Student entrepreneurs get support amid bleak job market

16:34, November 23, 2009      

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Hu Xiaofeng of Shanghai Jiaotong University can often be seen racing around campus on his bicycle. And it's not always to reach his classes. Most of the time, he is delivering supplies to his customers.

"While others are hanging out with friends, I am scratching my head to come up with a better solution for the website. But I never regret it," says Hu.

The "website" he is referring to is Byygoo, which he launched with six of his friends this February.

The format is simple: They order everyday necessities such as milk, snacks, stationery and shampoo from supermarkets and sell them to students on campus through the Internet.

While it may sound easy, Hu and his team say it actually requires good marketing, website development and logistics skills.

Sales are up to 1,000 yuan ($147) per day and Hu proudly reveals that the website was able to turn a profit several months ahead of schedule.

What makes him even happier is that the project has won financial support to the tune of 100,000 yuan from the Shanghai Angel Foundation for Student Entrepreneurs. Earlier this month, L'Oreal China made a matching grant under its Fund for Students Employment and Entrepreneurship, launched this year.

Hu says the team is lucky. Despite the nationwide call for university and college students to be entrepreneurial in the midst of bleak job prospects, student entrepreneurs are still hard to come by, owing at least partly to the lack of initial capital.

"Student entrepreneurs have many disadvantages. Besides money, they also lack time and experience," says 24 year-old Sun Shaorui, president of FMAKER Culture Broadcasting Limited, an advertising agency covering 200 universities, based in Shanghai, with an annual revenue of 20 million yuan.

When Sun was a sophomore in 2005, he hit upon the idea of planning promotional activities such as youth festivals sponsored by commercial organizations like China Telecom and China Unicom.

The first 25,000 yuan that he made encouraged him to start the company and just a year later, it has become the exclusive channel for running advertisements in canteens for 22 universities in Shanghai.

"I realized that for a student business, an abstract business theory is of little use. The essential elements for success include an enthusiastic leader, a practical business plan and a strong team which shares the same goal," Sun says.

Hu agrees. In the early days of launching Byygoo, the team went to every dormitory, asking students to complete their market survey. They often had to carry their orders in boxes or bags and tried to cover as big an area as possible by demarcating and allocating specific delivery routes.

Some team members even thought of quitting because the business left them exhausted. Hu's parents, too, didn't support his idea as they felt it was more appropriate for him to apply for a decent job in government or at a big company.

"As a student, it was inevitable that we would think about our academic performance and opportunities to work in established companies once we graduated. None of us was certain how far Byygoo could go," Hu says.

Source: China Daily
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