|Chen Qingwen: From Yiwu to Global Sales|
Mr. Chen Qingwen is a naturalized Canadian businessman, native of Tianfan Village in the Futian Sub-District of Yiwu. Over the years, he has established Maple Leaf International Business Group, Zhejiang Yida Holding Group Co., Ltd., and served as the president of the Canada-China Chamber of Commerce, director of Zhejiang’s Liaison Office for the Return and Introduction of Overseas Chinese Businessmen, and consultant for the Jinhua Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, among others.
At present, Chen is not only engaged in import and export trade, but is also planning new projects. “I am now planning to establish the “Yiwu City” complex to gather high-quality small commodities from Yiwu to create the Chinese version of Costco.” On September 3, Chen showed the planning map of the “Yiwu City” complex and explained that, having visited many countries, his attachment to Yiwu is indissoluble: while he is still able to do so, he hopes to do something to contribute to the growth of his hometown.
In the early 1980s, forced to make a living, Chen followed his relatives to Jiangxi and undertook the traditional business of Yiwu, trading sugar for feathers. In the first year, Chen made 220 RMB. “Later, I heard from friends that business was good in Yinchuan, Ningxia. I then prepared and hopped on a train to Yinchuan.” Chen set up his stall while carefully observing the products of the state-owned shopping mall. At that time, an electroplated headband in Yinchuan Department Store was very popular, and Chen managed to find a manufacturer in Guangzhou. From Guangzhou, Chen purchased hundreds of headbands and resold them to the merchants in Yiwu. “Luckily, the headband sold very well in Yiwu, too. I could earn 200 RMB per box.” The 23-year-old Chen soon collected 60,000 RMB in his account.
Chen returned to Yiwu and, after a setback, saw a good prospect for the accessories industry. He set up a small workshop in a four-room building in Luozhai, and began to produce tiaras. “In 1991, I bought three two-story buildings on Qiaoxi Street and moved the workshop there. The number of customers increased, and the business became fruitful.” In 1993, Chen registered the company Rowland Ornaments, which became one of the first local accessories companies in Yiwu.
Under Chen’s direction, the company kept on growing, but he got caught in a dilemma because of something his wife said: “My brother was hired by a Canadian TV station. I want to take our daughter to live in Canada.” On one hand were his dearest wife and child, on the other was his career, with all the hard work he had put in for so many years. He eventually made the decision to go along with his wife and child, handing over the company to his cousin and professional managers. In Canada, Chen did not give up his career. In a short time, those living around him knew about the Yiwu native who runs a company that sells Yiwu small accessories.
In 2011, the pilot comprehensive reform of international trade was launched in Yiwu, providing a new platform for the development of import trade. Yiwu was transformed from a domestic range market to a global buyer and seller. In 2013, Chen returned to Yiwu again and was impressed by the rapid development and changes inYiwu. With his partners, he bought a Canadian health care product brand and had it introduced to Yiwu. They also opened a trading space for European and American imported products in the Yiwu Import Commodities City.
Nowadays, Chen’s import and export trade has reached a very stable stage. He has handed over the business to his family to manage and is devoting his efforts to planning the Yiwu City. “I see that the quality of products in the Yiwu market has been improving in recent years, and the variety of models is being updated at a good pace. I want to build a better platform to promote Yiwu products,” Chen claimed that the project investment is expected to be one billion RMB. “I feel that I am still young and still can strive for a few more years, hoping to do something within my power for the development of Yiwu.” (Text and photo by Shi Minwen, translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Mariam Ayad)