Trayton Group

Trayton Group

Friday, June 5, 2015

China Hand lends a hand to Chinese kids, TEXT/Sharlene PHOTO/Provided by Simon Lichtenberg

Simon Lichtenberg虽然是丹麦人,但却是个十足的“中国通”。他为自己取了一个中文名字,李曦萌。作为特雷通集团创建人、董事会主席兼首席执行官,他积极参加各项社会活动。他除了是复旦大学外国留学生协会会长、丹麦商会上海分会会长和上海欧盟商会零售与分销论坛副主席外,从去年开始,他长长的履历表上又多了一个新身份——乡村儿童早期发展基金未来希望幼儿班项目发起人。


Aliang is the first girl Simon Lichtenberg met in Butuo County of Liangshan Yi Minority Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, one of the 300 poorest counties in China. When the Danish entrepreneur visited Aliang's home, he was impressed by the six-year-old's independence. "The family lives on subsistence farming and she has already done some housework to relieve the burden on her parents and siblings," recalled Mr. Lichtenberg, Founder and CEO of Trayton Group, and Founder of the Rural Early Education Development Fund.

A couple of months ago before the trip, Mr. Lichtenberg met James J. Heckman, professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the Nobel laureate in economics, at a seminar on preschool education. "The most cost-effective human capital investment period: 0-6 years," said Prof. Heckman. "Early interventions that build the capability base of children have much higher economic returns than later remediation and prevention programs, such as public job training, convict rehabilitation programs, adult literacy programs, tuition subsidies or expenditure on police to reduce crime."

Inspired by the professor’s speech, Mr. Lichtenberg set about to collect more information and in the process he came to know that preschool education was underdeveloped in rural areas of western China. Therefore, the successful businessman mobilized 10 of his CEO friends to donate 60,000 yuan each and set up a special fund under the Shanghai Charity Foundation in the hope of improving access to preschool education in rural areas as his way of contributing to where he lives and works.

Along with Humana People to People China (HPP), a non-profit organization working for the common good, Mr. Lichtenberg started the first project, Preschools of the Future (‘POF’), in Butuo County where there were only two kindergartens for a total of 14,500 preschoolers.

The HPP POF program provides rural children with access to full-time three-year preschool education at natural and administrative village levels. Each class is made up of 25-30 students aged between 3 and 5. Kids are trained in the daily curriculum that cultivates their body and motor skills, math capabilities, and language proficiency, which is complemented by a weekly program that involves storytelling, arts and outdoor activities.

"We want to teach the children to make up her/his own mind and choices, and learn by planning, execution, failure and victory," explained Mr. Lichtenberg. Speaking of the changes Aliang has experienced, he was quite relieved. "Before attending POF, Aliang was worried that she couldn’t keep up with the primary school if she didn’t speak Mandarin. But now she has learnt to speak some Mandarin and enjoys a great time at school with her friends. The children learn about the world and learn to believe in themselves. Aliang and her friends have taken an essential step to their later life in school. They are the children of the future."

China Hand

Mr. Lichtenberg defines himself as a frenetic fan of the Chinese language and culture, which was made even more convincing by his unplanned trip to Shanghai in 1988. "My friend and I wanted to learn the most difficult language in the world. So here I am." Mr. Lichtenberg is still surprised at the decision he made then. Over the next few years, he was learning Chinese at Fudan University, and continued his studies back in Denmark before he entered the timber trade in Malaysia. After all that he moved back to China to start his own business. In 1995, he opened Trayton Group, a furniture company which now has grown into an enterprise of more than 2,000 employees.

Mr. Lichtenberg speaks seven languages and has lived in eight countries. Since he has settled down in Shanghai, he describes himself as an expert on China. He was awarded the “Magnolia Silver Award” from the Shanghai Municipal Government in 2006 for his outstanding contribution to the local development, and is selected as the founding president of the Fudan University International Students Alumni Association. In 2011, he was awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year 2011” by the Danish Chamber of Commerce in China for his exceptional business achievements in China, and has been elected as Chairman of Danish Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai in 2013. Since 2014, he has been serving as the Vice Chairman of Retail and Distribution Forum of the European Chamber of Commerce in China.

Mr. Lichtenberg attributes his achievement to his perseverance, courage and creativity, qualities he has cultivated since childhood. "In addition, I work hard. A hard-working attitude and an adaptive capacity to different cultures and environments enable me to stay current with new developments and enjoy a desirable life in Shanghai."

Get involved

According to the Center on the Developing Child of Harvard University, 3-6 years of age is the most crucial development stage for a human being. Do you want to help Simon Lichtenberg and his friends to make a difference to the life of the children who are waiting for access to quality preschool education in Butuo County? For more information, please contact Mr. Lichtenberg at 86 21 6296 7801 or

Monday, June 30, 2014

5 reasons people should move to Shanghai

We asked Simon Lichtenberg, founder of the Trayton Group, for 5 reasons people should move to Shanghai, where his Group is based. Simon started the Trayton Group in 1995, designing, making, and selling upholstered furniture. They now have facilities and shops all over China and in the U.S, export all over the world, and have links with two Danish companies. Simon himself was born in Denmark, and moved to Shanghai in 1987.

Reason 1: You can get anywhere from here.

It is easy to get to anywhere from Shanghai. Japan is relatively cheap to travel to, as is Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand. All of these examples take only a few hours to get to by plane. Places like Australia and India are much less hassle to get to from Shanghai than from a western country.  As Simon Lichtenberg explains: 'The Trayton Group has offices all over the world. Travelling from Shanghai is convenient and cost effective travels are very important for us'.

Reason 2: The food is great!

We all know and love Chinese food, but Chinese food from China is different to what we get in the West. It's even better! There are incredibly cheap and delicious noodle stalls all over the place. Plus, in Shanghai, you get food from all over the world. Simon likes to stress that within the Trayton Group, the company provides everyday a delicious lunch-time meal from local suppliers for its employees, and that he always has the same as they do as it’s usually very good.

Reason 3: Opportunities

Shanghai is one of the most advanced cities in China and one of the largest in the world, so there are plenty of jobs and business initiatives going, whether you are just starting your career, already well-established, or perhaps trying something new. Also, there are also lots of universities and educational establishments. According to Simon: 'Shanghai provides the Trayton Group with a quality workforce. We are always looking to add to our growing team.'

Reason 4: Culture and History

Shanghai is full of history and culture. The architecture of the various temples and old houses gives an insight into its history, and there are several museums where you can learn more. Alongside this, you have the modern side of Shanghai with more recent builds, which include Skyscrapers and western-style homes. You still see people practising traditional martial arts, as well as suited business people. The Night-life here is also very good, so you can still live a modern city-life. Simon explains that one of the reasons he set up the TraytonGroup in Shanghai first of all is because that is where old meets new: ‘It's a major modern city, but you still see traditional know-how all around you and that is really inspiring for our furniture business.’

Reason 5: The people

Simon reckons 'I've met so many fascinating and wonderful people while living in Shanghai'. People in Shanghai are some of the friendliest and most welcoming around. You meet people from all over the world, so you are bound to run into someone you have something in common with. This mix of cultures makes the population extremely interesting and dynamic.