Many young Chinese entrepreneurs use Alibaba’s online marketplace Taobao to turn their passions into businesses.
Chemist-turned-entrepreneur Harvey Yu, who founded online ink and writing brand Starry Ink as a teenage university student, is one such business owner.
Yu and his team leverage different content formats, including short videos and livestreaming offered by Taobao, to raise brand awareness and educate consumers about their many-hued inks and writing instruments.
Crochet guru Huang Jiayu has followed a similar path, opening a Taobao store called Beaubnana to display her hand-crafted goods for consumers across China.
The platform enables Huang to showcase her crocheted clothing and accessories and spread traditional handicrafts to young modern audiences.
For this year’s Taobao Maker Festival, Huang and Yu sat down with Alizila to share how Taobao helps monetize their hobbies.
Below is a transcript of this Alicast, edited for clarity and brevity
Narrator: Founded in 2003, Taobao has always been committed to connecting merchants, creators and buyers.
After 20 years of development, Taobao has evolved to be more than just a website with product listings.
It’s a platform where people can showcase their innovations and creativity through different content tools, including photos, short videos and livestreaming.
Through the platform and its tools, everyone can become an entrepreneur and monetize their hobbies and specialties.
Take this young engineer, for example. His name is Harvey Yu. He works in a chemistry lab during the day and is a livestreamer at night.
Harvey Yu: I am very fond of writing and colored ink. At the same time, I am also a very good chemist.
Seven years ago, because of my love for pen writing, I founded Starry Ink in my lab at Shanghai Polytechnic University, hoping to bring an enjoyable writing experience and colorful ink to everyone.
The employees of Starry Ink all came together because they love ink. We are a post-95 and post-00 team. We all like ink. And each of us can contribute our specialties to this company.
When I founded Starry Ink, I was just an 18-year-old student at Shanghai Polytechnic University. And when I thought about sharing something I found fun with all my peers, my first thought was that I should open a store on Taobao.
We are able to do more than just a store on Taobao. Besides product pictures and descriptions in the store, we also use different formats, such as short videos and livestreaming, to raise brand awareness and bring Starry Ink products to people who like writing and drawing.
Narrator: Starry Ink has a long-term project called One Thousand Colors. We hope to make a thousand bottles of different ink colors to record the stories of 1000 buyers or customizers.
We will make a bottle of ink to match each customer’s interests, personal story and color preferences. We will also choose some creations to put on our Taobao store to share their stories with other buyers.
Starry Ink is, just as the name suggests, a bottle of ink like the starry sky.
We hope our products can be like the starry sky, something everyone can enjoy and find beauty within.
Young people can not only profit from their interests and hobby through Taobao. They can also leverage the platform to help their local community, even in a small town in China.
Huang Jiayu runs a Taobao store called Beaubnana, which sells clothes and accessories made by traditional hand crochet.
As a start-up, Taobao is a perfect platform to showcase our style and products
Huang Jiayu: I founded Beaubnana to break people’s perception of traditional hand crochet. I think hand crochet can actually be suitable for modern fashion.
I will put a lot of my quirky ideas and daring colors in the designs and use hand crochet to make earrings and necklaces. These designs follow the design that modern young people like.
I founded Beaubnana in 2014. And I opened my first Taobao store immediately.
As a start-up, Taobao is a perfect platform to showcase our style and products.
For example, through last year’s Taobao Maker Festival, we showed people that a soft thread could become a large, powerful contemporary object. It is a gentle expression of female power.
Our hand crochet team comprises 35 homemakers whose primary position is to care for their families.
What Beaubnana can offer them is the flexibility to work from home. Then, they can use the hand crochet art they are familiar with to earn money and subsidize their families.
For Beaubnana, I hope my designs can help people see the value of hand crochet. I want to let people know that hand crochet is a good medium and valuable art. I hope people will pass it on.
Narrator: Taobao has helped young entrepreneurs in China grow their niche interests into businesses.
It will continue to innovate to bring the latest and most trendy lifestyle goods to consumers in China.
Discover more stories from this year’s Taobao Maker Festival here
Additional reporting by Yashan Zhao and Elizabeth Utley