Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 11 months 3 weeks ago

In Phase 1, I proposed some questions and discussed my background knowledge about Local Businesses. But before that, I first completed Phase 0. During that phase, I walked through what steps I took in order find out which topic I was most interested in, and why. Now, in this phase, I will be conducting and documenting research about this subject. Doing this will help me answer a couple, if not more, of the questions that I had previously listed in Phase 1. Along with researching, there will also be background information included from before, information gathered through locals in Yunnan, as well from 3 to 5's.

Background Information (from Phase 1):

Privately owned corporations that have a much lower amount of employees are known as, small businesses, as mentioned before in previous phases, and in this case, a Local Business. They are identified through their location as well as their tax policy. From my own current knowledge, these types of businesses are typically passed down from generation to generation, rely greatly on their surroundings and resources, and are sometimes started to fulfill something of interest. I later read up on some articles as well as several inquiry projects from the Microcampus Alumni. 

From the research the Alumni already completed, I drew couple of main points. The impacts from small and local businesses can have both good and bad effects on the economy of the nation; they are often very significant components to the local economy. Their local businesses will keep money in the area, and have a very wide variety of businesses that could potentially help the citizens in that region[1,6]. A crucial amount of civilians from several areas all work in small businesses and in total, from around the world, and have around 25 to 27 million people in those types of businesses. Often times, the business will run out of work due to the inability to accommodate to their surroundings. While on the topic of their surroundings, these corporations could also use this to improve their business and work quality. For example, if a botanist had a surplus of natural resources, he/she would probably be able to establish a successful business. Another point that was mentioned, was that since China had such a large population, not everyone would be able to work in very modern and high-end companies, which would be just one of the many prompts that would set in motion a large wave of entrepreneurs[1]. Their line of work allows the entrepreneur to be able to be independent and decide what comes and goes without the approval of anyone else, but there is also a down side to this type of work. There is definitely always also a chance of deciding something that would cause their business to go south[2,4]

After reading and analyzing information from Alumni, I decided to move onto researching online about Local and Small Businesses. At the start of every business, is the process of actually creating and registering for a company. In China, one would first need to set up their business plan and register for approval from certain companies. After this, they would need to create their finance plan, a bank account, and would eventually have to manage their taxes[12].

Besides the process of creating a business, the actual running of a company matters and should be taken to account just as much. The sources that I read also referred to many of the same points that were mentioned in the work the previous Microcampus students completed. One of these talked about the advantages and disadvantages of owning a business. The advantages for the owner, themselves, would include, being able to work as a part-timer or just as a hobby, as well as pursuing a goal of some sort. There are also a variety of pros that are beneficial towards society and the general public as well. As some research shows, working in a local or small business allows for closer ties to their clients and proves to be better for the local economy[3,4,8]

As running a business comes with many pros, it also comes with many cons and disadvantages as well. Often in rural China, the majority of citizens will have a somewhat low amount of income, and when starting a new line of work, where you are your own boss, investing in your company can be a huge risk in itself[2,4]. This risk and new opportunity comes with a heavy burden on their shoulders as well, as they will inevitably have to work long hours to have their business grow and thrive. The hours and hours that someone would put into their business could possibly eventually eat away at them, and even with all this work, the establishment might not even grow or succeed[5,9]. Knowing all these risk factors, many still pursue their career.

Motivation for entrepreneurs could stem from a variety of causes. The most obvious one, being, money, which will be further specified later on. Often times, someone will want to work in a certain department of a corporation but is unable to, due to whatever circumstance. Thus, would lead to running their own business, along with their work being more personalized[7,10]. Employees are also, without a doubt, another factor that could persuade someone to open up a business of their own[7]. This would allow the entrepreneur to interact more with workers and have a cost advantage because of the personal increased pay[7,10]. Along with all this, there was also a survey that was conducted throughout businesses. This survey showed that many entrepreneurs felt content from being able to fulfill a life-long dream within their own work[11].  

