An Entrepreneurial Nation

Although I am a math teacher, my first love is writing, and my second love is fighting for social justice. As a grant writer for Project Vote and ACORN, I had an opportunity to combine my passions, and hopefully soon I will be volunteering my grantwriting skills for an organization called Wokai (“I start” in Chinese), a nonprofit that matches microfinancers – including ordinary people like you and me – with budding entrepreneurs in China.

China is an extremely appropriate country for microfinance. In a way, it’s no great wonder that economic communism failed here. Thousands of people are in business for themselves, with no more than a sewing machine on the sidewalk, or a box of greasy tools and a wooden stool for fixing bikes.

From China Commerce
From China Commerce

There’s no overhead, because there’s no rent for working on the sidewalk. Or, families sleep in the back of their box-like restaurant. A tricycle with a pick up bed in the back, which you can buy at the bike-shop garage for a few hundred kuai (rhymes with pie), under a $100, puts you in business as a garbage or recycling collector.

From China Commerce

The sheer volume of manpower available, in addition to a lack of regulations about night construction, means that new shops spring up as quickly as mushrooms, with new dry-wall lining the inside of old buildings. Bouquets of flowers and red ribbon celebrate the grand openings of even the smallest noodle shops, keeping florists in demand. Even when a new noodle shop opens next to an established one, or a baked sweet potato vendor pitches his oven barrel next to another, there is no reason to relocate because of competition biting into sales – the sheer volume of people ensures that you will stay in business.

From China Commerce

One of our colleagues is preparing two of our students to earn their MBAs in the US. He’s struggling to help them think strategically about business. In answer to his question, “If you open a restaurant on Ninghai Street, what factors will contribute to its success?” they only answer, “If our food is delicious,” and can’t imagine the impact of advertising, competition, or location. That may be because, in China, they are non factors. If you build it – or rather, if you bring your rolling meat grill – they will come.

From China Commerce

3 thoughts on “An Entrepreneurial Nation

  1. You know what’s really interesting though? There’s a drive. People want to succeed and they are doing whatever they can. It’s their government who is failing them by not providing the system or structure for them to succeed. On the other hand, in the US, most urban residents aren’t trying. There’s no drive to succeed. This is the country where people can succeed regardless of race, religion and gender. When I see our US urban cities, I get depressed because our people aren’t doing much about it. This is why, at some point, US will fail and other nation like China, will become the next super power nation.

  2. Not that I am doubting the entrpeneurial spirit of the Chinese, but a phrase like “never was there a nation more appropriate for microfinance” implies comparison with other Third World countries, and this blog posting deals exclusively with China. Would anyone out there with experience in another developing country like to say something in way of comparison with China? Keppie perhaps?

  3. Some context would be great because it is actually quite common in developing countries for people to set up small stalls on the sidewalks and street corners. The question is not so much one of china being ideally suited to micro finance because of all the small businesses, but why are Chinese stall owners MORE suited to micro finance than similar business people in India, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific, and other parts of Asia.

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