A decade of achievement
Flooring business booms
In the last decade, Xiao Daqi's business in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, has expanded enormously. The company started in 2002 with four employees and now has more than 400 staff members. His factory manufactures 3 million square meters of wooden flooring annually, almost 100 times more than when it started.
The 58-year-old entrepreneur attributed his success to 30 years' experience and the rising demand for his products, spurred by the expanding real estate market and support from the local government.
Xiao dropped out of school at the age of 12 and began work at a local hospital to help feed his seven brothers and sisters. In 1980, aged 26, he borrowed 1,000 ($160) yuan from relatives and started his own business, operating a circular saw and cutting wood to earn more money.
In 1991, Xiao was recruited by the Huoshan flooring products factory, which registered the country's first flooring industry trademark, "Three Stars". In 2001, the State-owned factory was sold to a company from neighboring Jiangsu province, but Xiao's confidence in the future of the industry led him to decline a job offered by the local government and become self-employed once again. In December of that year, Xiao drove his battered van to Hefei, with his wife and one quilt.
He quickly rented house in downtown Hefei and the premises served as his first store, selling items made in Zhejiang province, famous for its wooden products. He then registered Great Mainland Flooring Co, so named "because of my patriotism". At the outset, he faced stiff competition from local traders and had little capital to expand the business.
After careful deliberation, Xiao decided to take a loan from a local bank. It was not an easy task for a self-employed businessman, but the city government helped him to obtain the money.
As his store gained fame and the real estate market began its sharp rise, Xiao's business began to thrive. In 2005, he owned 18 stores and he now owns 200 nationwide.
"I have to say that my choice was right, because I always believed in the future of the industry," he said. "Therefore, irrespective of what I decided to do, my wife always stood by me."
As the profits accumulated, Xiao decided to build his own factory in Chaohu, a city near Hefei, which offered convenient transportation links, allied to favorable policies on land purchases and taxation.
"My company was lucky to gain support from the city government, because they kept a close eye on local enterprises," he said.
However, disaster hit in 2007. That summer, Xiao's workshops were flooded by a 1-meter-deep deluge and all the machinery, imported from Germany at a cost of 10 million yuan, was severely damaged. Xiao had no option but to invest another 4 million yuan to replace the electronic components in the machines. Fortunately, the gamble paid off.
Xiao's life has never lacked drama. In 2010, his eldest son was diagnosed with a malignant tumor at the age of just 37. He passed away earlier this year.
Xiao gave jobs to 1,000 people, 90 percent of whom had been laid-off or were migrant workers from his hometown. They can earn as much as 4,000 yuan a month, three times more than at home.
"Having been born into a farmer's family, I would like to do something for migrant workers from my hometown. I want to do as much as I can," he said.