Winter 2009

Feature Story

Your Haas Network

Beau Giannini, MBA 94        
CEO, Sinomark, Shanghai

Cooksie Giannini, MBA 92
Former VP Business Development for Europe, Asia, & Middle East Pollo Campero, Shanghai


Beau, MBA 94, and Cooksie, MBA 92, Giannini had a vision for their family: All four children would become bilingual, live abroad, and travel as they both did when they were young.

In 2003, they got the chance to make that dream happen. Beau, who had founded a software outsourcing company called Freeborders in 1999, was negotiating with a group from Mexico and another from China that wanted him to head a joint project in Shanghai. The Gianninis, whose children ranged from age 3 to 8 years old at the time, decided that if they didn’t jump at the opportunity, they might never go.

But just as they were packing up their newly renovated house in Tiburon, Calif., a curve ball came: The groups that wanted to hire Beau backed out. They decided to go anyway.

“We really wanted the adventure,” says Beau, a fifth-generation San Franciscan who was born in Italy and traveled extensively as a kid, learning Spanish and Chinese in high school.

More than Outsourcing

After arriving in Shanghai, Beau founded a new company, Sinomark, which targets small- to mid-sized companies based in North America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. His clients make everything from pet food to medical supplies to clothing to restaurant packaging. Sinomark does much more than help them find factories. “Companies come to me and say, ‘We have an idea for a new line, can you develop it, create it, label it, and send it back to us?’” he explains.

The manufacturing opportunity in China remains rich, despite the global economic downturn that’s closed many factories. “Everyone wants to come to China,” Beau says. Taking advantage of that momentum, Beau expanded Sinomark’s business to include organically certified fruit products and launched a separate company called Yogavive, which makes organic fruit snacks such as dried apple chips.

From High-Tech to Pollo

Cooksie, too, has found unique opportunity within China’s fast-changing markets. A 12-year Hewlett-Packard marketing veteran, she arrived in Shanghai on a year’s leave of absence. After spending her first year and a half settling her children, she decided to leave HP. But her urge to try something new persisted.

So when Beau passed on a consulting opportunity that crossed his desk in 2005 from Pollo Campero, Latin America’s largest chicken restaurant chain, she took it. Though Cooksie had no restaurant background, she analyzed the chain’s marketing opportunity in Asia. A month later, Cooksie, a first-generation Asian American who, like Beau, speaks Mandarin, was asked to run Pollo Campero’s business in China.

“It’s an only-in-China story,” says Beau, noting that unique opportunities often come their way because they are MBAs with global business networks working in China.

Cooksie opened new restaurants in Indonesia and China and explored opportunities for Pollo Campero in India, Japan, Korea, the Middle East, Spain, and the United Kingdom, until the company decided to shift its focus to primarily the US market in September 2008. “My travel schedule was crazy,” Cooksie recalls. “It was nice to have a break.”

The Chinese Way

Life in vibrant Shanghai is not without challenges, the Gianninis say, noting the crowds, the lack of outdoor activities nearby, and the red tape required to get any small business task done.

But the Gianninis were committed to doing things the Chinese way, building relationships with the local people and government officials (which the Chinese call Guanxi) that determine whether you succeed or fail in business. “From day one we integrated,” Beau says. Their children, who now range in age from 8 to 13, speak Mandarin like natives after spending their first several years in local Chinese schools.

Keeping their Tiburon home means the family has options, which they’re considering as high school looms for their oldest son.

Wherever they’re living at a given time, the Gianninis are confident that their international family will feel at home. “We’ll be here forever and in San Francisco forever,” Beau says. “We are really setting up a life in two places.”

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Beau Giannini, MBA 94

Cooksie Giannini, MBA 92