China: Young business owners

By Li XinXin

Unlike other barbershops, “Hair College” doesn’t look like a hair salon but rather like a genteel coffee shop.

A wood carving of a bear stands in front of the stairs that lead upstairs. The soft rock music echoes around the second floor, which has a dim yellow light and a romantic feel.

Several guests are drinking beverages on high stools, flipping through some magazines. Looking out of the French window, you can see the downtown streets illuminated and filled with automobiles. Inside the room, the hairstylists are busily doing their jobs.

Some of the members of “Hair College” team of young business owners

Twenty-three-year-old Yang Weijie is the co-founder and CEO of the barbershop “Hair College” and also a senior at South China Agricultural University. He said, the entrepreneurial idea of “Hair College” came after the complaints of his friend, Lu Yongqing, a junior at SCAU and the other CEO of the barbershop.

Yang said, “Lu complained that the barbershop in our school was so primitive, but the hair salons outside were far away from school. We thought about whether we could open a barbershop that belonged to students themselves.”

After investigating the possibilities, Lu found that students had many complaints about the barbershop at the school, “Nowadays, students are concerned about hairstyle and fashion very much, but the barbers are out of date. Through our efforts, we want to give students a new hair salon experience.”

At the end of 2014, they started to raise money. A year later, the first “Hair College” formally opened for business on the campus of SCAU.

In only half of a year, the team had 19 people. They were from Jinan University, South China University of Technology, South China Agricultural University and South China Normal University. The youngest one in the team was just 19 years old.

The financial source came from crowd funding. The team collected more than ¥1 million and opened three barbershops near three universities.

Now the operation was getting on the right track. In December 2015, they set up a hairdressing company. The group set up a management system including a board of directors, the board of management, shareholder deputy, and shop managers, and the team built risk and financial monitoring mechanisms.

It wasn’t easy to start up a business, especially for university students.

A teacher, Wang Yong of Jinan University, was in charge of students’ entrepreneurship. He said, “The strength of college students is that they have active minds and the ability to learn fast. They are sensitive to the existing problems in our society and trying hard to solve them. But the weakness is the lack of experience. Besides, few of them can handle the relationship between academic study and entrepreneurship.”

Lu’s major was electrical engineering, and she was a typical engineering student, staying in the dormitory all the time. After two years, she wanted to get into the world outside, know more people and try different things. She bought materials and monitored the construction process of the barbershop on her own. Before the installation of the door, she and other team members slept on the floor of the shop to prevent any theft.

“I have to say I cried on many occasions,” Lu said, “My friends at my age are all under the cover of their parents. They don’t need to worry so much, but I have to because I have to take the responsibility to my company and my team, especially when more and more people join us. I can’t slack off or do like a child, and I have the responsibility to operate and run “Hair College.”

More university students are starting up businesses nowadays due to the encouragement of the government.

The central and local governments have issued preferential policies for financing, tax revenue, and entrepreneurship training to help students start up the businesses. The government will guide all kinds of financial institutions to increase the support for graduate entrepreneurship and to simplify the guarantee procedures for small loans.

According to the survey in the China Youth Daily, nearly 75 percent of the college students thought the classmates or friends around them had started businesses. Nearly 70 percent said they were satisfied the entrepreneurship culture in their schools.

The lack of finance, management technique, and marketing are the biggest problems the students face. In term of funding, more than 70 percent of the student entrepreneurs started businesses with family savings.

The Guangdong University of Technology has many entrepreneurial teams. One of the team members Jiang Jiahao, said they were more at the beginning of the program, but a variety of problems occurred. “We are negotiating with financiers to raise seed capital for the latest venture. The biggest problem is we don’t have experience in marketing. Starting up a business is much more complicated than we thought before. Some of us quit, and that’s a pity.”,

“Hair College” is one of the successful entrepreneurial projects. For university students, the relationship between business and study is hard to balance. The co-CEO of “Hair College,” Lu said, before a project, the students should figure out the profit point. The most important thing is making the project come alive and that demands entrepreneurs have a clear framework, “Don’t make the decisions quickly. After you have thought through all the things, then you can start the business. Once you start, don’t give up.”

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