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EMP Star | Cheng Wen, Who Makes the 20 Thousand Business Elites Play with Gobi Public Welfare


In four days and three nights, more than 2,500 people crossed an uninhabited area of 112 kilometers.Under the scorching sun, the endless desert sometimes looks desperate. However, after a day’s race, enjoying a bowl of hot soup in the camp will make one feel everything is so worthwhile and precious. This is the 12thSchool of Business-Xuanzang Road Gobi Challenge took place in May this year with participants from 53 business schools including CKGSB, CEIBS and Guanghua School of Management. Cheng Wen is one of the sponsors of the Challenge.

In the business field, Cheng Wen and her husband Qu Xiangdong founded and operate a cultural outdoor sports company named Xingzhi Tansuo Culture Development Group Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Xingzhi Tansuo) which organizes high intensity experiential outdoor activities for entrepreneurs and executives. By the end of 2015, Xingzhi Tansuo was listed in NEEQ.

In the public sector, she is the President of Beijing Geyou Community Aid Foundation and organizes Geyou (entrepreneurs and executives etc. participating in Gobi Challenge) to take part in volunteer rescue and relief activities, support education for the poor and improve the ecological environment.The Foundation has raised more than RMB 16 million and given a total of more than 510 thousand hours of volunteer service, equivalent to 58 years.

In 2014, Cheng Wen, who had not received professional education on philanthropy enrolled in the EMP Program of China Global Philanthropy Institute, hoping to find more ways for philanthropy. On August 2 this year, the customized version of the Gobi philanthropy journey planned by her and the alumni association for the EMP students will be unveiled. More than 20 EMP students and more than 90 primary and secondary school principals from the western regions organized by the Geyou Community Aid Foundation will cross uninhabited areas in the desert.

Listed in NEEQ after Ten Years of Hard Work

Cheng Wen, born in Shandong province, graduated from a college with a degree in foreign trade in 1992. She was previously a manager in foreign trade transportation industry and real estate industry. In 1998, she joined CCID group and worked in the Advertising Department of China Information World office and served as Vice President of CSTC and Marketing Director of China Electronics News. In 2006, she resigned and started a business with her husband Qu Xiangdong.

Qu Xiangdong is a former CCTV host of programs such as Half-Hour Economy, Dialogue and Great Masters. In 2013, he was attracted by the spirit of Xuanzang in an interview with Feng Qiyong, a famous researcher of A Dream of Red Mansions so he wanted to plan a revisit of the route taken by Xuanzang.

Their originally planned to invite friends to go on a driving trip. However, Wang Shi, then Chairman of the Board of Directors of Vanke suggested that the participants should go on a hike to have a deeper understanding of the spirit of Xuanzang.

In 2005, Xuanzang Road Experience Journey officially started. It is the predecessor of School of Business-Xuanzang Road Gobi Challenge. The foundation-laying journey was called Ge zero by Qu Xiangdong with only 20 participants but the lineup was high profile: Wang Shi of Vanke, Feng Lun, Chairman of Vantone Holdings, economist Zhang Weiying, Wang Xiaoya, a famous CCTV host.

In 2015 Qu Xiangdong founded the Xingzhi Tansuo Company and officially held the 1stSchool of Business-Xuanzang Road Gobi Challenge the following year. The participants from business schools crossed an uninhabited desert area of 112 kilometers in four days and three nights. Now the Challenge has become a well-known event among runners.

Although the Gobi Challenge was a good start for Qu Xiangdong and Cheng Wen, financial crisis came soon.

After the 1stXuanzang Road Challenge, for the love of the event, Qu Xiangdong looked for investment to shoot the documentary Xuanzang Road which cost nearly RMB 10 million including the post-editing but only recovered RMB 3 million. The couple had millions in debt. During the most difficult time, “there was almost no money in the account. The company was on the brink of bankruptcy.”

The more brutal reality was that in the early days of entrepreneurship, the couple had not formed a clear idea of the company's main business. "I think about everything, from advertising, PR to investment consultancy…no fun.” Qu Xiangdong said he loves traveling and hiking and he decided to do what he likes best so the company business was finally positioned as high-end outdoor projects.

In the following ten years, the company developed various high-end experiential outdoor activities including Ultra Gobi and Mt. GaoLiGong Ultra and undertook marathon events in many cities. Moreover, they also introduced Gobi Grown-Up Ceremony for the customers’ children with the theme of juvenile elite education and parent-child relationship. Now the company's business spans culture, sports and tourism etc., creating a precedent for experiential travel, training and other industries.

In 2015, Xingzhi Tansuo Company was listed in NEEQ. Statistics show that in 2014, Xingzhi Tansuo’s operating income is RMB 89.2773 million, net profit RMB 6.7092 million, and the income mainly comes from registration fees and sponsorship fees.

