It’s Par for the business course

At a college in Zhejiang province, students are encouraged to worry more about starting a business than studying the theory of doing so. Han Bingbin reports in Yiwu, Zhejiang.

It's Par for the business course

Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College graduate Yang Fugang at his warehouse in Yiwu, Zhejiang province. Han Bingbin / China Daily

Yang Fugang is already a legend at his alma mater, Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, in Zhejiang province.

He’s the boss of a home furnishing accessories and knitwear manufacturer, with annual sales of more than 40 million yuan ($6.27 million), sold mainly on Taobao (China’s leading online marketplace).

But just six years ago, he was a poor freshman who picked up empty bottles on campus to sell and cover his living expenses.

In 2007, on the suggestion of a friend, he opened his first online shop on Taobao, selling home accessories and cosmetics.

Taking advantage of Yiwu’s booming manufacturing base, his business quickly became successful. By 2008, a year before he graduated, he was already making more than 30,000 yuan a month.

About that time, he moved into a rented apartment where he started hiring employees to help with his growing business. Living off-campus was against school rules at the time, so Yang had to keep his plans under wraps.

What he didn’t know was that Jia Shaohua, vice-president of the vocational college, was also fermenting his own ideas.

At the time, attendance at classes was low and Jia, whose daughter is a Tsinghua University graduate, was organizing self-study classes and arranging roll calls to improve this situation – but with little success.

Jia then tried another tack, by encouraging his students to start their own businesses. It was at this point that he heard about Yang’s success and in response decided to found a so-called enterprise school to “copy and paste Yang’s model on a large scale”.

At a meeting with Jia, Yang (an underachiever at high school) was called a “hero” for the first time. His name soon appeared in public speeches and enrollment advertisements.

His example inspired Zhang Luoluo and some other 100 youngsters to become the first students of the college’s enterprise school in 2009. Some of them abandoned the chance to enter a higher-level college.

Zhang, from Henan province, started his college life by opening a shop on Taobao and in the following three years, “earning more money” was his principle motivation.

When his high school buddies spent their parents’ money traveling, he was in front of the computer eight hours a day taking care of his online knitwear business. Very soon the then 21-year-old learned to bargain with wholesalers and deal with after-service issues.

In his sophomore year he was making about 4,000 yuan a month, which is when he moved off campus and rented a suburban apartment, where he hired two employees to turn a roomful of stockings and scarves into money.

Making “business top priority”, the school has introduced delivery companies to students, and they are allowed to take orders in class.

Meanwhile, general education courses such as advanced mathematics have been eliminated from the curriculum; while photography, shop design and taxation have been encouraged because they serve the needs of the students, says Zhu Huabing, dean of the enterprise school.

Students are even allowed to skip classes as long as they do well in their business and pass their final tests, Zhang says.

But business performance appears to be more important than final examinations to many students.

Zhang’s classmate Shi Haojie failed six courses this year – which generally leads to a student being expelled – but instead he graduated as an outstanding student.

The reason is he owns three factories with annual sales of more than 10 million yuan. As such, Shi is a model student.

“Failing the tests doesn’t mean he hasn’t mastered the skills. Take the marketing course, for example. Being so successful in his business, Shi clearly doesn’t have any problems with marketing,” Zhu says.

Even so, to counter those who say studying textbooks is useless, professor Yang Jianhua at the Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences, was reported as telling provincial media that accumulation of knowledge is useful for social development. Thus, he argued, in addition to practical business training, there is still a crucial need for “humane education”.

During a speech at Peking University two years ago, columnist Xu Zhiyuan said Peking University and Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College represent the opposite extremes of higher education.

He said he was saddened by the fact that both are confused with the “goal of education”, which he said was “to guide and inspire students to find what they need”.

But for vocational college vice-president Jia, his goal has never been so clear. So-called humane education sounds good, he says, but it’s not always feasible. Calling his students “losers in the examination-oriented education system”, he believes practical training is a more apt choice for these young people.

“The fundamental need is to help them survive rather than encourage them to pursue so-called higher-level ideals,” says Jia.

So far, more than 1,800 students at the college, including those at enterprise school, have started their own e-businesses, creating annual revenues of more than 28 million yuan and providing more than 1,000 jobs.

More than 80 of these students have an annual income of more than 100,000 yuan. Zhang Luoluo is one of them. During the busiest period, his knitwear shop on Taobao makes more than 30,000 yuan a month.

Full of gratitude to the college, he plans to own factories, buy a car and then an apartment.

