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For less than 400 yuan ($64), a designer can demonstrate and sell his or her own products in the most popular shopping malls in Beijing.
This is the maximum monthly rent for an area of shelf space the size of an old television set. Intrepid designers may decorate a 0.125-square-meter "box" with their merchandise—usually stationery and other miscellaneous tchotchkes—and it will be displayed at one of seven Fengguo Box boutiques around the city. Fengguo pockets a commission of sales, and designers can gain brand visibility without resorting to costly ad agencies to market their goods.
Fengguo literally means "crazy ideas, totally different." The founder, Wang Sanshi, is an oil painter. Having been a designer for quite a few years, Wang noted the uptight lifestyle of contemporary designers. "Many designers are very talented, but they do not have a chance to show their creative products to more people," he said. Before opening real shops, Wang set up a website, Fengguo.com.cn, for designers to exchange creative ideas and sell products online.
Wang later learned designers prefer dealing with customers face to face. In early 2007, he opened a prototype business, a kiosk in the Zhongguancun Plaza in a bustling area for IT companies and universities in west Beijing's Haidian District, called idea-Mart.
"It is more like a flea market and designers can come and sell their gizmos freely. The response was overwhelming," said Li Longyi, pen name Da Shuaner, who joined the Fengguo online community in 2006. "Within two days, sales volume exceeded 500,000 yuan ($80,379). The baubles of some designers sold very well and most importantly, it created a platform for participants to make friends with each other and know more about the market by communicating with customers."