The story appears on

Page A4

December 10, 2012

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro

When a good idea blossoms, it doesn't always bear fruit

LIU Taichuan was among the first group of Shanghai university students to receive start-up funds and other incentives granted under a local government program to encourage young entrepreneurs.

But after three years trying to turn an idea into a successful business, Liu shuttered his company and became a white-collar worker.

"In retrospect, it's too hasty for a university student to start up a business directly after graduation," he told Shanghai Daily. "I built my business blindly. In the end, the prospects didn't look good, so I had to end it."

In 2008, Liu, who studied physics at East China University of Science and Technology, was awarded 100,000 yuan (US$16,060) by the Shanghai Technology Entrepreneurship Foundation for Graduates. The money was to help him develop his idea of selling fruits and vegetables online.

His inspiration came from a television report about the difficulties office workers face trying to buy fresh and cheap vegetables when Shanghai's wet markets are usually closed by the time they get off work.

Seeing what he thought was a niche market, Liu and several fellow students launched an online produce market aimed at serving residents in the Cao-yang area. They developed ties with two large wholesale markets and had plans to extend the business to other areas of the city.

The timing of their brainstorm was fortuitous.

Shanghai was anxious to encourage young graduates to start their own businesses after the global financial crisis whittled job prospects. Budding entrepreneurs were offered start-up funds, reduced license fees and other tax incentives.

Liu did his homework. He attended seminars given by successful local business people and learned the ABCs of business finance and marketing.

"The city is full of business opportunities," Liu, a Jilin Province native, said at the time of the start-up. "That's why I decided to come to Shanghai for university."

The one thing he failed to appreciate in all his preparatory work is the high mortality rate of first-time businesses, often begun on a whim without full understanding of the hard work, perseverance and determination needed to overcome inevitable setbacks.

"I encountered all sorts of difficulties in storage, delivery, advertising, sales and hiring staff," he said. "I managed to get orders but not enough to turn a profit."

When fruit started rotting in his warehouse in summer, he was even forced to hawk it on the street like a common peddler.

His partners threw in the towel and decided to find steady jobs elsewhere, leaving Liu to manage the business all by himself, from processing orders to delivering produce.

"I tried every means I could think of to save the business but failed," he said.

Nowadays he is working as an accountant in a local firm.

"It's only natural to give up when you don't see any fruits of your labor for two to three years," he said. "I was too idealistic. I don't think most graduates have the maturity to set up their own businesses upon leaving school."

Q: Have you ever regretted your decision?

To me, it's past tense. I don't want to think about the experience too much. I don't regret the effort I made, but now I just want to concentrate on my current job and do it well.

Q: What advice do you have for young people who want to start their own businesses?

I think there's a huge market for the kind of business I envisioned. I still think it's a good idea. But it's quite challenging to actually take the plunge, launch a business and do it well.


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