Elaborate dining and entertainment have long been part of business culture in China. But the old banquet format–endless toasts, Honghe cigarettes, and rounds of the fiery grain-alcohol baijiu–doesn’t translate for today’s globally minded Chinese entrepreneurs. In 2013, Sara Jane Ho, a Hong Kong native and graduate of both Harvard Business School and a premier Swiss finishing school, opened an etiquette school in Beijing, giving the old-fashioned concept of manners a modern twist. Rather than simply teaching Western-style etiquette, Ho takes an international look at various culture and customs.
A 12-day course ($16,345) offers lessons on everything from menu planning to how to gracefully incorporate shy visitors into a lively table conversation. Ho says she gives her students–many of them Chinese entrepreneurs–the tools to nurture personal and professional relationships and create special moments and events. Knowing how to bring together a crowd can be “a statement of your openness and awareness of the fact that people you are with may see the world differently,” says the poised 28-year-old, who counts many Chinese entrepreneurs among her students.
Late last year, she began holding regular charity dinners in Beijing to showcase “the art of the dinner party.”