Even so, there are some regrets. Back in high school, he used to picture his college life as a mixture of simple courses, club activities, group trips and a splash of romance. But during his three strenuous years, none of this actually happened.

“I was so busy, there were many things I didn’t have time to do before I graduated,” he says.

“For example, I only went to the library once and I didn’t even have time to sit down before I had to rush off and do something else.”

Yiwu , Alibaba to Promote E-business

China’s largest small commodity wholesale market in Yiwu, eastern Zhejiang Province, joined hands on Thursday with Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba to promote its online business.

Zhejiang China Commodities City Group Co., Ltd. and Alibaba Group inked a deal Thursday afternoon in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, to improve cooperation of the two sides in the field of e-commerce.

“The deal will take the full advantages of each side in commodity outsourcing, logistics as well as in marketing and human resources,” said Jin Yonghui, director of the Department of Commerce of Zhejiang Province.

According to the agreement, dealers at Yiwu marketplace will be able to open online businesses at, a popular B2C online marketplace for high-end goods.

In the meantime, Alibaba will provide dealers at Yiwu marketplace with training programs on e-commerce.

Industry observers say the cooperation of the two sides signals the deepening and further merger of online and offline business models.

Before the signing of the agreement, more than 40 percent of dealers at Yiwu marketplace had already started their online businesses via Alibaba’s popular C2C platform of

In 2011, online sales revenue of Yiwu dealers at topped 12 billion yuan (1.9 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for 23 percent of the marketplace’s total sales revenue.

Zhejiang China Commodities City Group Co., Ltd. was first established in 1993 and listed at the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2002.

yiwu college student entrepreneurs

Students run their online businesses from a classroom at Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College. Photo: CFP

Students run their online businesses from a classroom at Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College. Photo: CFP

People in Yiwu pride themselves on being born traders. To tap into this idea, a local college in this city of Zhejiang Province launched a business starting school aimed at training students as entrepreneurs and demanding them to make ambitious business plans during their three-year education.

Unlike other universities and colleges, students at the business starting school, under the Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, are not strictly required to attend classes, achieve high scores in exams or publish a thesis to earn credits. Instead, they are measured by how much money they make through running online businesses on Taobao, China’s largest online auction and shopping site.

Reportedly, more than 1,800 out of 8,800 students at the college had become fledgling entrepreneurs, mostly on Taobao. This nets them an average of 1,500 yuan ($235) a month, which can at least cover their personal living expenses. They get their diplomas once their shops earn 10,000 yuan a month on average.

“College entrepreneurship is the most efficient way to educate them in this case,” Jia Shaohua, vice president of the Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College commented.

“It can increase their motivation and help them find jobs after graduation.”

Business top priority

With the booming of online trade in China in recent years, Jia saw an opportunity and launched the business starting school in 2008.

“Since higher education became broadly accessible, many college students have started their own businesses,” Jia said.

Three hundred students are enrolled in the business starting school at the moment and they are able to ask for leave should business problems occur.

To help students even further, the school has allocated a building to the budding businessmen where classrooms with 24-hour Internet are turned into offices and warehouses.

A special curriculum is in place. They take lessons relevant to e-commerce, such as design, photography and management.

“As long as you show your passion and devote yourself to your business, the college will back you,” Zhu Huabing, head of the business starting school, told the Global Times.

These methods also sparked great controversy when a graduate who had failed six subjects was unexpectedly granted a diploma and hailed as an “outstanding graduate.”

Shi Haojie had hit a business volume of more than 10 million yuan a year and had become a legend at the college. He now owns two companies and one factory and employs 300 people in Wenzhou, Shenzhen and Yiwu.

However, according to the school regulation, this commercial genius faced being kicked out of school for failing so many classes.

Jia, the vice president of the college, gave him a chance. “If such an excellent student as Shi was not granted a diploma, it would shame him, the school and the whole education system in China,” Jia told Dragon TV.

Money first and foremost

In a classroom, a dozen students are writing to clients, talking to them on the phone or updating their websites. Piles of small commodities, such as socks, silk stockings, hats and household items are piled up.

In the corridor, portraits and inspirational quotes from famous entrepreneurs such as Apple CEO Steve Jobs, CEO of Alibaba Jack Ma and school celebrities suchShi Haojie hang on the wall.

Ma Junli, a freshman who runs a shop selling creative household items, is busy packaging the goods to send out a dozen of parcels that day.

“I got a low grade in the college entrance examination, so I had to do something to prove myself in some other way,” Ma said frankly.

As a junior college, it is easily accessible for high school graduates.

