LINDY CHEN: CHINA DIRECT SOURCING

Written on the 11 February 2011

LINDY CHEN: CHINA DIRECT SOURCING

Lindy Chen came to Australia for love but founded an international trade business instead, helping local companies to understand their options when importing from her homeland.

"When I first arrived in Australia it was mainly following my Australian boyfriend who I met in China, to follow the love of my life, but when we came to Brisbane it didn't work out,"
says Chen.

"I was heartbroken, all my family were in China, I was in a difficult situation, jobless, I had no friends, no real place to stay and all I had was a $49 USB stick.

"I really wanted a business and I had the support of the NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme) program from the Federal Government. I could print proposals for 20 cents per page and check emails in the internet cafe for a couple of hours at $2 per hour."

Her low-cost approach also meant booking 15-minute time slots for the internet in public libraries, to implement her business plan and arrange meetings with potential clients.

"When I first started I had a business plan and for six weeks I researched the Chinese market and the large demand for Chinese businesses, as manufacturing is going from strength to strength," she says.

"But small-to-medium businesses don't know where to start. They want to get on the China train but they have a fear because China is like a mine field.

"At the time I didn't think of anything, I was just really driven. You might think it's funny, but at the time I wanted to break up with my boyfriend because he had an affair and all I wanted to do was make more money than him."

Chen now has 400 customers on her books including Merlo Coffee, MiniMovers and Apollo Motorhomes. Goods include fabrics, furnishings, steel and household products.

"I feel really rewarded when I see customers' dreams fulfilled. We have the big ones like MiniMovers and Apollo Motorhomes, but there are a lot of smaller businesses, mums and dads and a lot of women with visions to make something, that I can help put into practice," she says.

"I have 30,000 suppliers on my database and for any client project I'll look at 30 suppliers in that category to find the best one and come back with a supply summary report and analysis for the client."

Chen is also involved on the speaking circuit to educate people about the benefits and pitfalls of Chinese imports and has spoken to 1258 people so far this year.

It's a long way from her upbringing in the southern province of Guizhou, having studied mathematics at university in the northern city of Changchun.

The first book she read in Australia was The Tax Payers Guide and she tried bargaining with a checkout operator on her first Woolworths visit.

"The town I was born in is called Guiyang, which means 'expensive sun', because there's not much and it's very rare that's why I love Brisbane," she says.

For a full profile list on Brisbane's 2010 Young Entrepreneurs, including interviews with all of the finalists, get a copy of the special annual edition of Brisbane Business News out now in more than 500 greater Brisbane newsagents.


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