Yichi Zhang, ’13, was recently named to Forbes China 30 under 30. The former president of the Robins School Student Government Association and co-founder of Delta Sigma Pi at the Robins School now lives in Beijing, and has founded his own creative brand consulting agency, Flip the Script. 

“The essence of our business focuses on two things: insight and story,” Zhang said. “Everyone has a story; but not everyone is able to tell their most compelling story from an insightful angle.”

Flip the Script focuses on personal branding, with a client list ranging from CEOs and investors to tattoo artists and hip-hop music producers.

“There aren’t many people doing what we do right now, I see this as a growing market in the future,” Zhang said.

He says his commitment to personal branding comes from two major themes he saw throughout his time at the Robins School: community and kindness.

“At the Robins School, everyone is kind. The kindness contains this type of raw, southern hospitality with innocence,” Zhang said. “I see this kindness DNA as a hidden treasure. I appreciated this kindness when I was in school, but never realized how rare, beautiful, and powerful it is until working.”

Dana Lascu, professor of marketing, says his hope to emulate that kindness drives him to create community in every endeavor.

“Yichi believes in the importance of building a better community,” Lascu said. “At UR, he started a successful business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, and recruited me to be a brother and faculty mentor. In China, he is starting a UR alumni group. His ideas and the energy that he devotes to making them happen know no boundaries.”

Zhang says his time in Lascu’s class reminded him the importance of looking outside the business school for inspiration.

“Dr. Lascu encouraged us not to lose ourselves in our majors. She prompted us to dive into subjects like art, music, and film to broaden our worldviews,” Zhang said. “I began investing time in these other subjects and found myself able to relate many cultural elements back to her course material. This greatly enhanced my experience in her class and influenced my pursuit of the creative side of business.”

He says professors like Dana Lascu and his advisor, Tom Cossé, associate dean for international business programs, boosted his confidence and inspired him to pursue his dream of owning his own company.

“Yichi is a risk-taker and very entrepreneurial,” Cossé said. “He was one of the most creative students I have ever had. I always felt he would be successful.”

Zhang fulfilled that description as a risk-taker, when he turned down a job offer in the spring of his senior year.

“I declined a job offer and decided to pursue creative brand management,” Zhang said. “Two years later, my first business was creating meaningful and inspiring creative work in Los Angeles. Now, in 2018, I am running a new business venture in Beijing. Without their help, I wouldn’t have the confidence and strength to believe in myself to do what I truly love.”

That strength paid off, as he and his business are in the spotlight of Forbes China’s 30 under 30.

“I never thought I was going to be named. There are 1.6 billion people in China, and there are so many talented folks in my field,” Zhang said. “I’ve had some up-downs in business (as well as in life) in the past couple years, I’ve made mistakes in business and failed. When I knew I was named, that moment, I smiled, and told myself: people are going to expect more from me now, the game has gone to the next level.”

But already, Lascu knows he will continue to succeed.

“His business acumen is not the whole story,” Lascu said. “While here, he excelled in marketing, international business, and finance, but he also developed into a skilled artist. He just got started, just wait another few years. I’m proud to say that we gave him a solid start at UR.”

You can find out more about Zhang’s business ventures on his professional website, and on Spider Pride.