This week’s featured Guidecraft team member is Polly Zhou. She plays a critical role in keeping Guidecraft running smoothly from her home base in Shanghai.
GC: Tell us a little about your young life and growing up in China.
Polly: My first 3 years of college were in China and I was majoring in business studies. I didn’t enjoy college life then because at that time, I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do in the future. But I really wanted to be independent and want to find a good job, so I started to think about going abroad as an efficient means to that end. I started to get my documents, contacted a college representative, went to do the interview and got an acceptance offer from a college in Ireland.
When I went to Ireland on my own, it was an adventure right from the beginning. I had a rough start. Due to the fact that I missed the opening day of college since my VISA came late, I wound up studying there at a language school in the meantime. It turned out to be a good experience because while there I gained something precious – confidence. My English was pretty good, teachers liked me, I made a few good friends there; I was not lonely any more.
I really had begun a brand new life. I got a job, started to make money. It felt so good to make and spend my own money; not needing to rely on my parents any more. As I gained independence, life got more and more interesting. I tried different jobs – all valuable for me in different ways.
Then I met Ronnie, who is now is my husband.
Now at college, he encouraged me to study hard and both of us got very good grades. Then we both decided to apply to the best business school in Ireland. We got in, studied there and both received our Masters.
GC: When did you first know you were going to be a professional toy maker?
Polly: When I joined Guidecraft, I already knew that making toys would be so interesting and so creative. The use of multiple colors, different functionality, new creative designs – so many possibilities to give kids a world of playing, thinking, and using their imagination.
GC: Why did you pick children’s toys?
Polly: My daughter was young then, only 3 years old, and children’s toys were like nutritional food to both of us. My previous job provided me with basic knowledge of the toy industry, and because my child was playing with toys all the time, I was able to bring and represent a consumer’s point of view as I checked and examined toys. All of this helped my sensibility to pick up right suppliers who were able to fabricate the proper high quality products we make at Guidecraft.
GC: Are there any particular rules you follow when making toys?
Polly: I ensure that safety standards are more than met and make sure the factory will be able to sustain the quality we require on an ongoing basis.
GC: What was your proudest professional moment?
Polly: Finding a great source for our products, watching the process work successfully right from the beginning. Experiencing growth and still shipping out without problems (and on time) and the receiving great reviews from customers. It’s nice to see the Guidecraft brand expand and to watch our sales increase while maintaining great quality.
GC: How easy is it to reach success in the business world
as a woman in China?
Polly: Being responsible and having the support of your family is very important for a woman to have in order to succeed. I have that.
GC: Why do you work for Guidecraft vs. another company in a similar space?
Polly: Guidecraft has a free culture and environment in which to work. I am in charge of my time. I am free to express myself and my ideas. Everyone in the company has a very good relationship with each other and we all work together well as a team.
GC: Anything else you would like to add?
Polly: The management team, especially Gary, is very positive about Guidecraft’s future and how business is developing. This keeps all of us motivated all the time. It also creates a very positive environment in which to work.