Linda He: Giving back to society
Linda He likes the idea of sharing. When she first started her company she used to order out good food and share it with her team. Now that she has become a successful entrepreneur, she shares her fortune with society and often invites Chinese immigrants in the US to special events to share the sense of belonging to their new home.
Under He’s leadership, the company she founded — Wailian Overseas Consulting Group — has blossomed into a global enterprise with more than 300 employees specialized in immigration consulting for Chinese nationals, especially in investment immigration to the US.
But for He, helping her clients to get permanent residency in their target destination countries — the US in particular — is only the start of a new chapter in her clients’ lives. Over the years she has become more concerned with how to help these new immigrants adapt to a society they have only just begun to embrace.
“I want them to get a more intimate experience in the local culture and lifestyle,” said He, who started to host a variety of events in the US and invite Chinese immigrants to functions to mingle with American leaders in industry and politics.
“For example, in Los Angeles we’ve hosted a qipao (a traditional Chinese dress) party and helped immigrants learn about how to get their children internships at renowned companies, and we also took people to a Laker’s game,” she said.
He mentioned that in March she will be receiving an award from the west coast Chinese communities for her contributions to the local Chinese, including donations, bringing Chinese artists to the US to perform for overseas Chinese and providing venues for Chinese artists in the US to communicate.
But just making the overseas Chinese feel more at home in the US may not be enough, He thought.
As her business expanded in the US, He started to receive more invitations to high profile events. But the more events she attended, the more she felt that overseas Chinese were still distant from mainstream US society.
“So one of the things I have done is to help the children in the US,” said He, who has previously been engaged in philanthropy projects mainly targeting China as the board member of Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation, the Pearl S. Buck Charitable Fund.
He gave $50,000 to the Eisenhower Foundation to support the Youth Safe Haven Program, which aims to provide a secure place for poor inner city children who are prone to have more exposure to crime, drugs and gangs.
“I’m trying to encourage my clients and friends to donate another $50,000. If it fails I will make up the rest to make sure a total of $100,000 is there to help the kids,” said He, who received the Eisenhower Foundation International Leadership Award this month.
“For me, helping the American people is not only a good way to give back to the society, but also a good opportunity to gain a voice in the US society,” she said. “If they (Americans) ask me why we (Chinese entrepreneurs) help them, we then have the chance to be heard.”
Business is also a way for He to engage with the Americans.
Earlier this year He was awarded a certificate of recognition from the City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office for her contribution to the local economy. In the past few years, her company has helped to raise about $90 million in capital for local EB-5 immigrant investor projects.
The EB-5 Program was created to stimulate the US economy through job creation and foreign investment. With a minimum investment of $1 million (or $500,000 in low employment or rural areas), an EB-5 investor must not only create but also preserve at least 10 full-time jobs through the project to gain permanent US residency.
“I hope through accepting the award more Americans will know about how much Chinese investors have helped the US economy and created jobs,” said He, whose company has supported building projects across the US, such as the New York Barclays Center, the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Maryland Live! Casino and Philadelphia’s Comcast office building.
In addition, He invested in Yoyo Chinese Inc for more Americans to learn about China and the Chinese people by learning the language online.
“The more successful you are, the more business opportunities will come to you. But I only choose to do those that mean something to me and the society,” said He.
Because of her interest in subjects related to Chinese immigrants in the US, He, now also an EMBA student, said that she is trying to earn an opportunity to learn more about this field in the US.
Linda He (left) is receiving International Leadership Award from Alan Curtis (right), president and CEO of The Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation in February.