In a 60 sq ft shop off Tianhe Nan Yi Lu, under a single lightbulb, Guangzhou native Yu Wei Chao works at a craft that is fast dying out. Mr Yu, 50, is one of the few remaining craftsmen in the city to make leather shoes by hand. While they may not be the stuff of Prada or Gucci, they are made to fit and are likely to last longer than something ready-made. For five years, Mr Yu has been earning a living from a skill he learned as a youngster from his late father, who made leather shoes for most of his 80 years. 'I learned how to do this when I was about 10. This was passed on to me from my father,' said Mr Yu, whose clients are mostly middle-aged women. 'Most are repeat customers. They keep coming back because they know me and they like my work.' Mr Yu chose his current trade from economic necessity after being laid off from one of the city's largest textile factories. Left without a job, he turned to the only other skill he knew - shoemaking. 'You have to make money somehow,' said Mr Yu, who works alone without heat or air-conditioning. 'But this business is hard.' Mr Yu's work ranges from dancing shoes, to boots and men's dress shoes. He chooses all his own materials - the leather, laces and soles - from local wholesale suppliers. For about 100 to 200 yuan a pair, he can produce shoes made to fit. 'Making the shoes is no problem,' he says. 'It's selling them that's hard.' His business depends entirely on word-of-mouth. He does not advertise and his shop's location does not draw a lot of attention, especially as it lies in the shadow of the area's gargantuan shopping mall, Teem Plaza, which contains dozens of shoe stores. Like so many middle-aged people in Guangzhou, Mr Yu has had to deal with the changing economic climate as it morphs from a state-owned to a free-market economy. Unfortunately, Mr Yu and his peers have little knowledge or experience of how to survive in such a competitive business environment. Perhaps this is a situation where the young can teach the old. Local learning establishments with business programmes, like Zhongshan University and Jinan University, would do well to give credit to students who can help people like Mr Yu do some marketing. The local government can encourage this by offering tax incentives or financial aid to students and schools that offer such programmes, which would benefit the local economy and its citizens.