China: The Land of Platinum Opportunity! Part 2

Posted on May 5, 2014 in Marc Sparks: On Travel | 0 comments

China: The Land of Platinum Opportunity! Part 2

Marc Sparks is an entrepreneur who has been involved in more than sixty start-ups since the Seventies. Marc is also the founder, owner, and CEO of Timber Creek Capital, a private equity firm. This is the second installment in a blog series titled China: The Land of Platinum Opportunity.


In my most recent blog post, I mentioned that one of the most memorable and poignant trips of my life was a journey that took my wife Jane and me around the world in twenty-six days. During that globetrotting expedition, we met a young Chinese woman in Xi’an named Lindy. Lindy was our tour guide throughout our time in that city. To become a tour guide in China, you must be licensed and have passed the annual national tour guide certificate examination sponsored by the China National Tourism Administration. The Chinese take touring their national treasures to a whole new level. They don’t want people just making up stories about their remarkable 3,000-year-old culture.


Lindy (her chosen “Western” name) was highly educated. She majored in English and was extremely knowledgeable in her country’s history. She was very likable and had a certain entrepreneurial spark that caught my attention from the start. During one of our many conversations, I asked Lindy, “If you could start any business in the world, what would it be?”


She said that when it came to teaching English to children, her husband was considered one of the best—and that’s in a country of more than a billion people! By the time I drilled down to what she meant by the best, I suspect that, in American football vernacular, we would consider him the Roger Staubach in his field. In other words, he was a real superstar! Her husband filled arenas and traveled all over the country teaching English at the various universities. Together, Lindy and her husband wanted to build schools all over China that would focus on teaching English in a real-time setting.


Their goal was eventually to have one hundred schools. I thought it was a very good idea, especially in light of the Chinese mandate that all students learn English. Learning English is very important to the Chinese people—anyone who wants to interact or do business with America, Canada, England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and other major English-speaking countries needs to have some working knowledge of the English language. The Chinese school system is similar to the American system in that both require twelve primary years of study; however, in China, students are specifically required to attend an English class for six of those years—something I think is absolutely brilliant. The challenge is that primary schools only teach the mechanics of English, not the practical use of the language. That’s why Lindy and her husband wanted to teach it in a hands-on learning environment. They really wanted their students to be able to do everyday tasks in English. For example, while cooking food, it’s important to be able to say such things as, “Hand me the frying pan,” or, “Add salt, sugar, and eggs to the batter.” Lindy and her husband knew that students learn best by talking and doing, and they were eager to develop a curriculum around that understanding.


I really loved the idea. Plus, I always had a strong desire to do business in China, but had never found a way to do so until I heard about Lindy’s school idea. China is a country full of platinum opportunity. It has the fastest-growing number of millionaires in the world. To give you a point of reference, there are 300 million people in the United States and there are 1 billion, 300 million (1,336,718,015) people in China. China has a billion more people in a country half the size of the United States. You are probably thinking, “Oh my gosh! How can they live like that?” Just sail up the Yangtze or Yellow rivers and you’ll want to move there yourself because China is simply out-of-this-world beautiful!


Read more Marc Sparks’ insights at, his views on business and entrepreneurship at, and excerpts from his upcoming book, They Can’t Eat You, at


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