Young entrepreneurs in China: why would they want their own business?

To find another lifestyle, some young people in China are tendering their resignation and starting their business, what are they trying to achieve, and is this a better option to change the stressful work environment in China?

Amy would spend more time reading now since she had her business. Credit: Amy Yang.

People working in China are struggling with the long working hours, but some young professionals became to realize that instead of working for someone else and being exploited, they’d rather choose to work for themselves, and to live a more flexible life while making great values, Amy Yang is an entrepreneur who is ambitious to take an adventurous step to explore a better way for her life.

Yangyang Yang, also referred to as Amy, her day usually starts with a morning run, and then she would dive into replying to business E-mails and have business meetings with partners. Being an owner of the company, mornings and late afternoons are usually the busiest hours for her.

She is a young entrepreneur currently based in Foshan, a smaller city compared to Guangzhou, located in south China. After several years working in the education industry and few other jobs in Beijing, she decided to start her own company this year, with a few other friends she met from her previous job, she is presenting as one of the biggest shareholders of the company.

The business of her company is to introduce people from other countries to apply for a working visa in China, help them out with the paperwork, and connect them to public schools with the demands of foreign teachers all over China, so they can gain the commission from schools.

‘This idea has been on my mind for some years if you ask me, but I think I’m in luck, if it wasn’t for the year I spent working for other companies in Beijing, I wouldn’t have known my current partners, and the ability it gave me to make further developments based on it, I’m not doing this alone. Not only because I’m turning 31 this year, I feel the stress of aging, but also, I’m quite familiar with this area, this business is a lower entry-level to me, and I have the resource from my previous job. The location basically was my business partner’s idea, we have the resource, this city is developing, a lot of people are moving in recent years.’

This is her second year being in this new city after finished occupations in Beijing. Before that, she also spent some time in Yunnan province, in order to do some research, build connections with people, also experience the simple life there. As an education graduate, although she has been dedicated to a similar industry for a long time when it comes to constructing the salary system, acquiring a business license, all the groundwork used to be a hinder for her.

‘I became more practical when I turned 30 last year, and after I bought a house for myself, I needed money, and of course, the experience working in Beijing made me realize that online education in China is going a downward trend since last year, I saw a gap from this area, and I realize I will make no difference for myself if I keep working like this, so I think could go for it. I was careful when they came to me and pitch this idea to me, but after putting this into practice for a little while, I decided to do a full time, and start to invest money in it. The only biggest difference from before and after I made this decision is that I used to think I work for someone else before, but now I am literally living my business, which means I take full responsibility whether for better or worse, so it’s hard to say which way is easier.’

To have their own business has always been a dream for some young people in China, given the all-time intensely working situation, many would say that they would rather be a wolf for being an entrepreneur, but not working for someone else like a watchdog. Internet-related businesses are particularly sought after and have become a head start for many people since it’s easier to operate, has nearly zero cost, and is without area restrictions.

the number of recent graduates who start their business. Resource from: National Development and Reform Commission. Credit: Arthur Yan

Amy said as a new person compared to others, she would try to do things differently, many practitioners would aimlessly send more offers to achieve their monthly goals, but she would always do more research, in order to make better matches for schools and teachers. It saves up time and effort, she hopes by this innovative way, it can hopefully help their company to be more competitive.

‘Also, because I want to take some new challenges based on my experience and knowledge, such as building more connections with new clients, new public schools to increase our visibility as a new company, go through each step of the process, passport, new employee onboarding, etc., so instead of being responsible for only one task working for someone else, I want to find out if this can be my future career path.’

‘Overall, with my dilemma and expectation of my future life, I think this could be the next step of my life, I’m glad that I took a step forward last year. Nevertheless, when you sit down and put your heart into it, you will find out what the problem is, such as many people are working in this industry, but at the moment this industry is in lack of regulatory, many predecessors in this industry, they have achieved financial freedom, plus, the big part of the resource are held by them as well, but for us, as in relatively rookie to this industry, it’s hard to develop new resources, so some would meaningly suppress us.’

‘This year, our business has also been affected by this pandemic, many people that we decide to hire cannot travel easily from other countries, causing unstable conditions. So, teachers that we hire always take the highest bidder and change their occupation within short notice, sometimes the price would go up 1-1.5 times than normal times. But with the help of the government, it’s becoming better, so that if any companies that are managing this illegally would be fined, it helps a company like us, doing things with a legal procedure, and gives us a chance to grow. I believe it’s a good thing when the government administration gets involved and sets up some rules.’

The good thing we can see here is that as the development of the 5th generation network communication technology rolled out, it paved the way for many people in China to have their business that’s related to online business and it’s gradually becoming dominant.

reasons why young people in China would like to start their business. Credit: Arthur Yan.

