Starting an innovative business to change fate -----
The words of a successful entrepreneur
Relying on her entrepreneurial confidence and consistent efforts, Chang Lixia, an ordinary laid-off woman worker, who started the "Chaoyi online bookstore" (www.chaoyishudian.com), transformed from a laid-off worker to a successful entrepreneur. In the process of her company’s development, not only did she have entrepreneurial hardships, but also the joy of success that she would like to share. Here are some stories from Chang which happened in the process of her company creation.
1. When did you begin your business? And how?
I was laid off in 2001 from the position of the Assistant Accountant in Tianjin Wool Factory. The sudden layoff defeated all of my confidence. I felt desperate. I lay in bed all day, and even lost the courage to live. When I was bearing my difficulties, it was the Government and Women's organizations gave me a strong helping hand.
They made me change my ideas and to create my own business. I started the Chaoyi bookstore in the Central zone of Hexi District. The bookstore began my road of entrepreneurship. Shortly after new Bookstore open, we have to face the pressure of difficulties. As running a new business from the very beginning, we had little-knowledge and very few customers. My husband and I had no idea about this situation. Our business was almost stopped because of the lack of liquidity of money. Customers left because the bookshop could not keep up with the need of current market. We were so worried that we had nothing to do. What is more, the rent, and other expenses appeared to be due, which made the situation even worse. In order to reduce the cost of expenses, I also dismissed my shop clerks, which means the bookstore could only live on our own efforts. I tried to convince myself that even the greatest difficulty was just temporary, as long as we could hold on we will be able to succeed. There is an old saying: "Delicate Jade comes from fierce fire; way to success should be covered by difficulties." After 2 years efforts, Chaoyi Bookstore became the favorite of primary school teachers and students’ parents. The number of customers increased obviously, which was attributed to the fact that teachers and parents all knew we have the most kinds of tutoring books. However, lack of sufficient money meant we were unable to enlarge our shop immediately. In order to let more readers know about Chaoyi Bookstore, I deicide to found an on-line bookstore.
2. How to raise capital when you start your business?
Answer: For starting the business, a part of the capital was of my friends’ money; most of all was loaned from Women's Federation, which embarked me to the road of entrepreneurship.
3. What is your biggest problem at the business process? How do you overcome these difficulties?
Answer: As a business starter, as long as you choose the entrepreneurship, you will inevitably have to face all sorts of difficulties, such as project development, financial issues, policy, management, and the coordination problems. All of the problems, to a great extent, surely gave me a lot of difficulties. Being an new entrepreneur, one could not think about all the aspects, so I got assistance from the incubation project of TWBI initially. They provided technical support for entrepreneurs to reduce start-up costs.
4. How do you set up the online bookstore?
Answer: As mentioned above, due to limitation of my objective conditions and the strong desire to enlarge the bookstore’s reputation, I did the market survey analysis below, and then proposed the online bookstore.
1, The requirements of time: The 21st century is the information age, the world of e-commerce is rising, B2C sales model gradually becoming more acceptable by customers. This is the Internet economy age, so enterprises must learn to survive by the Internet. Clearly, we are not the fad follower of the online bookstores, but the believer who believes the development of the Internet is necessary to the enterprise’ survival.
2, The requirements of competition: At present, China's book market is with intense competition. It is mainly reflected by the fact that new versions of books have kept appearing, which often resulted in the overstock. In order to attract customers, bookstores have to offer discount sales. It brings a great pressure on small and medium sized bookstores. In order to alleviate this pressure, we had no alternative but to focus on reducing operating costs. Bookstores with the fewer book kinds are not easy to retain customers, while, having more kinds of books, the stores have to increase business space and hire more workers, which increases the cost of sales invisibly leading to lower profits. Taking online bookstore's business model is an effective way to respond to the situation of fierce competition. The online bookstore does not even need to buy books. After being ordered on the internet, we just need to inform the publishers to send the books. The operation can reduce costs, and the discount of books of online bookstore can be even lower. It also increases the competitiveness of the market.
3, the requirements of publicity: In the market economy, advertising plays a critical role in sales. No matter how good the product is, with no publicity, it is difficult to develop the market. The small or medium-sized bookstores, because of funding limitations, find it very difficult to advertise through television, newspapers or other traditional media. Small stores also could not create much attention to the pedestrians on the streets, so it is very difficult to increase the consumer flow of the bookstore, which can only rely on its reputation around the school and residents for publicity. China's Internet users now exceed one billion. The people on the Internet not only have more demand for knowledge, but also have on-line shopping habits. By being contacted online, bookstores can quickly raise the publicity.
4, the development of the bookstore: Limited by the size of the bookstore’s space, the number of books on the shelves is also restricted. The customers always could not find the books they need. We also have considered expanding the business areas. However, we found that the rent, utilities, staff costs would increase substantially. Thus, we consider founding of online bookstores, with the help of TWBI. After more than one-month of hard work, we created the "Chaoyi online bookstore."
5. What did you acquire from the Women's Entrepreneurship Center SYB entrepreneurship training and ICT training in e-commerce?
Answer: The SYB training taught me the knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to enhance my overall capability, and reduce blindness of entrepreneurship. TWBI also help me to formulate detail plans for the business, which enhance my capacity of financing. By forecasting the start-up funds requried, they formulated the profit and money flow for me, which was adequately used in my initial company stage. ICT and e-commerce training made me master the information technology and business rules. Now I can use the website to publish my business content and other information, and to advertise online. Through the display, enterprises can establish their own corporate image and expand enterprises reputation, so as to advertise their products and services. Expanding of the scope of transactions and improving work efficiency, are the way to reduce the transaction costs, thereby obtaining economic and social benefits. I increased my confidence by creating the on-line bookstore. All these training also enabled me to have a great escalation in the business philosophy and technological capabilities. In 2005, I attended the Business Plan Competition held by the TWBI. By using what I have learned here, I won the second prize. TWBI played a very important role in turning my life around.
6. What is your position of your customer group? What is unique to your bookstore? And what is your competitiveness?
Answer: Most books in my bookstore are teaching aids books, which are welcomed by the primary and secondary school students and teachers. We mainly using the Internet to sell books. The Internet marketing services have more customers, which result in that we have orders every day. Then, we send their goods by post or express mail. To facilitate customers outside Tianjin, we have launched online payment system. Customers will be able to pay on their computers. By registering, they will be able to receive goods at home.
7. How do you measure the success of the venture?
Answer: I think the self-evaluation and winning others’ business are measures or standards of success.