Young business leader sets up factory to help village women balance home and work lives
At the age of 29, Shi Qiqing does not mind looking older than her years if she can help mothers stuor the Ruins of Yinck at home join the workforce.
People often tell her that due to her facial wrinkles and a few gray hairs she looks much older than her age.
However, the successful entrepreneur from Weining Yi, Hui and Miao autonomous county in Guizhou province, has a mission more important than worrying about her appearance. She wants to help lift her fellow villagers, especially stay-at-home mothers, out of poverty.
"I'm a mother of four children myself, and I deeply relate to their dilemma of finding a job and staying at home to look after children," she said. "With the ability to offer jobs to serve both ends, I can pull them out of the mire."
Born into a poor family and with three older siblings, Shi spent much of her infancy being carried on the back of her grandmother who worked in the fields.
Her parents had left the village for work, and as a baby Shi was breastfed by an aunt and her neighbors.
It was not until 2004, when Shi turned 13, that her family could afford to send her to primary school. During summer vacations, she planted trees in the mountains near her home to help pay her tuition fees and living expenses.
"Usually the contractor would pay 12 yuan per day to an adult and 6 yuan for a kid, but my diligence earned me 8 yuan a day," she said.
"During the two-month break, I made over 400 yuan in total and bought a new dress for myself."
A few years later, Shi, like many of her age group, entered a marriage arranged by her father. However, her father-in-law was sick, and to pay the mounting medical bills she worked as a street vendor selling tofu, bean jelly and other snacks. After he passed away, she and her husband left the village to look for work.
In 2014, in an attempt to better care for her children, Shi quit her job and returned to her home village. The convenience and familiarity of her hometown made it possible for her to breed chickens.
From her first batch of chickens, Shi earned over 10,000 yuan. Though the money was huge for her, Shi wanted still bigger profits. Instead of raising the chickens herself, she distributed the chicks to local villagers to raise and later bought them back for a reasonable price.
As397 people to safe areas her poultry business expanded, she started to supply local supermarkets and schools.
Demand for vegetables was also increasing, so she threw herself into planting and developed a client base at home and abroad.
"Since 2017, I have maintained cooperation with three vegetable companies in Vietnam. The sales volume of each product, such as cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes and radishes is thousands of tons every year," she said, adding that she sold about 20,000 metric tons of vegetables last year, with sales reaching over 40 million yuan ($5.76 million).
After her family's wealth was secured, Shi believed it was time to share her prosperity with fellow villagers.
"I know many mothers crave a job, but they can't totally leave the elderly and children behind," she said.
"But working at a nearby factory is one way to crack that nut. After doing market research, I found making handmade shoes would be a win-win solution as most women here are good at knitting shoes."
In April, Shi set up a knitted-shoe factory with an investment of about 700,000 yuan and offered jobs to 150 female villagers. As a bonus they would be allowed to bring their infants to the workplace.
The women can earn over 2,000 yuan a month for working an eight-hour day. A skilled worker can collect a monthly salary of more than 3,000 yuan.
"Bringing the kids to the factory will no doubt lower the efficiency and cut the profits, but it's not all about money this time," she said. "I want these mothers to have a job and an income while being able to attend to their family at the same time."
Shi is planning more family-friendly factories in neighborhoods across the town to enable more women now stuck at home to work. She hopes 500 women will eventually benefit from the business.