Lijuan Zhao
Lijuan Zhao
Age 29  |  Managing director, China Iowa Consulting LLC 

In the past two years, Lijuan Zhao founded a business, decided to marry and was given the Governor’s Volunteer Award. Let’s see what she can accomplish in the next two years.

Nanning, China-born Zhao, managing director of China Iowa Consulting LLC, moved to the United States in 2008.

Recently engaged to her business partner, Justin Mandelbaum, co-founder of China Iowa Consulting, an import and export advisory firm in West Des Moines, Zhao has earned the reputation of being somewhat of a networking expert in the metropolitan area.

The two met at a Young Professionals Connection event in February 2009.

Fluent in three languages, Zhao is on the board of the Chinese Association of Iowa and serves as secretary of the central chapter of the Iowa Asian Alliance. She has also worked closely with the Iowa Council for International Understanding and the Immigrant Entrepreneur Summit.

Last year, Zhao was nominated by the Iowa Department of Human Rights to receive the Governor’s Volunteer Award for her service and commitment to the community.

In October 2010, Zhao volunteered to work with the international laureates of The World Food Prize Foundation during the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium in Des Moines. She was introduced to that organization’s president, Kenneth Quinn, by former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray.

“She was so incredibly poised and well-spoken,” Quinn said of his first impression of Zhao. “I thought she was someone who grew up in the United States. She has an amazing way, at a very young age, to become extremely cosmopolitan.”

Zhao is especially proud of her recent invitation to join the Nexus Executive Women’s Alliance. “I was very fortunate that they decided to let me in,” she said. “I feel really lucky to be surrounded by such a group of very influential women. I’m determined to be like them and make a difference in Des Moines.”

Zhao, who works part time as an international economist and market analyst with Stine Seed Co. in Adel, earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in international trade and economics from Central South University in Changsha, China.

Her academic career also included postgraduate research at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, as well as summer programs at the University of Bologna in Forli, Italy, and the University of Vienna.