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Student, Alumni Panelists Explore Global Markets

By Amanda Morad | September 24, 2012

Panelists (L-R) Claire Nian Huang, Funmi Akinyele, Dr. Varsha Sherring and Namie Bimba
Photo courtesy of Namie Bimba

For most MBA students, attending business conferences is part of the deal. But two students in Regent University's School of Business & Leadership (SBL) recently found themselves on the other side of the microphone with two Regent alumni presenting at Inside Business' Global Business Conference on Thursday, Sept. 13.

"It was a matter of choosing fear or faith," said MBA student Namie Bimba regarding the moment Dr. Bruce Winston, dean of SBL, asked her to present. "Faith moves you forward, so I said 'yes.'" From there, Bimba took the hour of talk time she was given and decided to make things interesting. Instead of limiting her talk to one international market—her home country of Liberia—she recruited another student and two alumni to create a panel of international experts.

The session, "Finding a Market for Your Products," addressed the distinct opportunities and challenges commonly found in established and emerging international markets. The forum highlighted the panelists' experiences with various industries in their native countries, with a focus on the cultural considerations of doing business overseas. "We feel that this is an important topic that isn't talked about enough in corporate America or even in small business," said Bimba.

Bimba discussed the social climate of Liberia, currently recovering from a 14-year civil war, in relation to its business community. "When I went up to present, nobody in the room had been to Liberia. I was the first encounter any of them had with my country," she said. With this in mind, Bimba emphasized the emerging industry markets in the country and how to be successful in those markets by building strong relationships. "When you're doing business in Africa in general, it's all about trust," she said. "You can make or break a business deal with your cultural mannerisms."

Dr. Varsha Sherring '98 (Communication & the Arts) is currently a director at the Christian Broadcasting Network, and joined the panel to present about doing business in her home country of India. "There have been layers and layers of cultural influence in India over its 5,500-year history," Sherring said. "The key to successful business in India is to find a niche market for your product, because there is so much diversity."

Panelist Funmi Akinyele, a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership student, presented on the Nigerian market, where her extended family still resides. "Nigeria is the most populous country on the African continent," she said. "Relationships are important because people do business with people, not organizations. People come first, business comes second." Akinyele emphasized the need for social responsibility in business as well. "If you're doing something good, it's important that everyone knows it, because then you're seen in a more positive light and everyone wants to do business with you."

Clare Nian Huang '09 (Law), director of operations for Regent's Professional & Continuing Education, rounded out the panel, representing her home market of China. "The doors to international business were closed in China for 100 years through the Industrial Revolution, but China has caught up very quickly," she said. With this growth has come the loss of ancient Chinese value systems—something Huang believes the country desperately needs restored. "When you come there, don't just bring your technology and money, but also bring your integrity and good values," she said.

The conference, held at the Norfolk Waterfront Marriott in Norfolk, Va., attracted entrepreneurs and corporate board members alike from throughout Hampton Roads. Also in attendance were students from the International Business program in Regent's College of Arts & Sciences.

Learn more about the School of Business & Leadership.


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