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Starting from Scratch—the Entrepreneurship of PKU Students

Peking University, Nov. 15, 2014: It was already 9:30 PM, the trike rattled through the autumn mist. It squeaked from one dormitory building to another with boxes of fresh fruits on it.


Staff of PKUStore ready to deliver fruits


"Knock, knock! Here come the fruits you ordered.” Every Monday and Thursday, about 300 dormitory doors are knocked on, and 300 kilograms fruits are delivered into students’ hands—to Chen Fenlong and his partners, these people are not merely their fellow students, but “customers” of their business—“PKUStore”, which, as they described, is “a new type of convenience store for students on campus”.


"This is always what I want to do, to try something new while facilitate other students’ daily life at the same time,” said Chen Fenlong, a sophomore in School of Foreign Languages at PKU. After entering the college, he began to put his idea into practice, and play a dual role—a student on the one hand, and a “businessman” on the other.


Starting from zero up—this tough but exciting enterprise is not only Chen’s but also many others’ ambition. Here at PKU, people have heard several successful stories of entrepreneurship, such as the “Amily’s cake shop in PKU” by Huang Lei in School of Journalism and Communication, and “Quxun Study”, a online education platform by Wang Yue and a group of students with double degree in Guanghua School of Management. Another good example—“Wan Men University” founded in 2012 by Tong Zhe, who has graduated from School of Physics, is known as the first online university in China.


Surely, never is a step forward that easy, especially at the very beginning. For Chen Fenlong, the quitting of one of his co-founders, the unsuccessful communication with business partners, and the stagnation are only parts of the hardship he has gone through. From half-baked ideas to feasible plans, it takes these inexperienced newcomers great efforts and time to learn from their predecessors and the outcomes of every attempt, which is definitely not only the case of PKUStore. In general, the lack of starting capital, social resources and experiences are what Chen considered the main obstacles college students encounter when they enter upon business.


Whatever the obstacle is, their own businesses arouse their enthusiasm, and every step forward is a further stimulus and reassurance. “I don’t think we are at a disadvantage as students, since we have great zeal to venture and enough courage to take risks. Plus, it is much easier to find the like-minded to start the enterprise together”,admitted by Chen Mo, a junior in School of Journalism and Communication, CEO of “CM Workshop”—her own business of teenager education both online and offline. Like other student CEO, she is also enjoying a bitter sweet journey. She travels nationwide during school terms to deliver speeches and communicate with local students. At the same time, she is also promoting the business through her self-media platform and the cooperation with other websites, including Youku, a prominent video website in China.


"A balanced life between school and business is hard indeed,” Chen Fenlong also admitted, “but what can be more satisfactory than starting something from scratch and growing up along with it?” He said his business had witnessed his maturity after withstanding all the pressure on the way—a more unperturbed, tenacious, and sociable himself. “I’m not sure if I will keep on being a self-employer after graduation, but this experience is undoubtedly beneficial and valuable to me no matter what.” He said.


"Our ‘ABC' promise—A for ‘A-level’, B for ‘Bargain’, and C for ‘Convenience’”—this is the slogan on the WeChat platform of “PKUStore”. Now their business has expanded: a more effective and regulated system has been established and modified, more staff is recruited, and more customers get attracted. In October, they held a fruit bazaar for earthquake victims in Yunnan province. They also made a breakthrough in the “group-buying project”, which was based on their cooperation with nineteen student unions of different schools and departments at PKU.


Staff of PKUStore ready to deliver fruits


"It may sound like a fantasy if I speak about the desire to make our life and the world different, but my business assures me of the possibility.” Everything starts from nothing—that’s why these students dream big. For them, entrepreneurship is never that distant, never that broad an idea. It can be an apple delivered, a cupcake baked.


From scratch, they made it.


Reported by: Wu Zhangxin’an

Edited by: Zhang Jiang