Journal Entry

Meet Terrance Hui: Entrepreneurial experience informs startup culture in China today

As a co-owner of Montessori preschool in Shanghai, Terrance learned how to build long-lasting, trusting relationships with parents

Terrance Hui is an absolute force of nature. When you meet him, you can instantly sense his compassion, understanding and go-get-em nature. He’s kind and thoughtful, considerate and passionate and has a wealth of wide-ranging experience. 

As the founder of Zeal Labs, which is now part of the Guidepost Montessori family, Terrance shares his perspective on what it’s like to grow his own school, and how his entrepreneurial background is helping to inform his work at Guidepost Montessori in China.

“Parents are trusting you with their most treasured thing in the world, right? Their baby.” His eyes light up as he thinks about these relationships. “You have to give them a sense of comfort and trust there.” 

Terrance grew up in San Francisco as a youth leader, always wanting to give back to his community. 

“Even from sixth grade, I felt a great sense of responsibility and pride when helping other children,” he says. “I wanted to change the world and make peace.”

After school in Washington, D.C., he went into finance, moved to China and worked for a few start-ups before deciding he wanted to start something on his own. So he opened Zeal Labs, a boutique Montessori preschool in Shanghai that was run as a partnership among parents, teachers and administrators. 

“I wanted people to feel ownership,” he says. “I knew the way we treated staff directly affected how happy the parents were with their child at the school. And when you instill a sense of ownership, people feel appreciated, and parents felt that. They felt a sense of family.”

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the latest curriculum, or the newest school, but Terrance has a different perspective, one that speaks to the heart of Montessori. “It’s not about philosophy. It’s not about your pedagogy,” he says. “It’s about whether they trust you as a person.”

Terrance says that’s when true learning transpires – when a child feels supported in their endeavors, guided in their explorations and has the independence to pursue interests in a safe and trusting relationship. 

Unsurprisingly, this is exactly how he speaks about working with his team. “I think it’s just about being a person,” he says. “It’s being open, transparent, authentic, and talking to everybody with respect and understanding.

“As you might have seen, it’s a team here,” he continues. “We give each other high-fives. People are huddling, people are communicating and talking with each other in conversations, having impromptu meetings. It’s a very start-up culture. It’s very lively. There’s a vibrant energy here.”

We can feel your energy, Terrance, we can feel your compassion, and we can’t wait to see how you help grow Guidepost Montessori in China.

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