Credit: Ben McMillan
Meet Sara Jane Ho, the elegant Harvard Business School graduate who is making an incredible impact upon Chinese society through the creation of the etiquette school she founded, Institute Sarita. Following an intensive two-month course at a Swiss finishing school, she moved to Beijing with the plan to open her own school, intending to awaken people's "senses to the importance of etiquette." She states that "everyone needs to study etiquette, no matter who you are. Etiquette should not divide cultures or classes but rather bring people together".
Sara Jane Ho is certainly accomplishing what she intended, and it is an honor to feature her as our MOGUL Woman of December.
Full Name: Sara Jane Ho (Chinese name: 何佩嵘)
Occupation: Founder & Principal, Institute Sarita
Hometown: Hong Kong
What inspired you to start an etiquette school in China upon graduating from Harvard Business School?
I had previously attended Swiss finishing school, which was my inspiration to open Institute Sarita, the first high-end etiquette school in China. Chinese are getting richer and holding themselves to higher standards. Ladies from that background come here because they have social standing and responsibilities, they learn how to be a hostess and take care of those around them.
What is your long-term vision for the school and how do you hope it will impact the future of Chinese culture?
We bridge East and West by combining traditional western culture with 5,000 year-old Confucian values. We help China better understand the world and the world better understand China.
We help Chinese women gain respect for their traditional culture and values as well as their understanding of international social norms through studying international etiquette. This enhanced social standing is consistent with China’s global economic leadership.
Had you always wanted to be an entrepreneur? What were the challenges you faced in building a company, and is there advice you would give to others who want to start a business?
I always had the qualities of an entrepreneur – resourcefulness, taking charge, rolling up my sleeves and getting things done. Since starting my business many people have told me that they had the same idea. But the difference is that I executed.
I faced many challenges, mostly because I am the first to do this in China and have no precedents or others to look to or learn from. You can’t be afraid to make mistakes, and when you do make them to change course. You have to be responsive.
Your ultimate dream professionally and personally?
To be the foremost lifestyle authority in China. I want to take the Chinese woman by the hand, in this time of great change and pressure, and lead her to a better, more fulfilling life of family oriented values, excellent taste, and quality ideas. Personally, I want to strive for excellence in my life as a woman.
Hobbies outside of work?
I am an FEI level show jumper and have my own horse in Beijing. I competed in the Longines Masters in the Olympic Stadium this year so you could call it my dual profession!
Most inspired by?
My mother. She was a woman of action and had great energy, but at the same time she was very elegant, very feminine.
If you could meet 3 people from history?
Oscar Wilde (I named my dog Oscar after him!)
Favorite time of day?
The early morning, because it’s the only time you have to yourself. I wake up to ride every morning at dawn.
To become a spectator of one's own life is to escape the suffering of life. (Oscar Wilde)
Funniest dating story?
Watching my date eat an oyster with his butter knife. It was a first date. I thought it was cute.
Your best date?
My first date with my boyfriend. From when I laid eyes upon him waiting outside the restaurant for me, taking a long last drag of his cigarette before putting it out. It was just electric.
Most romantic thing you’ve ever done for someone?
Flown to Hong Kong and surprised my boyfriend on his doorstep, after two weeks of dating (long distance). We FaceTimed and I pointed my camera at his front door. I’m aloof in relationships so this was a first for me.
Current favorite song?
I’m not the only one, by Sam Smith
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