Building a successful business in China

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Building a successful business in China

Previously unemployed, Zhang Danying is now a successful entrepreneur with the help of IFAD loans and training. ©IFAD/Joanne Levitan

Zhang Danying
Occupation: Businesswoman

Location: Shaanxi province, China

4 July 2016 - Zhang Danying is a striking and impressive woman. This 55-year old businesswoman from China’s Shaanxi province owns two multi-million dollar companies. Looking as successful as she does professional in her business suit and pearl earrings, it is hard to believe that less than 20 years ago she was unemployed and desperate.

Zhang’s “rags to riches” transformation began in 1998. After she was laid-off from her factory work Zhang could not find another job. “It was hard as a woman,” she said. “No one would employ me.” With no other option, Zhang decided to take matters into her own hands - literally. As she was skilled at sewing, she borrowed money from relatives. Together with seven other women in her village, she used the money to rent sewing machines and started a small clothing shop.

Fortunately for Zhang and the other women, an IFAD-supported project was also operating in the region. Through the Qinling Mountain Area Poverty Alleviation Project, the women received technical training in sewing and business-management. Obtaining a loan from the project in 2004, they purchased 30 sewing machines and hired 80 people. With the help of two more loans, they further expanded production. Today, Zhang’s clothing company employs more than 200 people and earns more than 10 million Yuan (US$1.5 million) annually.

This success inspired Zhang. She knew the power a loan had to kick-start a new company.  As the IFAD-supported project had closed, in 2008, she took out a loan from the bank to start a completely different business - a poultry processing company that works along the whole value chain, from farming to the final packaging.

Not forgetting her own desperation years earlier, today Zhang targets the poorest of the poor as her employees and as the farmers she sources from.

Her operation employs 1,123 full-time workers (80 per cent of whom are women) and she has partnerships with 10,000 households who raise the poultry for the company.

Zhang says that more than 20 per cent of the farmers she works with have lifted themselves out of poverty because of the partnership. Her poultry company, HuaMao, now turns over more than 650 million Yuan (approximately US$100 million) a year.

“I was a labourer before,” said Zhang. “Without IFAD there would be no business.”

Zhang Danying shows IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze the products processed and packaged by her company. ©IFAD/Joanne Levitan

Poverty alleviation is central to Zhang's business-plan. Besides offering employment opportunities to poor people, she provides them with literacy and skills training. Outside the walls of her company, Zhang has also set up a vocational training school. So far more than 50,000 people have been trained in sewing and livestock-raising techniques and Zhang has facilitated employment for more than 60 per cent of them. No doubt inspired by Zhang, more than 1,500 of the people trained in her school have also started their own businesses.

On a recent visit to China, IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze, met with Zhang and heard her story. “Meeting you is an inspiring experience,” he told her. “It shows what investing in rural people can do. The success of IFAD depends on the success of people like you.”

Zhang said that she was proud to show Nwanze what she has built. “Whenever I tell my story, IFAD is always an important part of it,” she said. “IFAD helped me fulfil my dream."