Cai Fengping, born in 1971, is a Wenzhou native and an Italian overseas Chinese. He was formerly the general manager of Xinfeng Cloud Trading in Italy, vice president of Italy Napoli Chinese Chamber of Commerce and vice president of the British “One Belt, One Road” Chamber of Commerce. In 1999, Cai Fengping flew to Yiwu from Italy for investigation and research. He was deeply attracted by this vibrant commercial city and was determined to start his business in Yiwu. Afterwards, Cai Fengping invested in the establishment of Yiwu Fengyi Import and Export Co., Ltd. and served as chairman. In 2018, his enterprise exported more than 50 million US dollars of goods.
Europe is one of the earliest places where Wenzhou merchants developed themselves. In the 1980s, a large number of Wenzhou people went to the west to seek gold. Many of them began to open restaurants and workshops and wrote their own stories of wealth. Yiwu has gathered more than 100,000 Wenzhou merchants and overseas Chinese from Wenzhou to take root and start businesses here. Cai Fengping is one of them.
Cai Fengping’s pioneering experience is typical and inspiring: he left home when he was young, started from nothing in a foreign country and worked hard to accumulate funds. Then he switched from abroad to cross-border operation in Yiwu market with a keen market sense. It is then when his career began to grow geometrically. The story is simple to tell, but the ups and downs behind entrepreneurship may only bear in his heart.
Start from nothing in a foreign country
The economist Zhong Pengrong summed up the spirit of Wenzhou Merchants as four sentences: the spirit of starting from nothing and striving hard; the spirit of relying on one’s own; the pioneering spirit of striving and homing everywhere in the world; the creative spirit of daring to innovate and being good at innovation. The above-mentioned “spirit” is particularly evident in Cai Fengping.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a rush of going abroad swept through China and influenced Cai Fengping, who once ran the leather shoes business in Wenzhou, giving him the idea that “the world is so big, and I want to see it”. In 1990, Cai Fengping gave up his shoes business in Wenzhou and carried his traveling bag westward for gold in Italy. At that time, Yiwu Small Commodity Market was relocated and expanded from Xin Ma Road to Chenzhong Road, with 8503 fixed booths and more than 1500 temporary booths, which has become the largest specialized small commodity wholesale market in China.
When first arrived in Prato, Italy, Cai Fengping, unfamiliar with the city and the people in it, was confronted with a series of difficulties. With the unique business talent of Zhejiang people and his keen observation of the market, Cai Fengping decided to start his own business—-garment processing business. In 1992, Cai Fengping set up a garment processing factory in Prato, and hired more than a dozen Wenzhou compatriots to work in the factory, which put the cause on the right track.
After several years of hard work, Cai Fengping’s garment factory is running better and better, and his clothing is in short supply. However, due to the limits of sites, personnel and other factors, the production capacity of garment factories at that time could not meet the market demand. It was urgent to upgrade the hardware and software facilities and expand the production scale. In 1994, Cai Fengping moved from Prato to Naples, and the factory expanded to 1500 square meters, with workers reached 50. He introduced in more advanced production equipment, and mainly produced pants, shirts and other clothing.
“At that time, the business ran so well. Workers had to work 16 hours a day to make clothing orders, while the supply was still in shortage.” Cai Fengping recalled and still felt exciting at that scene. “Our buyers came from all over Italy. In CISNOLA, the largest wholesale market there, our clothing took a high share. Relying on the local market advantages, sales reached 40 million yuan a year, and my garment factory has become the second largest garment factory in the local Chinese circle.”
In this way, Cai Fengping earned the first barrel of “gold” in Italy. He also gradually extended from the garment processing industry to the wholesale and retail industries. In 1999, Cai Fengping came to Rome from Naples, rented several shops in the largest Chinese market, and started the wholesale and retail business of clothing and underwear. At that time, the Yiwu market, which is thousands of miles away, has gradually shifted from domestic trade to foreign trade, from domestic market to international market, and small commodities with high-quality and low-cost have become famous both at home and abroad.
Grasping opportunities and transform to Yiwu
After the stable development of his enterprise, Cai Fengping is not satisfied with the present status, but seeking opportunities all the time. At this time, Yiwu Small Commodity Market formally attracted his attention. In 1999, Cai Fengping led his Italian friends to Yiwu market for inspection. “In that year, I heard about Yiwu market in Italy, so I had a follow-up visit. The market is full of all kinds of small commodities, with high quality and low price. It almost included everything.” Cai Fengping said that after a few days in Yiwu, he went to the commodity market and Guilin Street, mainly to investigate the production and sales of knitted products such as underwear and seamless underwear, and made market analysis and exploration.
“At that time, the seamless underwear industry had just started in Yiwu market, which had great advantage in price and quality,” Cai Fengping recalled. Through the investigation and research in Yiwu, he initially had the intention of doing international trade in Yiwu. “My idea at that time was to shut down the Italian garment factory and let Yiwu’s factory produce products according to the samples I provided, and then export them to Italy by sea, which would reduce the cost of labor, raw materials and so on.” Cai Fengping is constantly adjusting his thinking, and his business is becoming more and more diversified and professional.
In 2000, after careful consideration, Cai Fengping closed the garment factory in Naples and came to Yiwu to start a new business. He said that his move puzzled his friends, abandoning the Italian garment factory business completely and devoting himself to international trade. “I believe in my judgment. It was one year before China joined the World Trade Organization. And the Yiwu market gradually shifted from domestic trade to foreign trade, from domestic to international. And the opportunity is right at hand.” Cai Fengping said that when he arrived in Yiwu, he found more than a dozen factories to cooperate. From dozens of standard boxes in the first year to more than 200 standard boxes now, the export business of foreign trade has become bigger and bigger. In 2009, Cai Fengping registered Fengyi Import and Export Co., Ltd. in Yiwu.
“Yiwu is a very vibrant city. Many people asked me why I chose Yiwu, such a small city, instead of Italy or other parts of the country.” Cai Fengping told reporters that Yiwu is a city that people do not want to leave when they come. It not only has a speed and efficient government, but also provides 24-hour electronic customs clearance and customs transfer. There are many kinds of supporting policies. Enterprises can develop and grow here.
In February this year, the Management Committee of Yiwu International Trade Comprehensive Reform Pilot Zone was set up officially to start a new journey of “building a bench marking free trade zone, solid pilot zone, providing first-class business environment, and constructing a high-level and high-quality world’s capital of small commodities”. Talking about the great changes in Yiwu in recent years, Cai Fengping used four “more and more” to describe Yiwu: the city is becoming more and more beautiful, more and more internationalized, more and more well-known, and more and more inclusive.
Running business for so many years in Yiwu, Cai Fengping has already regarded Yiwu as his “second home”. Every time he returns to Italy, he will become an obligatory propagandist to promote Yiwu. He constantly invites overseas Chinese from Italy to come to Yiwu for investigation and investment. At the same time, as the executive vice president of the British “One Belt, One Road” Chamber of Commerce, Cai Fengping has also responded to the “drum and shout” of Yiwu’s development in various occasions in Britain.
“I am planning a project recently to build an Overseas Chinese Town or Overseas Chinese Building in Yiwu as a gathering place for overseas Chinese from Europe to invest in Yiwu.” Cai Fengping said, “Yiwu has achieved me, and I want to do my best to contribute to Yiwu.”