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Crowd-funded cafes struggle to survive

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai  (China Daily)

10:48, April 22, 2013

Some of the 43 shareholders of Particle Cafe in Shanghai, who believe realizing dreams is more important than making money, hope the cafe could be a platform for metropolitan citizens to share their stories and dreams. [Provided to China Daily]

Small strides help wannabe cafe bosses realize big dreams

Owning a charming little cafe/bar/bistro that serves coffee has always been a fantasy in the largely tea-drinking China for decades, especially after the first cup of green-mermaid-labeled coffee made its debut in the bustling metropolises.

But change seems to be in the air as a growing number of cafes, promoted by young wannabes with hardly any experience, requisite capital or skills are springing up across Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, fueled largely by the entrepreneurial spirit. The common thread that links these cafes is the joint ownership, rather than the thronging crowds one would expect at these establishments.

While the idea of crowd-funding, an alternate approach for start-ups to get investment by pooling money from individuals, is rather strange in China, (there are just four crowd-funding platforms, or websites in the country according to an Economist article in June 2012), many from the post-80s generation in China are bringing their cafe dream to fruition with a similar approach, though few have hardly heard about it.

"It's more about realizing dreams, than making money," said Yu Pengming, a 24-year-old postgraduate law major at East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai.

With another 42 classmates, friends, friends' classmates and mostly, strangers summoned online, Yu is one of the latest "cafe bosses" joining the crowd of "opening a many people's cafe", an idea ignited by an online notice written by a Beijing-based girl in early 2011.

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