A while ago I decided to find other ways of earning money in Kunming, other than English teaching. While teaching English is by far the most common way of making a living here, for me, the hours weren’t that great, and the work gets a bit monotonous after a few years.
After I went back home for a few months and kept hearing my friends comment on how lovely the jewelry I brought back from Yunnan was, I thought that it could be a good idea to start a small business selling the handmade ethnic jewelry and other Chinese things online.
By Chinese things I definitely do not refer to the hordes of gaudy over the top oddities you see everyday; I mean the special things like the dyed fabric, and the traditional bags. It’s easy to miss these things and be overwhelmed by the cheap stuff that blares out at you everyday. But if you take the time and dig around there are a lot of lovely things here. Besides the handcrafts I think that tea, spices, dried goods like mushrooms is also great possibilities for exporting. The international trade center south of the city has a vast amount of shops with these kinds of products.
So after I went to Luo Si Wan international trade center to have a look around, I found a shipping agent and started a website, and will soon be exporting products unique to Yunnan to other countries. Kunming’s great proximity to the rest of South East Asia makes it a great place to do short trips to Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and shop at all of their great markets! Specifically the markets in Hanoi and Bangkok are great for kitchen wares, lamps, fabric, jewelry, you name it. The possibilities are all out there.
The tricky part of this method of making a living is to form a good relationship with the vendors, as they are so used to selling to tourists that showing up as a foreigner in their shop, trying to convince them to sell to me at the wholesale price has been quite a challenge. Some just refuse bluntly and I have to keep looking for someone else. Then some of them are really nice and even let me just take photos to put online and then come back later to buy from them.
These negotiation skills are all thanks to the studies at Keats. Without the needed communication skills I am pretty sure I would have stood no chance in negotiating with the vendors!
So for me, studying at Keats has opened up so many doors. It has been a hugely worthwhile experience and I can’t imagine what life would have been like without it.