Aside from general background information, I would also need to be able to understand a bit more about the culture and businesses specifically in XiZhou, Yunnan. Based on the research the previous Microcampus students did, every type of business in the village differs in some way or another, and have very few things in common. Some businesses make a large profit from a bustling amount of commerce, while others spend their days fulfilling their dream, making less than ideal. From what I have read, often times, the majority of the money that the business owner(s) makes goes towards being able to maintain their career rather than to their own personal use and gain[13]. These entrepreneurs all also have varying forms of motivation, some would be to just maintain their life, help their family, repay debts, as well as to fulfill a lifelong dream, as mentioned before[14]

Information From Local Contacts:

Mr. Li (Marco- Clothing Store):

  • Worked at bank for 6 years
  • Loved tradtional culture
  • Though place and timing was right so quit job
  • Quit job to find more comfort in hobby 
  • Started business three years ago
  • Spent two years building and constructing area
  • Only opened for half year
  • Grew up in Beijing
  • Flew to XiZhou to start business because of culture
  • Family was very supportive of process
  • Works with designers to create products
  • Creates designs by self
  • Products reflect Folk style
  • Can appeal to tourists but also to local community

Mr. & Mrs. Yang (Cheese Factory)

  • Both learned to make cheese from young age
  • Started business to maintain money
  • Started business to also support children
  • Currently in competition with other business
  • Losing customers due to construction
  • Expects more customers in Summer
  • Also makes rose jam
  • Rise in tourism means more variety in products
  • Comfortable in current place and standing
  • Does not want to force children to take business
  • Has imported items from Zhoucheng
  • Starting business was very slow
  • Business boomed in previous years
  • Started to appeal more to tourists in past decade
  • Has no specific plans for future
  • Business is treated more like a tourist attraction rather than business
  • Saves money by going to different families for tie-dye
  • Also orders tie-dye online
  • Started using AliPay and WeChat few years ago
  • Son influenced more diversity and business to become more modern
  • Has regulars who come for cheese
  • Cheese allows for some increased profit and business
  • Many places in XiZhou stopped producing cheese because of cow cost
  • Normally only locals come for cheese
  • Tourists more interested in tie-dye and clothes
  • Used to only sell a few pieces of clothing
  • Now has to sell large variety to attract tourists
  • Tourism companies do not benefit their business
  • Tourism companies say there are other places for souvenirs
  • Occasionally has Dali T.V. crews film around business
  • Does not have advertisements because of T.V. crews

Mr. Zhao & Mrs. Yang (Silversmiths)

  • Makes traditional Bai jewelry
  • Jewelry mainly worn by elders
  • Mrs. Yang learned to make jewelry when married
  • Came back to XiZhou to start business after liberation
  • Runs business to support self
  • Does not matter whether or not enjoy work
  • Has run business for 30 years
  • Mr. Zhao used to not want to make jewelry
  • Technology has helped run business
  • Has customers show him picture to re-create
  • Does not welcome tourists as much
  • Thinks tourist expectations are too much
  • Does not want people taking pictures of jewelry
  • Mr. Zhao's family generations comes from Guandong 
  • Whole family knows jewelry
  • One of the only people who know to make traditional jewelry
  • Has many long time customers
  • People who knew his father will also buy from them
  • This might be last generation for silversmithing
  • Some jewelry is one of a kind
  • When younger was very distracted from work
  • Economy has settled since younger
  • Has watched area around change
  • Newer business from outside are coming in
  • During cultural revolution family survived on silversmithing
  • During 1980's place started to change
  • 15 years ago had no market for gold
  • Had to indirectly buy gold
  • Bought gold from foreigners
  • Now buys gold from place in Shanghai
  • Many sells tourists silver bracelets
  • only locals know about traditional jewelry

Mr. Yang (Former Teacher)

  • Father of Mrs. Yang (Silversmith)
  • Used to be teacher
  • Learned to do calligraphy from young age
  • Can still write calligraphy at age 90

Mrs. Yang (Street Market)

