Utilizing informationization as the sharp weapon for business from start-up to development
- Story of Tianjin XixiuWenya Wedding Dress Rental Service Center
Chen Xue Ling, a 46-year-old woman, is a former worker of the Tianjin Fur factory. Laid off in 1996, she suffered from the pain of a medical condition which meant she was unable to be engaged in heavily physical work or sewing. Her husband got laid off in 1999 because of the poor management of his work unit making their life even more difficult. She and her husband tried different investments to make a living such as furniture production, aquatic products selling, wholesaling of snowberry, opening restaurants and food manufacturing. For various reasons all of investments ended up with failure.
In 2005, she took part in the Tianjin Women's Business Incubator for SYB courses, and acquired some knowledge about how to start a business. After the SYB training, she realized the fact that her blind investment before was caused by the mismatch of project with its resources, the asymmetry of information, and the deficiency of the knowledge of enterprise management. She rebuilt her confidence with the help of the Incubator's leader and staff. At the same time, she received training from E-Commerce courses accompanied with the World Bank ICT projects. She mastered the basic skills of information and communication technology. After some deep research into the current market, she founded the Tianjin XixiuWenya Wedding Dress Rental Service Center with her daughter. In the meantime, they opened their own corporation website. They won the Second-Award in the Business Plan Competition which is organized by the Tianjin Women's Business Incubator, 2006.
1. Is this the first company that you have started, and what drove you towards it?
This is in fact the second company. The reason we started the company is driven by the high market demand for the package service of wedding celebration. Furthermore, my daughter’s professional hairdressing knowledge and my 20-year experience in the fur dressing production industry led to our opening the wedding dressing company in 2006.
2. How did you finance your start-up operations and how long did it take for the company to become self-sustainable?
Part of my business start-up funding is my own funds, and the other part comes from the small loans of Government for the laid-off workers and Tianjin women's business incubator. It took one year for the XixiuWenya Wedding Dress Rental Service Center to become self-sustaining.
3. What are your major products and services and how are they uinque? What is your competition?
Our main business is the wedding dress rental and the series of bridal services. The personalized service we provide and humanistic management including all kinds of tailored style weddings, the makeup of bride and makeup services are the unique features of our business. Our innovative idea is to get rid of the traditionally similar wedding style, and provide beauty to the bride, and to make the marriage a unique wedding. We plan a future development of a business chain by building a sound foundation of our brand in the following ways: decorating store, uniforming standards and clothing of staff, and applying for registration of trademarks,
- How did you first launch the product?
At the beginning, we just sold and leased the bridal dresses. After operating for a period of time, we accumulated a certain amount of market information and began to produce our own bridal dresses. We then added the bride makeup service.
5. How do you measure the success of the company?
The boss is the soul of an enterprise. Whether her business decision is correct or not determines the success of a company. The success or failure of an enterprise is judged by whether profits are obtained.
6. Who are your clients and how many do you have? How are you focusing on expanding your user community?
We target our customers in the mid-upper class. The groups of people who lease wedding dresses are our final consumers. Since we focus on the quality of the services and customers’ credibility, we win the great praise of clients. The praise from the customers expanded Wenya’s customer base.
7. Are you planning to patent your product and do you see any obstacles in doing so?
Because the nature of the trades did not involve product patents, we have no such plan.
8. What was the biggest challenge in stating an innovative business in your country and how did you overcome that?
The maturity of the market is the company's biggest challenge. For every growing enterprise, it needs to continuously adjust itself with the changes in the market. Perhaps this project as it currently operates will decline somewhat after two years. But if the business owner has a good ability to respond, it can always be possible to find a better way to support the development of the company. For many entrepreneurs, if his purpose is simply to earn money, his company is usually deficient to withstand risk. To the contrary, for the entrepreneur with a long-term business strategy, his ability to bear risks is relatively strong. It is true that maybe a start could be with low profit, but we can not just focus on the immediate profit, instead we should operate from a long-term strategic thinking. While doing our wedding rental business, our entrepreneurial idea is just like this.
