Updated: 2011-05-20 11:03
By Yang Yang (China Daily European Weekly)
Zhao Hongxue, from the Yi ethnic group's Laowa village in Yunnan province, started his flower growing business in 2009. Cui Meng / China Daily
Young entrepreneur reaps rewards from dogged pursuit of flower dream
When Zhao Hongxue looks at the 160,000 colorful carnations and African daisies blooming in his hothouses, he realizes he is living his dream.
Zhao, 28, is a member of the Yi ethnic group in Yunnan province. He graduated from Kunming University in 2008.
Like millions of Chinese college graduates, he chose to look for a job in a big city like Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan province. Working as an administrative assistant for several months, he became tired of his work and soon quit.
"The salary was also really low, a little higher than 2,000 yuan (217 euros)," he says.
But it wasn't just about the money. More than anything else, Zhao missed the life in the field he enjoyed as a farmer's son.
"I'd rather be my own boss. My parents are farmers. I helped them when I was very young. I like working in the field."
But Zhao was one of the few college graduates in the Yi ethnic group's Laowa village, which has more than 1,000 people. His immediate family and relatives were against his decision to return to the field.
"At first, my parents and relatives in the village could not understand me," he says.
"For them, the best thing for a college student who managed to leave the poor village and the fields is to find a job in a company or take the civil service exam to become a government employee," he says.
"But growing plants has been my childhood dream. I initially planned to grow fruit trees, but flowers are more profitable."
Zhao managed to persuade his parents and relatives that growing flowers would make a better life for him as well as the family.
"My girlfriend, now my wife, has been supporting me ever since I told her about the idea."
In June 2009, Zhao signed a contract with Yunnan Jinyuan Flower Industry Co Ltd and leased 0.52 hectares of farmland from the company. He became one of the first 20 college graduates growing flowers in a designated area known as a "pioneer park" for budding entrepreneurs.
The pioneer park was launched in July 2009 to help college students who wanted to start their own businesses.
Zhao borrowed 50,000 yuan from bank, 24,000 yuan from relatives and 36,000 yuan from Jinyuan. All the 110,000 yuan was used to pay the company for the land, equipment and seedlings.
As a student of international trade, Zhao knew almost nothing about growing flowers.
"At first, many plants caught diseases and I didn't know what to do," he says.
"I worked really hard, getting up at 6:30 in the morning and going back home at 7 pm. Sometimes I was so worried I came to see the flowers in the middle of the night," Zhao says.
But he was not working alone. The company also sent experienced workers to teach the college students how to prevent and cure the diseases, irrigate the fields and use fertilizers.
The company provides financial and technical support as well as distribution channels for inexperienced college graduates.
The program continues to train professionals for the flower industry, which needs talent to transform traditional growing methods into modern ones.
The park has been cooperating with more than 20 colleges in Yunnan.
"We have been in Kunming for more than 16 years. It is time for us to do something for society," says Du Fushun, vice-president of the company.
"Right now college students are facing difficulties in job hunting and we think we can do something for them."
Many of the young entrepreneurs begin to rake in profits six months into the job.
With the help of the company, Zhao gradually grasped the knowledge of growing flowers.
The carnations he grows can net a profit of more than 100,000 yuan a year.
Zhao is not enjoying the success alone. He employs relatives from Laowa village to work in his greenhouses. He pays them higher wages than what they can earn by growing crops.
The average income of the villagers is lower than 1,000 yuan when they grow flue-cured tobacco and corn. But working in the greenhouses or the industry park earns them several hundred yuan more.
Zhao plans to spend several years accumulating money and experience before starting his own flower company. He also has plans to patent his own flower varieties.
"It's all possible," he says.
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