“We’re not very familiar with the regulations and rules of Taobao, but we hope we can catch up with the field in the next few years,” classmate Cheng Chao said confidently.

Cheng, 19, was rebellious in middle school and skipped almost every class to play video games.

Entrepreneurship changed him. He now owns a shop selling knitting wear and he says, “I have no degree from famous universities, and I might not be able to find a good job in a society that attaches great importance to your education background, but I can at least be self-employed.”

To better take care of the business, Ma, along with seven other students, applied to stay at school for their coming summer vacation.

“I am always the first to get a tan in summer and the first to put on winter clothes as I have to ride my motorcycle to fetch the goods in the wholesale market,” Wu Yunfei, a 22-year-old sophomore from architecture school explained.

Wu has not attended any class since last month as his online shop reached a monthly revenue of 5,000 yuan. Although he is not enrolled at the business starting school, the college extends its preferential policies to students in other departments.

“You don’t have to be a student at the business starting school to be a good businessman,” Wu said. “Instead, we can do better than them if we are diligent and realize the business opportunities.”

Students package their products to be delivered to customers. Photo: CFP
Even though the story is inspiring, it has also met with some opposition.

“Universities and colleges are for students to acquire knowledge and establish a correct outlook on life, rather than solely be encouraged to pursue money and fortune,” Professor Zhang Yiwu from Peking University told the Global Times.

The general education on the college students should not be abandoned when colleges are exploring creative curriculums, Zhang said.

Teachers have complained that the privileges enjoyed by the students have disturbed the normal order of school.

“When take attendance, students tell me some of them are off taking care of their online shops, while teachers know some only use this excuse to skip class,” one teacher told the Global Times.

Two students were kicked out for abusing their Internet privileges to play online games.

The current exit strategy was established to give willing students a second choice. Any student finding themselves struggling as entrepreneurs can apply for a chance to switch schools at the end of the first semester. In the meantime, students who lack the passion and capability to start a business will be transferred to other schools after careful observation and evaluation.

Overall, it seems the commercial atmosphere has been beneficial. Students are able to share practical knowledge and advice with each other under professional campus guidance. They also learned skills that pure academic paths would not allow them to: how to set fair prices, bargaining with suppliers and learning to withstand difficulties before breaking even.

Employment and creativity

Graduates have faced a severe employment situation after graduation in a crowded job market. There are cases where families who spent a life-time saving tosend a child to school became impoverished after the student graduated and stayed unemployed.

The rewards for university students are not optimistic. Statistics showed that the average starting salary for university graduates is a paltry 2,300 yuan per month.

Media remarked the college has overthrown the current education system that highly valued academic achievements and led to the current scenario.

It is worth trying, Yang Dongping, an education expert from Beijing Institute of Technology, agreed.

“Of course students are expected to acquire knowledge at a college. But the key question is what, when and how to learn,” Yang said.

“For those who are unwilling to learn in class, it is our duty to teach them


Some students like Yang Fugang have realized this necessity and undergone several rounds of innovation and reform concerning its business model and core products.

Instead of selling products from other suppliers, Yang has established his own brand and cooperated with factories to create the new products since last year.

Shi Haojie has also employed a professional development team to create new products on 3D glasses.

“I suggest the students learn in class while pursuing their business dreams,” Shi said, adding that he felt lucky that he didn’t have to stick to classes in college.

“I don’t expect them to become millionaires while still in school,” said Zhu the head of the business starting school, “I hope this three-year education can sow the seed of enterprise in the students and when the time is ripe, the seed can take root, bloom and fructify.”


The undercover migrant worker yiwu

Chen Jiashun works at a handicraft factory in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, to learn more aboutworking conditions in the migrant community. Provided to China Daily

Chen Jiashun has worked as a pig herder, a porter, a math teacher for migrant students and astorekeeper in Yiwu, a city in Zhejiang province that’s famous for its small commodity trade andvibrant free markets.

But the 44-year-old’s real job is a human resource and social security official in Yunnanprovince’s Zhanyi county. And this meant he sometimes needed to go undercover to discoverthe realities farmers-turned-workers face.

Farmers in Zhanyi typically earn less than 5,000 yuan ($790) a year from agriculture, so manyhave migrated to Yiwu for better jobs.

The county began to develop human resource transfers as one of its pillar industries in 2004.

It set up a workstation in Yiwu in 2007 to help farmers find jobs there and to support migrantworkers from Zhanyi.

Chen was appointed as head of the station. His duties include collecting employmentinformation and assisting migrant workers, who are treated unfairly or are involved in disputes.

