The story behind the rise of Lihong Yu

Lihong Yu’s life has taught her to never give up on her aspirations and be strong in the face of any adversity since the very beginning. She was born and raised in Ningbo, China when the Chinese Cultural Revolution was still in its active phase. Amidst the turmoil caused by the movement, her parents were exiled leaving the six-year-old Yu in her grandparent’s care. During this delicate period when China’s economy had taken a serious hit, Yu realized the need for her to step up and take on the responsibility to manage the household budget and make sure the entire family is fed. The daily hustle of sorting, purchasing and negotiating just to stretch the limited household income and being accountable for so many things at such a tender age built Yu into a hardcore success-oriented individual.

Moving forward, Yu efficiently completed her Bachelor’s degree in both English Literature and American Culture & Society from Beijing Foreign Languages University. Following her ambitions, she landed a supporting role at MEHECO and Sinochem, a Chinese conglomerate with expertise in the chemical and fertilizer industries. She used this opportunity to watch, learn, listen and soon made her way up to the position where she could independently lead a negotiation. She went on to serve as a Sales Manager for a Sinochem branch based in Los Angeles.

“Leadership is not to do less hard-work but more. It takes time, energy and passion for the job you do and to care for and treat your people right,” says Lihong Yu, President, and Founder of PHT International, Inc.

In the early 1990s, once again Yu’s mighty sense of observation made her see a gap in the United States’ east coast, chemical market, as a result of which they were missing out on the benefits of working with the far east. With intention, drive, and USD 5000, Yu set out to establish PHT International in 1993. Setting down roots in Charlotte, North Carolina, and delivering cost-effective, high-quality chemical products directly to the western companies; PHT soon became a pioneer in bridging the east-west gap. Describing her organization, Yu says, “PHT delivers solutions that heal, nourish, and protect the world. Our product goes to our customers who are curing the people- pharma; nurturing people -agriculture; and protecting people’s life- specialty polymer protect firemen and soldier’s life.” The goal is simple and ambitious: contribute to the launch of a new innovative product that can cure people or protect crops.

Starting in 1993 based on the vision of a woman with a unique set of experiences, PHT is determined to sustain its reputation as a truly reliable business partner who never hesitates to go above and beyond for its customers. They focus only on supplying the most high-quality products. Yu says, “Relationships are built on trust and honesty- a belief so fundamental to our mission we’re named for it: People. Honesty. Trust.”

The company has expanded from one product distribution from one manufacturer out of China, and today– with a full-service manufacturing facility, key industry alliances, and a global network of relationships– to provide individualized, start-to-finish chemical industry solutions for their customers, including customized chemical creation, research & development, procurement, and chemical trading. “We provide individualized full service of specialty chemicals to our customers in pharmaceutical, agriculture and the polymer industry through our research development, procurement, ISO and GMP manufacturing facilities,” adds Yu. “We have the joint-venture of the biggest pyrimidine derivatives serving our crop protection customers at multinational locations.” With passion, innovation, and an unrelenting belief that the right relationships produce the best results, PHT has become a sought-after custom manufacturing partner in the industry. As the President, Yu contributes this success to her team and is extremely grateful to them for supporting her in the growth of PHT. “I am talent thirsty. I need the experts to join me to lead PHT to the next level growth,” says Yu. “The people in my organization all want to grow the company, they stay with me in ups and downs. They deserve the growth.” The company is headquartered in Charlotte, NC, USA and has offices in Japan, China, Mexico, and India. PHT turns over USD 110 million annually.

Lihong Yu, President, & Founder, PHT International, Inc.​
Lihong Yu, President, & Founder, PHT International, Inc.​

All along the way, they encountered several challenges like balancing cost competitiveness and meeting new regulations & new standards in their industry, not only in the USA but also in China and India. Another challenge came with an asset purchase. “The purchasing of the asset of QiMing Biotech company, now our Sancus Arc Biotech Co. Ltd.,” shares Yu. “It turned out our integrity being challenged by our partner. Always stick with People, Honesty, and Trust. Also always do due diligence to the asset and partner even it is friend referred asset. Luckily, now that we have 100% ownership, we have been able to bring Sancus Arc up to cGMP standards, passed three times USFDA inspection with no 483 form issued, and bring confidence back to the customers.”

On top of it all, Yu is a wife, mother, and grandmother. Although she doesn’t mind the extra hours she has to put in every day to maintain the balance. She makes time to cook healthy meals for her family and likes to stay personally involved in their lives. She asserts, “The only way to overcome this for me is to always remember you are a mother and wife besides work. You have an extra two letters “WOmen” and “FEmale”, so I deserve to do extra work at home and the job as well. Luckily, I only need 4 hours of sleep a day.” Surprisingly, Yu works 12-16 hours a day which is almost twice as much as normal people do. “I have been working in this industry for 27 years now which considering the number of hours I work means it’s almost 50 years for me,” chuckles Yu. “My husband jokes I am 80 years old already because I lived an extra 26 weeks a year than normal people.”

Outside work, Yu enjoys spending her time with her family or engaging herself in yoga, running, music, and cooking. She also deems herself to be a big foodie who loves cooking and fine dining. She says, “I believe you are what you eat.” Yu has always drawn inspiration from Audrey Hepburn. “I admire her for kindness and compassion as well as her devotion to being a good mother and a wife, her acting career and her humanitarian efforts,” says Yu. “All women have the right to be beautiful, shining from inside out.” Yu’s favorite book is “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin that she says has helped her to be a better leader. She measures her success by the impact her business has on the people and community and the way it has benefitted them.

Reflecting upon her journey, to all aspiring women entrepreneurs, Yu has only one thing to say: “Focus, hard work, devotion will make you successful no matter what you choose to do.”

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