Seeking advice for Shanghai boarding school admissions office

I am looking into starting a coed cruiseship boarding school whose student body would be equally made up of students from Shanghai and Chicago.  Grades fifth through second year of college. 

I would appreciate any advice for setting up the Shanghai office ... OR being pointed to a more appropriate online forum for this discussion.  Currently, I am trying to find in Shanghai the following:

1) A theater that can seat at least 6,000 and whose lobby can handle that many for intermission breaks.  Not a complex of multiple theaters that can hold that many but a single theater.  If you know of more than one, which is the more high-end with a better location, more parking, etc.?  Only wanting to rent it for possibly just four nights a year.

2) A sports stadium that can seat at least 12,000 which can be rented for the school's graduation ceremony at the end of June.

3) A good location for the admissions office.  The office suite will likely need at least 2,000 square feet.   Ideally one that has a great view of a harbor that can handle six small (400-passenger) cruiseships.

4) A law firm that can handle the Shanghai side of the school.

5) A shipyard in or near Shanghai that can build small (400-passenger) cruiseships.  This isn't a requirement for the school but I would be open to considering them for the school's fleet of six such ships.

6) A Shanghai bank that has at least a department which caters to the very well-off.  The Shanghai parents paying tuition through this bank.  This isn't a requirement for the school but if they also have a history of making loans to similar businesses, that would be something I would be interested in exploring.

Lastly , any advice for hiring personnel for the admissions office.  They must be fluent in Chinese and English.  I am open to hiring expats.  Would need a business manager to run the office, at least two psychologists (ideally school psychologists), at least ten admissions officers (they screen applicants), and then the normal support personnel (receptionists, janitor, IT support, etc.).  If you want to pitch yourself, that's fine but realize this will likely take years for it to get to the point where people in Shanghai would be hired.

Wow. That's a pretty large call out, and a very detailed post.

My first impression, and do not misunderstand, is your level of seriousness. So many dreamers come to China. many come with high hopes, big dreams, but scant experience, and meager resources. Many of us long-term expats have been drawn into these boondoggles only to discover they are not monetized, underfunded (if at all) and are nothing more than pipe dreams.

You can contact me, for instance, and show me your business plan. I might be able to point you in the right direction. Some considerations...

[1] I know small shipyards, and am quite versed in business startups, and China. I could help you there, but you know, money talks. Terms would be 30TT. Don't even think about any other kind of arrangement to start off with. It's a large investment in time and money, and no one wants to be stuck with a partially completed ship, or one that cannot be sold. Trust me on this.

[2] Banking will be an issue as the maximum amount of USD that can come into the country would be $50,000 USD/year per person. Many Chinese use Dubai or HK banking resources. You would not be able to use banks in China simply because you are an American. The IRS will want to know all your financial records, and that will not go over well with your Chinese partners.

[3] Chinese ownership in your enterprise is mandatory and would have to be more than 51%.

[4] You want to target the wealthy elite. Well, that is fine.  What are your guarantees that they will engage your enterprise? What sort of down payment(s) have you collected?

I do not want to insult you, as all that I know about your proposal is what you laid out. Why Shanghai of all places? What other partnerships are involved in your organization? So I have to ask you the more pertinent questions about the financial expectations for the first five years, whether it would be a WOFE or local institute. Ownership would be international, but would require Chinese executive control. What are your terms for these issues?

I truly wish you the best. This is a new year of the pig, and the opportunities will be numerous. If you want your dreams to actually happen, you will need to have financial backing, and hard cash up front. You will need to have a very detailed business plan, and some very strong Chinese partners. You would also need to be able to answer every question I asked without a moment's hesitation. China does not mess around, and if you are not ready, she will eat you up and spit you out.

VANNROX :

Wow. That's a pretty large call out, and a very detailed post.

Yeah, I knew it was.  I was and hoping that individuals might be able to address one of the issues and get the whole from the collective answer.  Now to answer some of your questions and ask some questions of you.

My first impression, and do not misunderstand, is your level of seriousness. So many dreamers come to China. many come with high hopes, big dreams, but scant experience, and meager resources. Many of us long-term expats have been drawn into these boondoggles only to discover they are not monetized, underfunded (if at all) and are nothing more than pipe dreams.

I have been working on this project off and on for the last three decades.  There has been many changes over those years.  It has been reviewed by many professionals in the boarding school industry.  As for resources, how I have it currently planned is very doable.  Or at least that is the opinion of experts I've shown the business plan to.  I am NOT asking for any involvement from any expat here ... aside from answering questions.  I am NOT offering anyone a job.  I am not asking for any volunteers ... aside from answering my questions.  I am not seeking any funding from anyone here.

