It is normal that someone may not like animals, but very few people do not like plants, especially flowers. In WHU, where nature presents its picturesque scenery, there is a garden room in the College Students Entrepreneurship Center at the Campus of Engineering. Its designers Liu Fan, Yan Xiu and Huo Chao gave it a name — Luo Jia — which is a homonym based on the symbol of WHU, Luojia Mountain，though with “Jia” here meaning “home”.
Luo Jia Roof Garden in the spring
From the moment we arrived at the garden room, which is located on a roof, Liu Fan was engaged with her routine work --- pruning a basin of China roses. As a teacher at the Law School in WHU, she works as a horticulturist in Luo Jia during her spare time. When talking about the start of this wonderful experience, Liu Fan described a dream with two graduates.
In 2014, when Yan Xiu and Huo Chao were graduating from the WHU Law School, Liu Fan had already become a teacher at the Law School, and she really enjoyed planting flowers on the roof of the teaching building she worked in. Before her graduation, Yan usually helped Liu with her secret little garden, during which they gradually got to know each other. Although Yan and Huo graduated as law students, they wanted to try something new, something different from their campus life. Their common hobby stuck them together—they decided to start a business related to horticulture. Regardless of the decent jobs they were offered, Yan and Huo insisted on following their hearts to do the things they deeply cared for. Actually, their initial idea was to get into landscape design, which struck them as a line of business full of potential. However, due to the limited venues and some regulations, they had to give up the initial plan. Thus the Luo Jia Garden Room formed with the slogan “Be Your Own Life-Designer”.
To start a new thing is never easy. The hard days were still vivid in Liu’s memory. “But everything is different now, just like how every day you will see a different flower.” said Liu Fan, with a big smile.
When it came time to tell us about her experience in the daily caring for the garden, it was as though a faucet of information had been turned on. From spring to summer, then to autumn and winter, she is responsible for all the gardening work in the garden room. “You need to fertilize and spray insecticide from time to time in the spring, water frequently in the summer, sow seeds in the autumn, and prune and conserve the fertilizer in the winter. In other words, gardening is a process which calls for full attention and allows no interruption. It is every gardener’s duty to follow the whole process. Only through this can you see the final fruition of your garden. And as long as you stick to this pattern, you will harvest what you want to harvest. One should always remember that we are not manipulators in plants’ growth but simply witnesses---let nature take its course.” Said Liu Fan.
As the saying goes “All is not gold that glitters, but gold will glitter forever”, the lovely flowers are born to be appreciated, so too is the warm and sweet garden room. Luo Jia Garden Room has been forging ahead on its way to business success. To achieve this, their first attempt was to set up a WeChat shop with a beautiful name, You Shi, and selling various flowers and several combination options. In fact, orders are already on the way. And in order to meet customer demand in a timely fashion, they also buy flowers from other trustworthy flower fairs, in addition to selling flowers grown directly in Luo Jia.
Enjoying a sweet afternoon at Luo Jia Garden Room
As the demand for flowers grew, the demand for staff at the garden did too. Recruiting volunteers became their second ambition. Although many students signed up at first, few of them stayed due to the repetitive and grinding nature of the gardening work. Nonetheless, during this process, the team was slowly built up. For example, Yang Yingjiao, a graduate from WHU School of Urban Design, joined this team without hesitation. She was really good at handcrafting with flowers. And Wang Xinyi, a junior student of WHU Law School, became the volunteer photographer in the team.
This creative little garden room started attracting more and more attention. Some students put forward the idea to rent the venue out for class gatherings, special events or just a leisure afternoon of sun and flower gazing with several friends. The team was motivated by this warm response, and became even more dedicated to making guests’ visits more comfortable and enjoyable. For instance, they would provide aromatic flowers to create a sweet atmosphere. And instead of charging the rental fee, they chose to encourage customers to buy the flowers they provided or buy complementary products related to the brand Luo Jia. “We want to sell our brand culture, and we hope that everyone who visit us once will always remember us. What we really want to do is not just straight business; we are striving to cultivate a warm relationship with everyone who discovers and trusts us. We firmly believe that everyone can be his/her own life-designer and we are willing to offer our help.” Yan Xiu explained the slogan of Luo Jia determinedly.
Inspired by this, they launched the flower bouquet experience curriculum, which gained much fanfare as soon as the event was publicized on their WeChat Official Account. Although the curriculum was not free, many interested students still signed up. Numerous students acknowledged that they regained a serene and relaxed feeling while taking the courses. Encouraged by this, the team started to offer light meal take-out occasionally, which featured healthy food items usually made up of fruits and vegetables.
Even busily engaged in nurturing both the plants and the brand culture, this team never forgets to contribute their parts towards the welfare of the community. With support of the local government in Jiang’an District, they held regular free gardening courses for teenagers aging from 7 to 14 years old. “The fund we received from the government is very limited, and we need a considerable sum to host the teaching events.” Yan Xiu introduced to us, “So everyone attending is required to buy their own supplies at a very low price, like 5 or 10 RMB, which accounts for only a very small portion of the whole expenditure. So, actually, we are doing this with no profits.”
Liu Fan is teaching the children to grow succulents
In terms of future plans for the team and Luo Jia, Liu Fan seemed to be full of confidence: “Besides the horticulture and light meal take-out, we are also growing vegetables. Theoretically, we are planning to expand our range of services to include the design and decoration of weddings and banquets; in addition indoor landscape design even villa and garden design in the future --- soft decoration in a word.” Yan Xiu added: “Now, we are not capable of making the ends meet. We hope to nurture our brand culture by broadening and strengthening our business. We believe our youthful spirit would succeed. We believe in following our dream rather than material gains. We believe in the new, green, modern ideas of environmentally conscious design. We believe we can make this city better. We believe that everyone can be his/her own life-designer!”
The light meal the team is devoted on
Touching a subtle leaf, sniffing a blooming flower, enjoying a cup of coffee and bathing in the warming sun, you can achieve all this without going outside, as long as you have a roof garden. With the fast pace of urbanization, the idea of combining green agriculture with the three-dimensional afforestation of the city merits our attention. Luo Jia is just such a team, made up of people who want to help citizens realize an environmentally conscious design for their home by cultivating Luo Jia Garden Room as an example, and do good for the city’s overall development and its citizens’ living quality. All in all, as Liu Fan concluded, they are afraid of nothing because we have diligence, determination and patience. The future is waiting for Luo Jia, just like a young flower waiting to show us its full bloom.
L&F Be Your Own Life-designer
(Photo by Wang Xinyi, edited by Liu Jiachen, Wu Siying, Edmund Wai Man Lai & Hu Sijia)