Stephanie Yu

Stephanie Yu

Founder and CEO

AGE: 29

COMPANY: Bole Education Services

The Story: For Stephanie Yu, helping immigrant families navigate the education system in North America is about maximizing something she never had: choice. Yu was born and raised in Shijiazhuang, China; her parents—a stay-at-home mother and truck-driver father—paid $1,000 a semester for her primary school education. It was a sound investment. Yu excelled as a student, ranking among the top 100 in her province by high school. At 16, she was accepted on full scholarship to Capital Normal University in Beijing, but on the condition that she study English literature: “It was interesting, but not really my passion.” While pursuing her degree, she also studied simultaneous translation, which led to a high-profile role translating for top officials and world media during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. That was followed by a job as a senior PR consultant for Ogilvy and Mather in Hong Kong. Yu’s facility with language led to her pivotal move to Canada. At 22, Yu met her now-husband just three months before he was due to move to B.C. to pursue his MBA, and decided to give up her burgeoning PR career and apply to universities in B.C.; she was accepted to the University of Victoria, again on full scholarship, and graduated with a master’s in applied linguistics in 2011. Yu started Bole Education Services in 2013 after observing that many Chinese immigrant families she encountered struggled to make sense of North America’s approach to education. “In the U.S. and Canada, there are so many enriched courses so kids have a lot of choice. In China, there are not a lot of options; it’s all about a score.” Bole offers one-on-one academic and extracurricular planning, as well as summer boot camps, debate clubs and a variety of academic enrichment courses through a membership model. While the company’s aim is to help immigrant families navigate the school system, identify their children’s interests and prepare kids for college and university admissions, Yu has found they often need support in other areas. With many fathers working in China, mothers are often alone in dealing with cultural and linguistic gaps that stand between them and their westernized children. In response, Bole has begun running support-group-like seminars for kids and parents so they can share their stories and begin to understand each other better.

Markers of Success: Bole has three locations in Richmond, Vancouver and White Rock and boasts more than 10 employees. The company has brought in nearly $1 million in revenue to date and plans to expand to the U.S.; Yu has also started developing programs for Korean families.