‘It wouldn’t be possible for us to start if it’s not because of the great development of the internet happened in recent years in China, we are able to gather more resources, requests from public schools all around China to expand our business, this year we are still looking to connect with more schools, but as a start, I’m happy with the result our team has made so far. The only cost is I have to spend many hours to do the research and thinking for the plans of the development of our company, make plans to fit in the fast-changing situations.’ Said Amy.

(tell) Different from those young people with a big city dream, and get themselves involved in the fierce competitions between large cities in China, getting a competitive position, those who choose to leave the terrible working environment and go back to their hometown to find a new way of living and look for a bit tranquil for their life, what would they want to achieve with their business?

‘What I promised myself when I started is that, go big or go home, since I’m already home, so I am going to go big, but also be prepared for the worst, I told myself it’s okay, if this doesn’t work out, I can always go back to find another job at any time, hanging on for dear life. This means sometimes hold on to the last may not apply to every occasion, our society is in a fast-changing mode, learning how to adapt is a good way to survive.’

‘For the young people who are currently thinking of having their business soon, I do have some advice for them. To start their business is always a good idea, no matter you are young or old, whenever you feel ready, also depends on individual conditions, financial situation, being adventurous enough or not, etc., so basically, this doesn’t limit to a certain age. But sometimes, maybe only when you get old, you could become more mature, better at making the right decisions, team managing skills, business negotiations. Whenever you have those traits prepared, you can go for this route.’

From Amy’s experience, she has seen many cases when people had their business and it was successful, but when it’s in its heyday, they make it into realizable assets by selling their company and go back to workplaces. Therefore, don’t take this experience as a destination, better or worse, it’s going to be a valuable experience for anyone.

‘To be honest, I have realized that finding ways to make your business more lucrative is never disgraceful, you have to learn the commercial essence of your area earlier than others, then you have the place to compete them, the only shameful thing is that you put time, effort, and capital in it, but end up not making money from it. So, this is never an easy game. But also, young people should bear in mind that strategy is always going to be your weapon in this fight, ever since I started our business, I have never stopped learning more knowledge to equip myself to adapt to changes, I have a pile of books on my bedside cupboard, never stop learning, I grow this habit of reading books for 30 minutes to an hour before I go to bed.’

She mentioned the concept that every young people in China could resonate with, ‘social cycle theory, this theory is always being rooted deep in nearly everyone’s mind since they were young. Probably this is a social convention to always compare oneself to each other, being scared to be left behind for each life step from their social bubbles. Such as who gets married first, or who got a promotion, etcetera.

‘If I allow this idea to hunt me down and make me feel uncomfortable, I believe it’s time for me to make some change to my own life. But if I wasn’t successful for this business, I will have to overcome all the ridicule from the workplace because other people who weren’t going this route, may already see a steady path of their career at this age, whereas for me is only to start over again.’

‘I strongly agree that I have developed my self-motivation since I started, which I could never have if I lived a life like before. This is because, with the realization that you are no longer work for someone else but yourself, there are no more backup plans, this alerts you to always go forward, and it’s a really good motivation to make progress, do each case with attention to detail and care, this also brings me the excitement and anecdote, I’m not the kind of person who always trying to seek a steady way to live, so why not try things innovatively?’

Other than self-motivation, another thing that was really important for her business is her adventurous spirit, which drives her forward.

‘In most cases, somebody is too scared to try things differently, they don’t dare to take this step, for many reasons, capital for one, so they always struggle to be exploited by their employers, whereas, for me, I deeply realize that this is my business, also as a female in this society, this path also makes me feel safe and independent.’

Unfortunately, even her business is going well during the first half of the year, she is still unsatisfied with her work and life balance. According to her, the big part of the time was invested in work when she barely had any holidays many months in a roll, but she is still quite happy with it, whenever making small progress.

Yet, she would wish to have more leisure time, like she used to be when working for other companies. But for cost savings, her company hasn’t yet hired many people, so she is the only one who is responsible for making the company go through the first several tough phases. But luckily with consecutive learning, her work has been paid off, the company was qualified really quickly by the government for running the business, and she always keeps positive energy about her business.

‘You can’t only have the idea, it won’t work, you do have to think big, but you will come to realize someday, where you are not actually fighting for your dream. Thinking that you are not doing this for money, then you are going the wrong way, only for greater benefit is why you want to have your business, facing the fact, you need to be somehow hypocritical to adapt to the environment because only when you ambitious enough, you can have the right mind to do business,’ said Amy.

‘Although I don’t like the schedule and the way I work, I believe making this change to my life can make it meaningful whether good or bad.’