  • Used to be farmer
  • Makes small shoes
  • Is too old and frail to farm
  • Uses any amount of profit to support self
  • Started sowing as hobby from young age as hobby

Mrs. Yang (Hand-Made Textiles)

  • Makes natural tie-dye
  • Makes "traditional" Bai hats
  • Makes hats
  • Makes coasters
  • Makes bags
  • Everything is hand-made
  • Husband used to be farmer
  • Lives in Zhoucheng but works in Xizhou
  • Less competition in Xizhou
  • Used to work in Zhoucheng
  • Business was better in Zhoucheng
  • Stays here because already settled
  • Has had business for little over year
  • Used to make textiles from home

Ms. Cheng (Hand-Made Textiles)

  • Works with mom (Mrs. Yang)
  • Started learning to sow from young age
  • Likes meeting some tourists
  • Helps mom correct sowing because of age
  • Feels that many tourists disrespect culture
  • Lives in Zhoucheng but works in Xizhou
  • Less competition in Xizhou
  • Used to work in Zhoucheng
  • Business was better in Zhoucheng
  • Stays here because already setteled
  • Has had business for little over year
  • Used to make textiles from home

Tie-Dye Lady (Will get name soon)

  • Started making tie-dye from age 12
  • Has young daughter that helps tie cloth
  • Started creating different types of tie-dye because of tourism
  • Alternative tie-dye can take months to make
  • Alternative tie-dye is hand drawn and burned on cloth

Mr. Yan (Baba Maker)

  • Business passed down from family
  • Started business when married to support self
  • Taught wife to make baba
  • Started to appeal more to tourists in past decade
  • Use electronic payments due to simplicity
  • Daughters taught him how to transform business to become modern 
  • Enjoys making Baba but also has to support family

Ms. Yang (Tea Shop Owner)

  • Opened business half year ago
  • Used to have inn
  • Opened inn for 5 years
  • Thought that inn was too much work
  • Started to learn how to make tea while at inn
  • Took time off to learn about tea
  • Developed hobby for tea when older
  • Opened up business with tie-dye friend
  • Also had to learn basics of tie-dye
  • Thought that tea shop was more lax
  • Inn was good in the start but became more competitive
  • Works and helps with friend's tie-dye
  • Tea shop has more western customers due to rise in tourism
  • Chose this area because of peace
  • Also is able to meet different tourists
  • Enjoys chatting with customers about tea
  • Makes some own tea but also has shipped from around Yunnan
  • Friends from around Yunnan will ship her tea

Roy (Cafe Worker)

  • Moved here for peace
  • Had skills to make coffee
  • Once moved here found that it was more lax
  • Was able to see old life from new perspective
  • Able to find self once at peace
  • Learned coffee after college
  • Worked at Starbucks for a while
  • Did not want to be always stressed
  • Wanted to find self and get away from city life
  • Allowed self to be able to view life differently

Juan-Juan (Cafe/Tie-Dye Shop)

  • Is Co-owner of shop
  • Used to be real-estate agent
  • Thought that old job was too busy
  • Moved here for more lax life
  • Had resouces and connections for business
  • Friends also wanted to start business
  • Thought that tie-dye was more unique that real-estate
  • Grew up in large city

Ms. He (Lanshi Worker)

  • ​Does not actually work there
  • Was asked to look after business for a while
  • Used to run business near Xizhou
  • Accepted opportunity because wanted to stay busy
  • Also like to make hand-crafts
  • Only learned tie-dye two years ago
  • Knows how to do all sorts of tie-dye now

Mr. Liu (Chicken Place Owner)

  • Only opened for about a week
  • Just graduated from business school
  • Liked to eat so thought of running business
  • Went to food franchise place for training
  • Food franchise provide small amount of money and brand name
  • Chose area because wife lives here
  • Learned to make chicken from food franchise
  • Has music and visuals to attract customers

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1):

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?
My answers typically varied between a few answers. One being that they actually started a business because of a hobby and that they are able to do what they are interested and love. This was apparent with the woman at the tea shop as well as with Mr. Li (Marco). One of the more obvious answers would have just been to support themselves, this was especially apparent with the older, more long time business owners, as they gave similar answers to "I cannot see whether or not I enjoy this job anymore, I just have to continue to run this business to support myself and my family".