You can contact me, for instance, and show me your business plan.

I really don't want to be sending my business plan around to just anyone who asks.  Possibly after trust is established and you show you're someone who has expertise I need.  But, for right now, I am just wanting answers to questions I post here in this forum.

I might be able to point you in the right direction.

That would be great but let us not rush into anything.

[1] I know small shipyards, and am quite versed in business startups, and China. I could help you there, but you know, money talks. Terms would be 30TT. Don't even think about any other kind of arrangement to start off with. It's a large investment in time and money, and no one wants to be stuck with a partially completed ship, or one that cannot be sold. Trust me on this.

First, what is "30TT"?

Second, the current plan is to pay upfront 100%.

[2] Banking will be an issue as the maximum amount of USD that can come into the country would be $50,000 USD/year per person. Many Chinese use Dubai or HK banking resources. You would not be able to use banks in China simply because you are an American. The IRS will want to know all your financial records, and that will not go over well with your Chinese partners.

Thanks for that information.

[3] Chinese ownership in your enterprise is mandatory and would have to be more than 51%.

No, I will not give over any to the Chinese.  No US boarding school that recruits students for the US school has ever.  The school is NOT based in China.  It will travel around the world every year.  It will visit Shanghai once a year for graduation, possibly have drydock maintenance done (though this might be done in South Korea), and pick up the Chinese students at the beginning of the next school year.  And that's it for being in Shanghai.

[4] You want to target the wealthy elite. Well, that is fine.

And necessary given the cost of tuition.

What are your guarantees that they will engage your enterprise?

If I am getting your meaning correct, none.  No more than any other non-China boarding school.  Mine will offer unique features that no boarding school has ever but I view them as simply attractors, not guarantees.

What sort of down payment(s) have you collected?

None at this time.  Wrong time for that.

I do not want to insult you, as all that I know about your proposal is what you laid out.

No insult taken.

Why Shanghai of all places?

From numerous conversations with affluent Shanghai citizens, discussions with boarding school who currently recruit students from Shanghai, some marketing executives I know who have marketed to China before, etc.  Due to a unique feature of the school, it will recruit all of its "foreign" students from one "foreign" mega-city.  I simply picked Shanghai for these and other reasons that I'd rather not go into publicly.

What other partnerships are involved in your organization?

None and, at this time, none will be sought in the future.

So I have to ask you the more pertinent questions about the financial expectations for the first five years, whether it would be a WOFE or local institute. Ownership would be international, but would require Chinese executive control. What are your terms for these issues?

"WOFE"???

There will be no Chinese executive control.  Just as there are none for any US boarding school or, for that matter, US university accepting in Chinese students.

I truly wish you the best.

Thanks and thanks for replying back.

So from what I understand this will be a non-Chinese company that would visit China once a year. I see no problem with that. In fact, it is a pretty simple situation.

Since it would consist of visiting China, the students would obtain visitor visas. There would be no need for a student visa as there will not be any brick and mortar Chinese structures.

From the Chinese point of view, this would be treated as a tour company and an organized tour for educational purposes.

Under this structure you can work with existing universities to arrange temporary accommodations for the students outside of hotels, if you wanted to.

Things will only get complicated when ever anyone is actually working and obtaining profits in China. Then you would need to set up the proper legal framework. A WOFE (A Wholly Owned Foreign Enterprise).

Best regards.

Sorry for the delay in replying. Flu hit.

VANNROX :

Since it would consist of visiting China, the students would obtain visitor visas. There would be no need for a student visa as there will not be any brick and mortar Chinese structures.

The ships are actually the school.  The Chinese students would be boarded on the ships and travel on them (along with their American classmates) around the world.  Each week, the fleet would pull into another harbor around the world and the students would go ashore to explore it.

From the Chinese point of view, this would be treated as a tour company and an organized tour for educational purposes.

Possibly.  That was and is why I was hoping someone could point me to a good law firm in Shanghai so I could run this past them.

Under this structure you can work with existing universities to arrange temporary accommodations for the students outside of hotels, if you wanted to.

No, the students would live on the ships.  Think dorms that sail the seas.

Things will only get complicated when ever anyone is actually working and obtaining profits in China.

There is the admissions office for Chinese students.  I would like them to directly work for the school but, I suppose, this could be contracted out.  That and possibly the renting out of a theater and sports stadium for live-stream broadcasts of school performances and its annual in-person graduation.

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