Phase 1: Posing Real Questions

Updated 4 months 3 weeks ago

Back in Phase 0, I introduced the topic I would be researching during the Microcampus trip, Local Businesses. Now, in Phase 1, I will be presenting questions about this topic as well as discussing my current knowledge about these businesses.

As of now, I do not have much knowledge about Local Businesses. I probably have just as much information about this as any other person does. I do know that these types of businesses are usually run by people without a very high income and is also sometimes passed down to the next generation of the family. Often times, the type of business will rely heavily on what is accessible to the shopkeeper. Furthermore, some residents occasionally run their business as a bit of a hobby, most likely people from the older generations.

I learned this information through a variety of sources, but most of these were just common knowledge that I learned throughout the course of my life. Others were from making assumptions about the businesses that I often visit, like a small stationery shop, or am connected to in some way or another. I often discuss with my family about the business that my father and his side of the family runs, so I do understand small bits of what happens. I also read through the Phase 1 of Margaret M.; her research helped me tremendously to gain some more background knowledge, that were catered towards more local areas.

When given the chance at Yunnan, there would be an abundant of questions and things I would want to learn about. One would be, the history of the shop. For instance, what compelled them to open up such a business, or if it was something that was passed down to them. While on this topic, learning more about the history of the shop owner themselves is something that I am interested in. Financial activity as well as their products would definitely strike an interest in me (how they produce what they sell, how they do it, and their financial strength, etc.). Researching about what has happened throughout their career, if they have taken any risks, and what that has lead to, is another area that appeals to me.

In addition to this, I also did some research about this specific topic; this will help me be able to better understand Local Businesses as well as to be able to create Big Questions later on in Phase 3.

Below, are a series of ten questions that will help start and conduct my research in Xizhou, and in italics, are possible answers that are made up from the perspective of a woman running a coffee shop.

General Business Questions:
A business takes much consideration and time, therefore, these three questions will allow me to understand a little more about how the business owner runs and take care of their line of work.

1) How do the business owners find the motivation to continue to run their business?
Running this business has always been a dream of mine, as I am able to sell a drinks and food, which I have made since I was a child, and being able to do that for a living is what gets me up in the morning.

2) In what sort of different ways has your consumers impacted your business(difficulties, regulars, etc.)?
I do have regulars who often come in to buy something a number of times. However, there are other times when it is just a friend that comes in to buy something and then to chat. I do not get too many difficult customers, they will usually just cause a ruckus in the store, and will be escorted out by me.

3) How do you manage the produce you market (advertising, profit, gaining produce, etc.)?
Since I run a small coffee shop, business is not always great. About two-thirds of my profit goes towards taking care of the coffee beans that I grow, and as for advertising, I do not have too much of it. Although in the beginning of my shop, I did have my husband put up posters around town.

Past and Future Questions:
In the process of creating and running a business, the entrepreneur or owner will have to plan ahead for their businesses, hence, these questions will help determine or at least a hint into the thought process of the plans the business owner creates.

4) What was the origin of the business?
Even as a child, I had though about owning some sort of restaurant of my own, because I cooked so often, so when I was finally able to afford a portion of it, I took out loans from many of my family members to be able to start this store. 

5) Have you thought of the future of the business? If so, what do you plan for?
I have often thought about the future for my store, and one day wish for my kids to inherit it.

6) How was the business when you first started working?
When I first started working, business was difficult. I had difficulty with getting customers to come to such a small shop, especially with the debt I had to pay back to my family, but after about a year or two of working, I was able to get back on my feet and had a pretty stable amount of income.

Career Roadblock Questions:
Often times, we create how a business should look like in our head, these questions will show the different sides of running a business, from actual experience, both negative and positive, not just one view.

7) What were some of the most significant ups and downs throughout your line of work?
The worst time of when I was working would definitely be when I gained a high fever for about a week and a half when I was first starting out, and was not able to make anything during that time, as my husband does not do well in the food industry. My most joyous occasion, without a doubt was when I was finally able to pay off the debt from my family after working for 2 years, as that meant I would be able to enjoy my work for what it was.

8) How has your business been, financially, throughout your career?
Aforementioned, I was in debt for a couple years, so that really took a toll on my financial stability, but couple months after I payed it off, I was able to stabilize my financial situation. Though,there are definitely some times when business is slow, but it does not take a toll on my shop that much.

Personal Questions:
Since there is much more than what is shown in many corporations, these questions will provide an insight to how a business can really be affected from personal events.

9) How has this line of work affected your life and wellbeing overall?
I personally find this work to be incredibly fulfilling, as I am able to have a physically healthy body because of the coffee garden, as well as feeling mentally and emotionally stable because I am able to work as what I had dreamed of.

10) How has your personal life affected your business and growth (education, family, etc.)?
I do not think that my personal life has had too much of an effect on my business, so far at least, other than the debt. My family does not hold me back and neither does my only high school level education, as my business is part of the food industry. 

Before going to Microcampus in Xizhou, I will need to know more about these types of Small and Local Businesses from a more professional standpoint, maybe even some advice from current business owners, outside of Yunnan. I would also like to know more, in detail, about the process of creating a business, as well as how their work affects others (environmental, family members, friends, etc.).

Throughout this phase, I discussed some questions as well as some information that I already have and what I will need. In Phase 2, I will be researching and will look into various sources of information. In Phase 3, I included the information for my 10 big questions, as well as some more research.

Hi, I'm Shirley X. and I was part of the 2018 Voyagers Group. I am from the United States but moved here to Shanghai in the sixth grade. After returning from Microcampus, I feel as though the experience has shaped and changed me in so many different aspects. The month long journey has helped me grow and I have learned so many lessons from the locals, the teachers, as well as my peers and hope to be able to return to the sensational town and community of Xizhou one day. After this, I will continue to apply everything I have learned to my life and onwards.