Taiwanese BYU MBA student puts service before business

Alex Liu, an MBA student at BYU has started a business in order to reach his family's goal of some day starting a charity.
Alex Liu, an MBA student at BYU, has started a business in order to reach his family’s goal of someday starting a charity. The charity would help provide educational opportunities for children in Taiwan.

A BYU MBA student and his wife are building a family and a business at the same time so they will have more means to give to others.

Taiwan natives Alex Liu and his wife decided early in their marriage that they wanted to create a charity to provide better educational opportunities for their country’s children. When they discovered how much money it would cost to start a charity, they realized a change in their modest financial goals would be necessary.

“Even way before you make money, serve others,” Alex Liu said.

Since that time, Liu, who is now an MBA student at BYU, has started a business in Taiwan to raise money to start a charity. This year, his business generated half a million dollars in revenue, and next year he hopes to bring that number up to 1 million.

“Things that I experienced during my childhood make me feel like if we could help children we would be able to do something good for society in general,” said Liu’s wife, Charlynn.

She explained that during her childhood her parents were divorced and her family fell into a very difficult financial situation.

“Even though my family didn’t really work … I always had good teachers that helped me to get back on my feet,” she said.

Alex Liu and his wife frequently involve themselves in volunteer activities and are currently volunteering with special education children.

When he and his wife discovered the cost of starting a charity they began to search for opportunities to generate more income. At the time, Alex Liu was working as an international sales representative for a manufacturing company based in Taiwan.

An opportunity presented itself to Alex Liu in the form of bad manufacturing. Gentry Jensen, who makes and sells accessories for mobile devices, was in search of a new manufacturer for his product.

“Our previous supplier had trouble meeting our quota; we were waiting and waiting and waiting on orders,” Jensen said.

He had worked with Alex Liu and his employer on a previous product and decided to ask him for advice on finding a manufacturer for his current product since the product fell outside the skill set of Alex Liu’s employer.

After doing some research, Alex Liu offered to take the project of finding effective manufacturers to produce the product.

“We got it done a month early,” he said. “They were really happy, and the quality was good.”

After a successful shipment, Jensen contracted Alex Liu as a consultant for all manufacturing of his new product.

“Everything started to be different; the way I looked at the world became different,” Alex Liu said. He explained that he now realized there were many entrepreneurial opportunities available to help him and his family reach their financial goals and eventually be able to set up their charity.

Despite this newfound hope, Alex Liu was hesitant to leave his current employment and fully pursue his new manufacturing company. He and Charlynn Liu were recently married with a young son, and he feared the loss of a stable job.

While Alex Liu worked at his job during the day, his wife ran the basic operations of their new manufacturing company at home while taking care of their child.

“So basically I started up the company, including all the paper work and going to the government,” Charlynn Liu said.

Often Alex Liu would come home from work late, and together he, his wife, and their son would drive to their warehouse and package products that needed to be shipped.

Charlynn Liu explained that her husband felt stuck in his current employment and was frustrated that he did not have an opportunity to be promoted.

One day Charlynn Liu told her husband, “Okay, tomorrow you need to quit or you need to quit complaining.” She was surprised when the next day he told his employers he would be leaving the company.

During the first year of operation, 2011, Alex Liu’s company grew 30 percent, and it has maintained an amazing growth rate since that time, growing 100 percent in 2013.

As their business gained traction Alex and Charalynn Liu began searching for ways to give back to others.

“There was one Christmas that we wanted to find a way to serve others,” Charalynn Liu said. “We bought 50 dinner boxes, and we went to a train station where a lot of homeless people would hang out. During that Christmas night, we as a family … were standing there and looking for homeless people and trying to give them dinner.”

Eventually, Jensen began to encourage Alex Liu to come and get an MBA in the United States. He specifically pointed out BYU as an inexpensive and high-quality option.

Alex Liu decided to apply to several schools and was accepted to BYU and Michigan State, with both schools offering him a scholarship. According to its website, Michigan State has received the No. 1 ranking for supply chain management the last four years in a row.

“I personally was struggling (to decide between the two) because of vanity,” Alex Liu said. “But my wife said, maybe it’s not about your personal preference; maybe you should find out God’s preference.”

After prayer and fasting, Alex Liu said he received a strong impression that he needed to come to BYU.

Chair of the Business Management Department Bruce Money shared that Alex Liu received the prestigious Eccles Scholarship his first year as an MBA student at BYU.

This scholarship awards students $9,000, of which $3,000 is set aside for students to participate in an international experience.

However, Alex decided he had enough international experience and gifted the travel portion of his scholarship money to another student who could not afford the trip.

“That is remarkable; I’ve never seen that before,” Money said.

One of Alex Liu’s peers in the MBA program, Josh Mortensen, shared his thoughts on why Alex Liu has gained so much success in his business.

“The reason he has been successful is because he is really good at getting to know people and seeing their strengths and complementing other’s skills with his,” Mortensen said.

Alex and Charlynn Liu realized that in order to give back in the way they desired they would need greater financial means. Their realization is supported by an article recently published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy listing the 50 largest financial contributors to charity within the U.S. The top four individuals listed all made their fortunes through business ventures, including Mark Zuckerberg as No. 1 and Michael Bloomberg as No. 4.

Though Alex Liu and his wife are not yet sure when they will be able to begin their charity they are planning to visit several education-related charities on their next trip to Taiwan in order to better learn how to begin a similar organization.

“The reason we want to make more money is to (start) our charity,” Alex Liu said. “It has always started as a seed that we wanted to start a charity.”

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