Its was 1988 Spring. I was a graduate student (M.Phil program) at Chinese University of Hong Kong. I initiated selling flowers at the Chinese New Year Fair. Besides some graduate and undergraduate students, at least half of the faculty members were involved -- contributing both capital and labor. The invloved faculty members included Professors Man-Lui Lau (now at University of San Fransciso), Richard Yue-chim Wong (now the Dean at Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Hong Kong), Yim-fai Luk (now at School of Economics and Finance, University of Hong Kong), Victor Mok (retired from the Department of Economics, Chinese University of Hong Kong), Sunny Kai-sun Kwong (currently a professor in Department of Economics, Chinese University of Hong Kong). It was one of those good years. Below was a news article appeared in Student Affairs of the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1988. ---- Ka-fu Wong, Spring 2000.
"Economics" Selling Flowers at the Chinese New Year Fair
Who would name their enterprise "Economics"? Teachers and students of economics, of course. And the enterprise? A flower stall at the Chinese New Year fair at the Wo Che playground, Shatin.
The idea was generated during a postgraduate tutorial in late January when theories of tendering were discussed. Someone suggested that they should put theories into practice, and the opportunity available at that time was the Chinese New Year fair to be held in mid-February. So it was decided. They pooled $8,400, five lecturers and two research students, and made a tender for a flower stall at the fair at the Wo Che playground. The venture began.
The "conglomeraters" might be good scholars but definitely not able manager of a flower stall, particularly one at the Chinese new Year fair which lasted only for three days. "We ordered too many flowers." Recalled Dr. Lau Man Lui, treasurer of the enterprise. "We had the largest amount and greatest variety of cut flowers in the whole fair."
They ordered a lot of roses, thinking that business would be good on St. Valentine's Day, also the first day of the fair. But they were wrong. One the second day, the "conglomeraters" were still idling around the stall. Business was far from being satisfactory, and so much the worse, none of the intellectuals was experienced in taking care of cut flowers. A lot of the plants just withered. "We made about $1,000 for the first two days and we were preparing for the worst."
On 16th February, the last day of the fair, the situation changed drastically. People poured in to the fair in the afternoon. "Economics" attracted a large crowd of customers because of its abundant supply of flowers. The "conglomeraters" were so busy serving their customers that they did not even have time for dinner. "People bought whatever they could get if they thought the price was good," said Wong Ka Fu, a research student and the backbone of the enterprise.
Spies were sent to gather information about other stalls and the prices of flowers at "Economics" were adjusted accordingly. By 2 a.m. on New Year's Day, the "conglomeraters" sold off almost everything, including those withered flowers which they intended to dispose of.
At the end of the fair, the business netted $1,300, a disastrous failure if the manpower involved was taken into account. Some twenty volunteers, mostly undergraduate students had worked at the stall at one time or another. Nevertheless, a celebration party was held to spend every dime of the profit.
Will there be another "Economics" next year? Both Dr. Lau and Wong Ka Fu laughed. "It's an exhausting business, too exhausting! But we'll see."