We have acknowledged the enormous market space of internet and its rapid trading platform. When an enterprise develops to a certain stage, conventional management obviously can not satisfy the needs of the developing reality. How to achieve the standardization and standardized management which would improve the operating efficiency of enterprises has become a new topic. Enterprises have been consistently facing challenges from all directions, including market demands, sales channels, the flow of human resource and capital, and other fields. Today, the development of IT technology can help enterprises to actively respond to these challenges, which would improve the competitiveness of enterprises, meanwhile, bringing enterprises more stable new business. With the rapid growth of business, information quantity is increasing. If the enterprises do not establish the corresponding information management system, it will be very difficult to win in the increasingly fierce competition. From the Short-term view, the information requirement of an enterprise needs a certain minimum input. However, from the long-term view, a more developed information system will be good for the growth of enterprises and the management. Therefore, enterprises should aggrandize the input with more capital and human resource devoted to this aspect in the future. Quickly improving the application of information is the need of 21st-century for enterprises. The implementation World Bank ICT projects in Tianjin is just like that.
- Who are the shareholders in your company?
My husband and I.
10. How have you benefited from business incubation?
When Tianjin Women's Business Incubator conducts the ICT projects of the World Bank, it concentrates on the questions like the shortage of information channels, high cost of information searching, and asymmetric information, how to establish the marketing channels and networks like big enterprises do. It has held the "information network technology for the development of women's entrepreneurship in public training activities". The infoDev e-commerce training courses taught its clients how to do business online. I have participated in the study, which upgrade my awareness about the small enterprise of information construction. After one year, I create my corporate websites: www.wenyahunsha.com by the assistance of the Center’s service. And I expanded the living space by using Baidu, Alibaba and Tianjin shopping network marketing platform, which adequately, enhance the company's economic and social benefits. With the centre as a platform, we have strengthened the economic and trade exchanges with the community, and increased the profits of our enterprise. In the Third Business Plan Competition in 2006, I won the second prize. I received 20 thousand RMB of loan support and exemption for three months’ rent. What is my greatest benefit is not as material award but the link of my enterprise with the information outside, and the improved entrepreneurial self-confidence.
11. Do you have some specific lessons that you know now and wish you would have known when you started your business, and which you would like to share with fellow entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship needs to be aware of the adverse factors: impetuousness, quick success and drift with the tide. Experiences to share are as follows: having a clear objective, being with cool-headed, not following trend, focusing on management, controlling spending, and paying attention to the escalation of total value.
12. How do you plan to internationalize your product and if so, how?
Because of the limitation of operating, we have not international plans yet.
13. With hindsight, are there any particular lessons or message that you wish you would have known when you started up your company?
Blind venture investment as well as mistakes of business strategy, capital operations, business management, marketing, risk control and human resources are the reasons of my previous entrepreneurial failure. I have realized after participating in the SYB training, if I could master these in the early time, I would have avoided a lot of mistakes and losses.
14. Do you feel that you had the necessary advisory and support network when you started your company?
Early in the start, installing the entrepreneur with the necessary business knowledge, providing relevant advice, and using network resources to expand business reputation are all necessary to avoid many of the possible early venture errors. I got the guidance from the TWBI when I operated my project in the early stages.
15. What is your message to funders/supporters and what is your message to the users of your product?
Credibility is what the entrepreneur should observe as the most fundamental theory, and also the way to the success. The quality of the product and service is the life of an enterprise. The suggestion for users of product is to first understand the market price of similarity, then select high quality and cost-effective services products as the final consumer goods.
Women entrepreneurs must be confident, especially in a downturn. Only from self-confidence, can you have self-reliance. You must be psychologically prepared for the hardships and indomitable willpower. It is necessary to persist. Consolidate current resources, information and communication technology for business, which should be used for business enterprises, as the weapon for the survival and development. Use this tool to support business expansion and development.
We should be good at learning to adapt to the current rapidly changing society. Entrepreneurs should always pay attention to mastering business knowledge. We should pay attention to observe and identify the opportunities and current questions. Do remember: efforts do not necessarily mean the success, while giving up certainly lead to failure.