to keep the contacts for starting businesses. You need advice, expertise, advocates, and support from people,” Aaron elaborates.

And these people will come from different backgrounds, hold varying mentalities, beliefs and experiences. “In the MBA program, you meet so many different people from all over the world. You have no choice but to work with them on projects — It was really a preparation for the real world, especially that of an entrepreneur. There are so many stakeholders involved in a company,” said Aaron.

While Aaron has established a business far away from Hong Kong, he still regularly comes back to the city to meet alumni, his teachers and classmates. The city is certainly close to his heart, and is close to his China suppliers for his businesses.

After class hours, Aaron (1st from left) enjoys linking up with his MBA classmates through social drinks. It was through one of these parties after graduating that he met his current wife Venus Tse (1st from right), also a CUHK alumni

An MBA Love Story

A sweet element of Aaron’s MBA journey was an unexpected romance with Venus Tse from the same class. While the two did not date during MBA, there was definitely a spark of romance in the air from when they first met in 2007 during class. They kept in touch and met again after graduation, during a class reunion in 2010. They became a couple in 2011 and were married in Hong Kong this year.

Aaron is currently working internationally with a focus on Germany, and Venus has taken on a role for Credit Suisse in Switzerland.

Aaron married with Venus Tse in April, in a beautiful ceremony at St. John’s Cathedral in Central, Hong Kong. Congratulations to the newly weds!

Stay Open and Flexible

While many people will encourage you to work non-stop during MBA, Aaron stresses that students should engage in local life. With the mixed cultures of Hong Kong, Aaron thinks that it would be a shame if students only stayed within their comfort zone and did not explore more by going to local places and opening up their perspectives. Being flexible, open-minded, and resourceful are traits Aaron suggests graduates should cultivate.

“No matter where your company is, there is always something different you need to adapt to, including consumer behavior, cultural beliefs and go-to-market strategies,” Aaron explains. He believes that having local contacts helps, in addition to being comfortable with taking risks.

The success of his journey from MBA at CUHK, to entrepreneur and married man has come from his positive outlook. “Do not be afraid to step into the road of entrepreneurship. It may be a tough path but at the end when you succeed, it will all be worth it.”

Video ― Messages from Our Alumni

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