If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be comfortable with being misunderstood for a very long time. It’s a marathon not a sprint.
At the age of 23, Andrea Myles set off to travel in China for three months. Little did she know it would spark a deep and lasting connection to the country.
“I thought I’m going to get one trip overseas in my entire life, so I’d better make it a great one,” she says.
Fifteen years later, Andrea has spent five years living in China, led the Australia China Business Council, holds two bilingual Master’s degrees in Chinese business and culture, and runs a successful China engagement program in Australian high schools.
She is now CEO of the China Australia Millennial Project (CAMP) which she co-founded three years ago. The project is an incubator bringing together emerging leaders aged 18-35 from both countries to collaborate on solving global issues. She was named one of Australia’s 100 most influential women in 2014 and won a UTS alumni award in 2015.
Each year, 130 young people attend a five-day summit in Beijing, followed by a 90-day online program covering innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship skills. It wraps up with another five-day summit in Sydney where teams pitch potential projects to a panel of investors, business leaders and government officials.
Andrea took her first trip to China just after she’d finished a neuroscience degree and needed time out to decide what to do next. She had never travelled overseas before. Neither had her parents – or anyone else in her family.
Halfway through the trip, she decided she wanted a career that involved travelling. So at an internet café, she applied for a Masters in International Studies at UTS majoring in Mandarin.
For part of her course, she spent a year in Kunming, the modern capital of Yunnan province in the south, and made headway learning Mandarin.
Back in Australia, Andrea was frustrated to find prospective employers didn’t see the potential, or the need for her abilities. She enrolled in another Master’s degree to hone her business skills.
After graduating, and still struggling to find an interesting job that used her Chinese skills, she co-founded CAMP with four other women. “I felt we were dropping the ball for the next generation,” she says.
Andrea’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is: “If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be comfortable with being misunderstood for a very long time. It’s a marathon not a sprint.”