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What They Say

Romance leads to business venture

By Liu Xiaoli and Huang Yiming in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-26

Postgraduate student found opportunity for hostel, cycle rental firm with husband-to-be 

Cycling is only a leisure pursuit for most people, but a woman from Jingzhou, Hubei province, turned it into a business opportunity. 

Hou Shuyuan, 27, went for a cycling trip in Hainan province in January 2013 to celebrate being enrolled as a postgraduate student in advertising at Chongqing Technology and Business University. During the trip, she met her future husband, Chen Qicheng, 31, from Wanning, Hainan province, and also spotted a business opportunity. 


Hou Shuyuan and her husband, Chen Qicheng, operate a hostel that provides a bicycle rental service as well as accommodations. [Liu Xiaoli/China Daily]

"I discovered there were very few places renting bicycles and was unable to find a hostel that provided both accommodations and a bicycle rental service," saidHou. 

She and Chen decided to fill that gap in the market and open a hostel that provided a bicycle rental service.

Hou decided to remain in Hainan. "For love," she said with a smile. "I decided to settle down here because of my boyfriend."

The two started work on their business venture. With limited startup capital, they rented a rundown villa in an outlying part of Haikou, the capital of Hainan province. 

"Renovating the villa was hard work for us," Hou said. "We were short of money and had to do everything ourselves. When we bought a secondhand sofa for the living room, we had to transport it ourselves."

The renovation work cost more than 100,000 yuan ($16,350). Part of the money came from their savings, while the rest was borrowed from friends. 

"The decor of the villa was in keeping with the tastes of young people, and some of the pictures on the walls were even painted by young riders, with some humorous words to give visitors the feeling of coming home," Hou said. 

After the decorating was completed, the couple bought 30 mountain bikes and opened their cycle rental and accommodations business in February 2013. 

Hou was responsible for marketing and business promotion, while Chen managed the hostel and was in charge of bicycle maintenance and repairs. 

They named the hostel 517 Youth House. The number 517 in Chinese sounds like the Chinese for "I want to ride".

"Considering that most cyclists are young people, I promoted our business online at university websites, forums, micro blogs and WeChat," Hou said.

She returned to Chongqing for her postgraduate study in September 2013 and continued promoting her business while on campus. She worked long hours in front of her computer and sometimes even forgot to have dinner. 

Cycling in Hainan province is seasonal due to the climate. November to March is the peak season; fewer cyclists visit after March because the weather turns hot. 

"As a result, our business and income is subject to large fluctuations," Chen said.

For cyclists, the main advantage of the 517 Youth House is the provision of both cycles to rent and accommodations. 

"Many riders come to Hainan by train and most of them arrive around midnight. So we have people on duty around the clock to provide bicycle rental and accommodation services," Chen said. 

A 42-year-old cyclist surnamed Zhong from Heilongjiang province in northeast China has stayed in the hostel twice. He said he chose it for his cycling trip in Hainan because it could satisfy his requirement for riding and rest. 

"The hostel was clean, comfortable and cheap. We riders do not require luxury rooms because we go on a cycling trip for fun and fitness," Zhong said.

The response from cyclists encouraged Hou and Chen to open a second hostel in April last year in Sanya, a tourist city renowned for its sun and beaches in the south of the province. 

Another three franchised outlets in three places - Wenchang, Bo'ao and Xinglong - were also opened. 

In November, with business booming, Hou and Chen held their wedding ceremony. 

Their hostels in Haikou and Sanyahada turnover of some 1 million yuan last year, and Hou and Chen increased the management team to eight members.

Hou said they are preparing to register their business as a company and have plans to expand along the west coast of the island.

"And we are also planning to link up with tourism agencies to create cycle-riding themed tourism in the future," Hou said. 

In March, Hou had to go back to Chongqing for her postgraduate course and once again had to divide her time between her studies and promoting her business. 

"I am so happy that I started my own business as a career, and I am pleased that I did not abandon my studies. Promoting my business is putting into practice my study of advertising," Hou said. 

Ma Lie contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at liuxiaoli@chinadaily.com.cn