Entrepreneur Frank Zhou building business in P.E.I. and China

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on November 29, 2014

Chinese entrepreneur Frank Zhou embraces Prince Edward Island for many reasons: the culture, the beauty of the place, the friendliness of the people and the opportunities for business, to name a prominent few.

The attachment has grown strong since the 35-year-old Zhou and his wife Sherry Huang first moved here in 2004.

Now the pair has further cemented their tie to the province with the arrival of their first child, a healthy baby boy named Jayden that weighed into the world last week at a solid 10 pounds and three ounces.

“Very blessed,’’ says the proud poppa during an interview in his large, stylish office located above the Anne of Green Gables Chocolates store on Queen Street in Charlottetown.

“Since this true Islander was born definitely I think we are more anchored in this province no doubt. P.E.I. is such a great place to raise a kid.’’

As for Zhou, his grandparents raised him in China - a commonplace practice in this state with a strictly enforced one-child policy.

While being an only child was often lonely, Zhou learned quickly to be independent. He was also taught to be sincere, honest, true and nice - the latter quality being one he considers key in enjoying ongoing business success.

Zhou started painting at age four and won silver as a teenager in a national competition of traditional Chinese painting. He aspired to be an artist or an architect.

Still holding a passion for painting, he is building an art studio in his large Stratford home that houses a number of attractive items imported from China including a beautiful wooden table intricately crafted specifically for the purpose of serving tea.

Zhou was a top student throughout high school in China. He came to Canada at age 20 to study at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver where he earned a degree in mathematics and met his future wife.

The couple went back to China together before settling in P.E.I. a decade ago when Huang was put in charge of a consulting company.

A couple years later, the pair started their own consulting company called Sunrise Group in both P.E.I. and China.

The business has blossomed to include a software development and graphic design company, a business development and management consulting firm, an English as a second language program, and a business called Anne in China that translated Anne of Green Gables into mandarin, selling 35,000 copies to date.

Most recently, Zhou decided to take a big dip into ice cream, helping bring the first Cows Creamery store to China.

The bold move to open close to 5,000 square feet of business space to sell Cows ice cream and merchandise (carefully tweaked to the tastes and fashion senses of the Chinese market) may seem to some like a nervy roll of the dice.

Zhou insists the move was in keeping with his cautious approach to business. He spent seven months doing in depth analyses of trends and data before moving ahead on the business venture.

“I’m not a risk taker and everything I do I need to prepare well,’’ he says.

He and his wife have steadily grown Sunrise Group into a successful collage of companies that employ close to 100 people split evenly between operations in P.E.I. and China.

Although he is CEO and president of Sunrise Group, Zhou considers his wife an equal partner in the business.

“We consider husband and wife life partner,’’ he notes.

“Life partner means you are partnering on everything...if you can partner on the business and you can get along well, that is a bonus - and we have that bonus. Very, very lucky that I have that bonus.’’

Zhou says he and Huang have different skill sets that blend well in partnering in Sunrise Group.

He is certainly more on the move than his wife, splitting his time between China and P.E.I.

Zhou, who has participated in several trade missions to China including acting as the logistics service provider to the Council of Federation Premiers’ Mission to China, hops on a plane every second month for a flight that sees him needing to adjust to the 12-hour time zone difference between China and P.E.I.

“It’s very tiring,’’ he says.

“So jetlag is the hardest thing that you deal with.’’          

Despite his impressive business success to date, Zhou feels - and hopes — he has only scratched the surface.

He leans on advice from business mentors worldwide. Some of them, he notes, are very famous businessmen, but he would rather not name them.

“I think (age) 35 is a time to be ready to be more mature and more successful,’’ he says.

“I have my goals but whether we can achieve it or not depends on how hard you work at it. There are no free lunches.’’

Here is a quick look at the man behind businessman Frank Zhou:

• He loves cooking. Steaks, Italian cuisine, lobster and clams are among his favored food.

• He relishes extensive traveling with his wife Sherry Huang to experience different cultures.

• An avid golfer, he plays many rounds in both P.E.I. and China, swinging to a 10 handicap.

• Zhou likes listening blues, pop and country music. Or, as he notes: “Anything that sounds good...I do like beautiful rhythms.’’

• He is a stylish dresser, once being proclaimed as Prince Edward Island’s most dapperly attired man in a piece by former Guardian columnist Shane Ross.

• He wears a Buddhist bracelet of large wooden beads, but is not flaunting a religious preference. “I don’t have a specific religion for myself but I respect Buddhism and Christianity a lot,’’ he says.