Before going any further, let me introduce myself. My name is Adam Gilbourne. And since 2004 my life has been about helping Australian, UK, American and European businesses import products from China.
If I were to summarise the attitude of the team we’ve built at Easy Imex I would say: we’re a practical, no-nonsense team. We simply do what we say: which is making your life easier when buying products from China.
How Did I End up in China?
I grew up in the Chesterfield UK, before moving to the town of Ballarat in Australia age 10. I’ve travelled all my life. This is probably why as a youngster instead of going straight to uni I travelled the world.
After many travels worldwide I landed in China in the early 2000’s, after getting a job with a large company. I had no idea I would find myself in the midst of a great boom. It was lucky timing. China had recently entered the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and the manufacturing boom which had been going for some time, simply exploded.
I had no plans to stay in China permanently but the opportunities were enormous. And luckily for me, I also met my wife – Jin.
Jin was born and raised in China but has also lived and studied in Europe for many years. She speaks fluent Mandarin, English, German and Shanghainese. The truth is the business couldn’t have happened without Jin and her in-depth local knowledge.
How did I end up importing/exporting in the first place?
I was working for a large company in Shanghai. Quite honestly the work wasn’t as exciting as I liked and I was looking for opportunities.
Curious friends and relatives from back home would ask “Adam, can you get this, Adam can you get that. It’s all made in China – what’s the price there?”
I was curious too. I was in Shanghai in the big city. But where was this stuff actually made? Where were the factories located? Where could you buy directly from the manufacturer?
I set about investigating how this all worked. I travelled hours into the countryside, to factories in the “real China” And by purchasing products from factories myself – I soon discovered an opportunity. An opportunity to help others buy products from Chinese factories more successfully.
The reason for the opportunity was simple. Dealing with Chinese suppliers was truly a nightmare. There’s a variety of reasons why: cultural, language barriers, developing country mindset and more – but the fact was there was a need for someone on the ground to manage these factories.
Because I made a lot of mistakes, it seemed obvious that other businesses would make these mistakes too – which they do. And I was actually in China on the ground!
And so Easy Imex was born. Our job was to make sure a business in Australia, UK or USA could get reliable product supply from China. We would charge a small commission to do this. And our business would only grow with repeat orders.
Just like many small companies, Easy Imex started humbly. In the beginning there was just me.
My first stop was SVA. A Chinese manufacture of flat screen TV’s. Everyone kept asking me if I could buy these in China. Boy this was a long road and I had a long way to go. Actually, at that time, I hadn’t even decided the name of this new company.
Realising that the flat screen TV market was not something for the small time trader, I started looking further afield. I was looking for clothing, electronics, furniture, toys, anything where I could buy product at great prices that I could find a market for!
I needed to get out of the big cities and into the heart of manufacturing in China. So, I asked Jin, my girlfriend at the time, now wife (you know what they say about every great man) to come with me to find these factories.
It was at this time I was talking to Jin about what to call the company, I kept saying to her what we’re going to do, is going to make it much easier for overseas buyers to buy from China, so I want to call the company ‘EASY’ something… Jin came up with ‘Imex’ which stands for import/export and EASY IMEX was born!
From that day onwards, Jin never lets me forget that I did the ‘easy’ bit and she does all the hard work! As the business started I needed Jin’s help more and more to deal with these difficult and often deceptive factory owners.
We grew quite quickly and in the first year took on another 2 account managers to help us out. Then 3, then 4, then 5. Today we have over 30 staff in our Shanghai office and despite the world almost going into a depression in 2008 have managed to keep expanding. Why? Happy customers, simple as that.
As with any business, there are always challenges, yet doing business in China, a country with such a rich and deep history, a country that’s developing, the country that invented ‘Chinese whispers’ can be extremely difficult. Have we made mistakes along the way?
Hell yeah! I spent my first couple of years trying to build Easy Imex quite literally tearing my hair out! I couldn’t accept it when factories told me an outright lie. My blood boiled when they pulled a fast one then denied it to my face.
Truth be told, I’m surprised I didn’t kill someone! For a westerner, the things that these factories would lie about just to screw me over, for $1 extra a unit would make my blood boil!
I’ve climbed a very steep learning curve of doing business in China and I’ve made more than my fair share of mistake to get here.
If you’re dealing with China, everyday as we are, one thing I’ve learnt is that there will ALWAYS be challenges – for the most bizarre and totally unpredictable reasons.
Another thing I’ve also leant is there is no magic formula. These is no system that we can put in place to prevent every problem from coming up. Instead, what I learnt is to shape a company around what I learnt, how to deal with problems the Chinese way, and it’ this combination which gets our members the results they want.
So, that’s our story so far. We have over 30 employees in the company, and we’ve grown rapidly. In the past 7 years we’ve dealt with thousands of factories. And worked with thousands of clients. Everyone from small start ups, to large publicly listed companies.
We simply focus on doing what we set out to do, making life easier for businesses thousands of kilometres away. Helping them get things sorted, which they couldn’t themselves. Or helping those totally new to importing.
We’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings, and I’m now happily settled in Shanghai. As I mentioned, I’ve since married Jin, and together we have a beautiful little baby girl and live happily in Shanghai. I’ve now stopped pulling my hair out, (although as you may have seen, that might be too little too late!
So, I look forward to being YOUR man on the ground in China, and on behalf of myself, and all the team, we look forward to working with you!
I hope this has been a help to you.
Adam, Jin and the rest of the Easy Imex team!
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Adam Gilbourne is the Founder and Managing Director of Easy Imex. Since 2005, he has helped hundreds of companies worldwide to successfully import from China. He has a large expertise on product sourcing, quality assurance, and supply chain management.