2) In what sort of different ways has your consumers impacted your business(difficulties, regulars, etc.)?
This question had two fairly different answers, and especially differs depending on the longetivity of the business. The tea shop and Mr. Li's business are both new, and has both been running for half a year. They have not had any sort of especial effects from their customers but do have a few friends who occasionally spend their time chatting with them at their business. In contrast to this, the older businesses find that over time, they have needed to adapt to the rising tourism of Xizhou and change their marketing methods. In the Cheese Factory, with Mr. and Mrs. Yang, however, they do have a few locals who consistently buy their cheese; whereas, there are more tourists who buy the clothing and tie-dye that are laid around the store. With Mr. Zhao's business, the silversmith, he actually advertises his products to specifically, locals. Tourists who do come and buy jewelry are less aware of his actual business and only see what is on display. This is because he believes that tourists' expectations are sometimes a bit too high, therefore, he does not bother with their requests.


3) How do you manage the produce you market (advertising, profit, gaining produce, etc.)?
Many businesses actually do not have any form of advertising, actually. They mainly rely on other sources for the attention. Quite a few businesses rely on solely being on a busy street and the Cheese Factory occasionally has T.V. crews in and out of there showcasing the tourist destination. However, the tea shop was actually started to provide a more tranquil surrounding while periodically meeting and doing business with a few tourists. A newer business, the chicken restaurant, advertises through the loud music around the shop, as well as the posters and cutouts displayed outside. As for produce, many of the businesses on a slightly larger scale typically have the products shipped over from various sources. Places like this include the Cheese Factory, as well as the tea shop. Although, stands that are set up on the street usually create their own products. In the silversmiths, they have their gold and silver imported from a market in Shanghai.


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?
There were a few varieties of origins of businesses. These consisted of family run and passed down, however this type of business was far less common than other reasons. I found that with newer businesses, they were typically run by outsiders and came here for a change of pace in their life and already had the skills in order to run a certain type of business. This was apparent with Mr. Li (Marco), Roy, as well as the woman running the tea shop. Another factor in the newer businesses would be that they had some sort of hobby that they wanted to pursue. They found that in Xizhou, it was much more peaceful and calm than their previous life. This showed with Mr. Liu because he liked eating and making chicken. In contrast, though, the older businesses were either passed down to them through family, or more obviously, to sustain them and their family with the skills they acquired over the years.


5) Have you thought of the future of the business? If so, what do you plan for?
Many businesses that I asked had not, in fact, thought of the future of their business. The cheese factory run by the Yang family just told me that they will work for as long as they want or can. In contrast, Mr. Li, has major plans for the next few years. He plans to expand his business into a restaurant and will continue to have more variety in his products.


6) How was the business when you first started working?
Based on what I have heard from the Cheese Factory and Mr. Li's business, they're both very differentiating and contrasting. Mr. Yang, one of the owners' of the Cheese Factory said that when they started working, business was pretty similar to it is now. Mr. Li, however, said that when he started working it was extremely difficult to do business with people and attract customers. Besides this, I also got a firsthand look at how a new business was doing because Mr. Liu's business was only open for a week. His business seemed to be doing fairly well and was able to attract a few customers from the roaring advertisements.

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?
I found that many business owners found this question to be quite difficult to answer, so I did not focus so much on it.

8) How has your business been, financially, throughout your career?
This question was similar to question 7, therefore, I did not decide to focus on this one either.

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 had asked this question to a couple of business owners. They both said that the business had not affected their wellbeing, but I can imagine that it did to some other business men or women. Besides that, I decided to not focus on this question so much as I wanted to focus on some of my other questions as well.

