The story appears on

Page C4 - C5

December 30, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Just for starters, here's the money

A fund to encourage college students to develop their entrepreneurial nature and ideas has given the green light to 27 projects. Pan Zheng looks at some successes. One year ago at the height of the global financial crisis, Zhejiang University student Song Yang and his teammates were worried about finding a job.

Now they run their own company and their product "Natural Home," which uses hi-tech methods to keep vegetables and fruit fresh, has been successfully launched.

Their project was adopted by the L'Oreal Fund for Student Employment and Entrepreneurship which provided a kitty of 80,000 yuan (US$11,713) to support the product.

The fund is a special initiative to encourage Chinese student entrepreneurship and its work is timely this year when the job market is tougher as a result of the financial crisis.

The 27 projects which earned the fund's support were announced early this month. The funding was allocated according to five levels of project development, and the winners were granted awards from 10,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan.

The fund was established by L'Oreal China and the China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF).

In the past seven years, the two have supported college students in poverty by offering assistance through charity sales on campus. But this year is the first time it has backed student entrepreneurs.

"It has been a hot topic that many college graduates are having difficulty finding a job," says Gu Xiaojin, executive vice chairperson of CYDF.

"More and more students have had the idea of starting their own business, but few of them could take it to fruition. Most of them have quit halfway," Gu says.

The L'Oreal fund to support entrepreneurs may now be a good option.

It received more than 200 applications this year during the submission period from April to October from more than 70 universities and colleges around the country.

The various projects are spread across different disciplines and industries, including hi-tech, e-commerce, service sectors, charity, retail trade and environment protection. Over 1,000 college students were involved.

The project plans were assessed by a review committee made up of experts Each submission was judged according to various criteria such as its development methodology, market prospects, creativity and practicability.

Various surveys in 2009 indicated that, as a result of the financial crisis, most college students considered the prospect of becoming self-employed.

Entrepreneurship had been emerging as a viable option for college students to make their own way in a tough job market, their new enterprises capable of producing more job opportunities.

In recent years, central and local governments have issued supportive policies to encourage college starters to pursue their entrepreneurial concepts.

But in recent years the results have not been encouraging. From 2008 to 2009, only 2 percent of Chinese college entrepreneurs were successful with their start-ups, success measured by the degree to which they managed to progress to a long-term development phase.

Even in Zhejiang Province, where the success rate is the highest in China, it's just 4 percent, much lower than the global average rate.

A research by China Central Television and Tsinghua University shows that many college starters eventually gave up because of financial pressure and lack of business experience, the main two causes for failure.

College starters, however, continue to be recognized as a special category, full of passion and courage despite the lack of experience.

The L'Oreal Fund for Student Employment and Entrepreneurship provides not only financial support, but also a powerful consulting and coaching team comprised of senior managers from all departments of the company.

"Look at it this way. We prefer to teach them how to fish, rather than giving them fish," says Gasparrini Paolo, CEO of L'Oreal China.

The three first-prize winners this year come from Shanghai and each receives a fund of 100,000 yuan.

In order to sustain the cycle that the fund starts, winners are encouraged to consider sponsoring, when they are successful, the ideas of other college students with the same amount they have won. The start-up company provides an online food-ordering system mainly focusing on customers in the area around Jiao Tong University's Minhang campus.

It links customers with restaurants, allowing people to order food with just the click of a mouse.

In Chinese, means "Are you hungry?" and the company was founded by three young entrepreneurs from Jiao Tong University - Zhang Xuhao, Kang Jia and Ye Feng.

Zhang and Kang were post-graduate students at Jiao Tong's School of Mechanical Engineering. But in April last year when they realized the potential for an online food-ordering service around campus, they quit school and established their own company.

Ye joined them this year after he graduated from Jiao Tong's Software College.

From the beginning, they were fully committed to the company's development, providing the initial start-up funds themselves by drawing on saved tuition fees.

Zhang also passed up an opportunity to study at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The early days were tough and in the first few months Zhang's computer and car battery were both stolen and one of their staff was injured in a traffic accident.

"But we believed in our future," says Kang. "We never thought of giving up, even during the toughest times."

To achieve their aims, they developed their own online ordering system.

It allows customers to access restaurant information on the Website and order food directly through it. Participating restaurants receive the order immediately on a special terminal system installed when they subscribe to

The company now collaborates with over 50 restaurants and has 5,000 online registered users.

Annual revenues this year are expected to reach 2-3 million yuan. C.G.A Team won a grant for developing environmentally friendly litter bins. The three-person team comprises Chen Sidi and Zou Ying from Fudan University and Ni Qiangyi from Donghua University.

Chen has just graduated in statistics from Fudan's College of Management, Zou is now a PhD candidate in advanced materials and Ni also graduated this year in industrial design at Donghua.

Despite the diversity of their majors, the three work well together. Chen focuses on the finances while Zou and Ni develop the products' makeup and style.

The company introduces different new materials into traditional structures to strengthen their anti-corrosive qualities and prolong service life at the same time as modernizing the designs.

"Actually we're now mainly selling our technology," says Ni.

"We get a patent for our research achievements, and then cooperate with other enterprises to push our products onto the market.

"You can now find our products on some Shanghai streets such as Huashan Rd, and many places in Suzhou (Jiangsu Province)."

The company had no money when the three started their research in July last year.

Their only assets were their expertise, ideas, passions and ambitions. After less than two years in operation, they are starting to reap the rewards.

"We've made a profit of about 100,000 yuan this year," says Ni.

And the L'Oreal judges recognize the potential.

"This project is very creative as well as practical," comments the reviewers' committee. "And all the team members are devoted, persistent and ambitious. That's what we want to see."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend