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."