10) How has your personal life affected your business and growth (education, family, etc.)?
From what I have seen, they're background plays a very large role in their current business. For instance, Mrs. Yang, the woman who makes textiles with her daughter, did not have an education, but did learn about tie-dye from a young age. This limits her job opportunities to certain businesses. Another example would be with Mr. Zhao the silversmith. His family, for many generations, learned to do silversmithing and so, this skill was also practiced and passed on to him and his wife. On a similar note, Mr. Yan, the baba maker, also learned to make baba from his family and ancestors. A contrasting distinction would be with the newer business owners; they are all fairly educated and have the mindset to be able to do work in a variety of fields. Mr. Li is just one of these examples. He is educated fairly well and used to work in a bank, but changed jobs to run his own business. Throughout this process, his family was all very supportive of his decision which further helped him in the transitioning of jobs. Mr. Liu, on the other hand, specifically went to college for business, and also went to a food franchise for training; this allowed him to be able to start his first business.

Now that I have finished the background research, as well as the fieldwork in Xizhou, it is time to move on to Phase 4. In Phase 4, in which I will be discussing my thesis and my final product for my Inquiry work.


1) L., Alex. “Shanghai American School.” Shanghai American School | MICROCAMPUS, 


2) R., Lauren. “Shanghai American School.” Shanghai American School | MICROCAMPUS, 


3) “Small Business.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Jan. 2018, 


4) Haiar, Nikole. “The Pros & Cons of Owning a Business.”

                  Hostway, 6 Jan. 2017,

5) Root III, George N. “What Are the Struggles of Small Business Owners?” 


6) Writing, Alexis. “What Are the Benefits of Businesses for the Local Economy?” 


7) Root III, George N. “What Drives People to Start a Business?” 


8) Kunz, Marnie. “The Advantages of a Small Business Over a Big Chain.” 


9) Beattie, Andrew. “5 Biggest Challenges Facing Your Small Business.” 

                  Investopedia, 27 Oct. 2015,

10) May, Ryan. “What Motivates Entrepreneurs?” 


11) Clifford, Catherine. “What Motivates Entrepreneurs to Do What They Do? (Infographic).” 

                  Entrepreneur, 22 Apr. 2014,

12) TransferWise. “How to Start a Business in China.” TransferWise, TransferWise, 6 Mar. 2017, 


13) G., Niko. “Shanghai American School.” Shanghai American School | MICROCAMPUS, 


14) B., Gayatri. “Shanghai American School.” Shanghai American School | MICROCAMPUS, 


15) Mr. Li (Marco). Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 14 March 2018

16) Mr. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 15 March 2018

17) Mrs. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 15 March 2018

18) Mr. Zhao. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 16 March 2018

19) Mrs. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 16 March 2018

20) Mr. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 16 March 2018

21) Mrs. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 17 March 2018

23) [Tie-Dye Lady]. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 17 March 2018

22) Mrs. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 18 March 2018

24) Ms. Cheng. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 18 March 2018

25) Mr. Yan. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 19 March 2018

26) Ms. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 20 March 2018

27) Mr. Roy. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 22 March 2018

28) Juan-Juan. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 22 March 2018

29) Ms. He. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 24 March 2018

30) Mr. Liu. Personal interview conducted by Shirley X., 26 March 2018


Passing business down...


Your research is fascinating. I was interested in what the Yang's said about their cheese factory. If they aren't going to force their children to run the business, then what will they do when they no longer wish to run their shop?

I hope you're having a good time in Xizhou!

Mr. McSwiney

Passing business down...

Thanks Mr. Mcswiney, I also hope you're doing well. Anyway, about the Yang family, I had actually asked Mr. Yang what they wished to do with the business in a few years. He responded saying that he actually had no specific plans for the future and that he and his wife will run the business for as long as they feel they should. 

Hi Shirley!

Hi Shirley!

Mr. Venema and I wanted to shout our a quick hello! We've just read everything you've been up to regarding researching and starting businesses - very impressive! We hope you're having a great time and look forward to seeing you again after Spring Break!

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.