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From virtual to reality

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2011-12-26 09:54

At the beginning of 2011, 27-year-old Beijing resident Wen Erniu posted an article on a popular lifestyle portal calling on people to invest a little money in a Beijing cafe.

Now, the girl is the chief executive officer of a newly established culture creative company that has 78 investors.

"To open a cafe was a dream of mine, but I could not afford it," says Wen, who adds it was originally her lawyer boyfriend's idea to post the article on

"We thought opening a cafe might be many people's dream, as I did, and we could get together via the Internet to make it come true."

On Jan 3, she posted the message and within a week 140 people replied to say they were willing to invest some of their money in the project.

Followed the rule of "first come, first served", she decided the first 50 to respond would have the opportunity to invest. Also, 50 is the maximum number of initial shareholders in a company, according to Chinese law.

An online group was created and potential investors were invited to attend meetings on opening the cafe.

They decided to adopt the rules and principles of a limited liability company and democracy was one of the founding principles.

"We now trust one another and that is essential to realize our dream," Wen says.

From virtual to reality

A voluntary board of about 10 people was established to take responsibility for planning the cafe's opening and keeping investors informed of what was going on.

In early April, every investor was asked to put in 2,000 yuan ($316).

They belatedly realized, however, the money was not enough to open the cafe and it was decided to both increase the number of investors and the amount of investment.

Finally, 78 investors put up about 410,000 yuan. The oldest investor is 39, while the youngest is a high school student.

Selecting a location in a building opposite to the National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature at Chaoyang district and fitting out the cafe went smoothly as some of the investors had the relevant experience.

The cafe, named Henduoren's Cafe, got its license in early December and opened soon after. It has four full-time workers, two of whom are investors and the other two are hired.

Apart from food and beverages, at the advice of the investors, it offers a place for young people to share information on starting up a business.

Niu Dong, a recent graduate of Shanxi University, came to Beijing for a show at the beginning of December. After learning about the cafe, he decided to stay and becomes a waiter. He earns 2,000 yuan a month.

Niu's college major is photography and he wants to be a photographer.

"What I do now may be irrelevant to my major, but I like it," Niu says.

"I can meet many young people here, and they are all very creative. I like to be part of what is happening here."

Niu says there are few customers during the day. But after 5 pm, the cafe almost fills up with young people after they finish their classes or jobs.

Every Tuesday evening, investors go to the cafe to share their experience of starting up a business.

Wednesday and Friday evening are for classic films. Saturday afternoon features poetry readings. Evenings are full of people playing cards and drinking coffee.

"The cafe is famous among young netizens, especially on," Niu says.

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