The first batch of 300 people arrived in Yiwu in 2007, but 60 percent of them quickly returnedhome.

They were dissatisfied because they couldn’t earn as much as local officials had promised.They felt duped.

“Local officials said one could earn 1,200 yuan a month,” Chen says.

“But they received only 900 yuan after deducting utilities.”

Also, workers weren’t allowed sick leave, Chen says.

So, many decided to return.

“Take us home just like you brought us here,” one told Chen.

Chen worked and lived with the workers to persuade them to stay and improve their workconditions. He urged employers to allow workers leave and to stop giving them utility bills.

But he failed.

Chen realized he needed to collect more detailed job information before mobilizing farmers tocome to the city.

After discussing the situation with other officials at the workstation, Chen decided to work as amigrant worker to understand their actual work conditions.

He landed a job at a factory producing accessories and kept his true identity a secret.

Over the following month, he discovered the working and living conditions were lower than theyshould be. He informed the county government.

“When we recruit workers for the factories, we must give applicants the accurate information,”Chen says.

“It could be misleading to tell farmers they can generally earn 1,500 yuan a month.”

Chen has worked in five factories and found jobs for more than 7,000 people.

He had been a middle school headmaster before being transferred to the county humanresource and social security bureau. He once taught math in a school for migrant children inYiwu to collect information about the realities they faced.

He says going undercover has enabled him to better understand migrant workers’ needs.

“Without Chen’s instruction, we couldn’t have achieved what we have today,” Zhanyi nativeWen Caixiang says.

Wen and her husband are migrant workers, who landed jobs in Yiwu with Chen’s help in March2008. The couple also received his encouragement and support when they opened ahandicraft production base in Yiwu in 2010. They hired 18 migrant workers from Zhanyi earlythis year.

Chen no longer works undercover and stays at the workstation for a third of the year.

He has also established an information network which migrant workers can use to reportworkplace information.

“Our people see us as their hope,” Chen says.

“We can’t let them down.”

Yiwu – Hong Kong direct flight route from July 1 to resume service

yesterday, the reporter from Yiwu Municipal Government Port Office was informed that the approval by the State Port Office, the sixth consecutive year temporary opening of this year, Yiwu air port. Yiwu to Hong Kong round-trip direct flights on-time from July 1 to November 15.   One week to fly four days   Fare more benefits   According to the Southern Shantou Airlines to fly the person in charge, and a week last year, every single fat ban this year, Yiwu – Hong Kong flights every Tuesday, four, six, day to fly a week to and from the four classes.   Flights specific arrangements as follows: Yiwu to Hong Kong flight number CZ617, except Thursday departure time is 8:20 am, and the remaining three trips take-off times are 8:00 am, the flight about 2 hours to arrive in Hong Kong.   Hong Kong to Yiwu flight number CZ618, return Yiwu flight departure time except Tuesday at 10:50 am, the remaining trips are 11:10 to take off, arrive around 13:00 Yiwu.   Need to be reminded that international flight clearance test was used to compare carefully the procedure is relatively cumbersome, even from the door of the airport to check in advance at least one and a half hours to get to the airport.   In addition to the convenience advantages of Yiwu – Hong Kong flight fares are very competitive. See from the price announced by the recent Southern Shantou, Yiwu Branch team value in Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wenzhou, Shanghai and other surrounding airport offers many added, “a fire, which will summer to visit Hong Kong market to heat up.   Yiwu will become the province   The fourth Airport ports   April 27 this year, the General Administration of Customs formally below Yiwu air port included in the national port development plan (2011-2015). Yiwu air port to become one of the 10 new open air ports of the country during the second five, the province’s five-second period only a new port, will become the province Hangzhou, Ningbo, warm airport after the fourth Airport Port .   Yiwu air port included in the national planning, and this is a major breakthrough in Yiwu pilot. Yiwu air port for five consecutive years of successful implementation of the temporary opening, during which opened Yiwu to Hong Kong Ferry route, a total of 638 sorties taking off and landing aircraft, personnel of 54 487 people, with an average load factor of 66.7%.The proportion of business travelers on the route up to 49.3% last year, overseas visitors for more than half can be described as a truly international flights.   Convenient “Airbus”, both for the convenience of Zhejiang, central and western regions businessmen to Hong Kong exhibitors turn for the better, further promoting trade and economic exchanges, but also conducive to the residents of both each other’s sightseeing and shopping to boost the development of tourism and improve the province’s “big clearance system, and further promote the province’s small and medium enterprises to the world, promote the transformation of the mode of economic development.