Turning To Public Welfare and Doing the Right Thing

Cheng Wen's public welfare practice began in 2008 when the Wenchuan earthquake occurred.

When the Wenchuan earthquake occurred, there was a week before the 3rd Gobi Challenge. The team members called Cheng Wen, the General Leader of the event, asking her to change the itinerary and take all of them to Wenchuan for disaster relief. Cheng Wen was also anxious: to go or not to go? What could they do when they got there? Were they giving help or making trouble?

Not knowing what to do, she called the team and the leaders together for discussion. Finally they agreed that the 3rd Gobi Challenge would be a charity event and all the money raised would be donated to the disaster areas.

After the Challenge that year, Cheng Wen and a lot of team members felt that maybe they could do more. They set up the Xuanzang Road Volunteer Rescue Team which provides rescue knowledge and trainings for entrepreneurs and reserves non-governmental forces for disaster relief. In the 2010 Yushu earthquake, they became the first volunteers to enter the disaster areas.

Later, someone asked Cheng Wen why they set up the Volunteer Rescue Team to do charity work during the most difficult period. Cheng Wen said she did not deliberately do public service. She did it just because she thinks she should do it. She believes that it’s important to do the right thing.

To her surprise, public welfare has become a common bond to unite Geyou. In 2011, Beijing Geyou Community Aid Foundation (hereinafter referred to as the Geyou Foundation) was incorporated in Beijing Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs. Of the 16 founding directors and supervisors, more than 11 are Geyou. Cheng Wen serves as the President of the foundation.

Statistics show that in the past 5 years, the Geyou Foundation has organized 2,506 persons from all walks of life with Geyou as the core to participate in volunteer service based on the Geyou public service platform. Now on the platform there are 20 thousand Geyou with business elites as the core.

In addition to disaster relief, the Geyou Foundation has also organized other projects such as Samuel Pollard Road Programme in which volunteers come to mountain areas to renovate rural schools, and Barrier Free Run Group which supports the disabled to fit into the society and the Good Headmaster Growth Programme which provides training and support for headmasters of rural schools.

One of the participants of the Gobi Challenge was a headmaster who submitted letter of resignation every year. After the Gobi Challenge which lasted four days and three nights, he said education is actually his ideal but he sometimes wanted to give up because the reality is too difficult. However, after the Challenge, he said,” I have decided to go on with the career because there are always difficulties there, but you have to work hard to solve them. and there are so many people supporting me.”

Up to now, the Geyou Foundation has helped more than 300 rural headmasters and more than 200 people with mental and physical disabilities and their families.

Building an Entrepreneur Platform for Public Welfare

Currently, the Geyou Foundation raises more than RMB 5 million annually with 11 full-time employees. Cheng Wen said that the foundation has passed the start-up period and is entering the development period.

In her view, the Geyou Foundation has many entrepreneur teams with rich resources so funding is not the biggest challenge for the organization. However, with the foundation's development and expansion, she is thinking about how to carry out institutional governance, “Public welfare is not just about enthusiasm and love, so we must drive it with rational structures and system.”

In 2014, Cheng Wen enrolled in the EMP program which was developed by a team led by Wang Zhenyao, Dean of China Global Philanthropy Institute and Dean of China Philanthropy Research Institute of Beijing Normal University. In the end of 2015, after the China Global Philanthropy Institute was founded, the Program is upgraded as the EMP Program of the institute.

For EMP learning, she feels that the biggest benefit is studying abroad. She has visited many foundations and charitable organizations in America which are raising funds and operating projects in market-oriented ways with little government intervention. Cheng Wen said the Geyou Foundation has been taking the market-oriented approach since its foundation, “which shows that we are in the right direction.”

Wang Zhenyao once said to her it is important to verify our ideas. “When you bury yourself in something you are not familiar with, you may doubt yourself if you don't look up and see what others are doing and you may go in the wrong direction.”

On the other hand, Cheng Wen thinks that the EMP program has built an exchange platform for those in the public welfare sector. In the exchanges and collision of ideas with teachers and friends, she is improving her public welfare methodology.

Since the foundation of the volunteer rescue team, Cheng Wen has gathered a group of entrepreneurs. We can say that it is an advantage of the Geyou Foundation but it also poses challenges to governance in the future. Cheng Wen had not found the right way to make use of these entrepreneur resources. After the study and visit abroad and in the exchanges with teachers and friends, her thoughts began to become clear - self-government by the entrepreneurs.

Cheng Wen envisages that the Geyou Foundation will develop as a platform in the future. The entrepreneurs will launch projects in the foundation under guidance and will be deeply engaged in the operation while the foundation provides support in directions and strategies, policies and regulations, the use of funds and teams and personnel. ”We will make the foundation lighter and lighter and build it into a platform on which the entrepreneurs practice social responsibilities and do charity work with Geyou as the core.”


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