Given the rise of women entrepreneurship in China in recent years – over 50% of all new businesses on taobao, China’s main e-commerce platform are started by women – I thought it would be interesting to interview a friend of mine who is one of these entrepreneurs. Ms. Fu first got her start in the basket business about 15 years ago and now runs a successful trading company in Shenzhen. After over a decade of exporting Chinese products globally, she is just starting to import products from overseas into China, one indication that China’s economic model is changing.
EAC: How did you get started in Business?
Ms. Fu: I was interested in doing business from an early age. It seemed natural to start a company on my own.
EAC: Why did you decide to start with baskets?
Ms. Fu: I always liked baskets, maybe because I grew up in an area where there was a lot of basket production, in South China. But I thought that would be a good place to start. Now, however, the basket business has slowed down considerably and it is very hard to sell baskets to US buyers now. So I am looking to get into other businesses, including importing products from the US into China.
EAC: Did you have a lot of problems at first because you are a woman ?
Ms. Fu: No. There is a famous saying in Chinese, that women are the half of the sky. Quite honestly I did not feel any major barriers as a woman trying to start her first company.
EAC: Do you feel any discrimination now when you try to do business given your success as a woman entrepreneur ? I mean do you sense that some men might be envious or skeptical of your success ?
Ms. Fu: No. I know there is discrimination against women in China but I have not really experienced this.
EAC: Do you feel that business world in China is still dominated by men ? Or are there quite a lot of female entrepreneurs such as yourself doing business in China nowadays ?
Ms. Fu: Not just in China, but women all over the world are becoming more and more independent. And of course, more and more women would like to set up their own companies. Although many companies are still run by men, in China and in the US. I think this is changing.
EAC: Do you feel there are any advantages to being a female entrepreneur in China now ?
Ms. Fu: Not really. China is pretty open these days and Government policies tend to reflect a certain equality. Any advantages may be peculiar to a certain company.
EAC: What are the main obstacles you face now as you try to grow your business ?
Ms. Fu: The main obstacle is balancing work and family life. And I have to think about other opportunities if one of my businesses is not going well. I am constantly thinking what to do next.
EAC How is the state of China’s economy nowadays? Is business slowing down or are things pretty much as normal ?
Ms. Fu Life in China just gets better and better. There are just so many more opportunities now than there used to be. And much of the world looks to China now for opportunity.