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Asia's Best Young Entrepreneur 2009: The Winner

Carlos Moncayo, 28, grew up in Ecuador, went to law school in the U.S., and studied Mandarin in China before starting ASIAM, which makes garment-industry transactions between the West and China easy and secure

In September, BusinessWeek gave readers the chance to vote in our annual poll to identify the best young entrepreneur in Asia. Our reader's choice is a good example of the global scope of some Asian startups: Carlos Moncayo, 28, grew up in Ecuador, went to law school in the U.S., and studied Mandarin in China before starting his company. Moncayo is co-founder and CEO of ASIAM, a Shanghai-based offshore-manufacturing management company that specializes in the garment industry. ASIAM provides a competitive edge to private clothing brands in Latin America, which compete with big corporations in their respective local markets.

Moncayo studied law at Pontifical University in Quito. After finishing his fourth year of law school, he enrolled at Willamette University Law School in the U.S. as an exchange student. While he was there, he became interested in Chinese law, and Professor James Nafziger offered him a full scholarship to participate in a two-month Chinese law program in Shanghai. "I did not know anyone in China, nor did I know a single word of Mandarin," recalls Moncayo of his arrival in the country. "I had $400 in my pocket and tons of energy and big dreams."

While enrolled in the Chinese law program, he applied for internships with several foreign law firms. Lehman, Lee & Xu, a Chinese-American law firm, hired him as one of its foreign interns. There he practiced in the international-law division and handled South American clients who conducted business in China. Most of his cases dealt with midsize companies involved in manufacturing or trading disputes relating to defective goods. Those organizations did not have sufficient volume or investment to justify a Chinese office to supervise their orders with Chinese manufacturers, and Moncayo saw good business opportunities on that front. "I wanted to find a better way than judicial processes to resolve and prevent these situations," says Moncayo.

He discussed with his two brothers, Fernando and Luis, the idea of starting an offshore-manufacturing company in China to serve importers. In August 2004 they officially started ASIAM, aiming to facilitate the interaction between buyers and suppliers, reduce problems associated with distance and cultural barriers, and allow international transactions to become as easy and secure as local ones.

a sourcing office for small and midsize clients

The enterprise would select suitable suppliers, coordinate pre-production details, supervise the manufacturing process, and perform pre-shipment inspections. ASIAM's business model provided the same services that big corporations' sourcing offices provide, but "we targeted small and midsize companies [to provide] Latin American companies an effective, easy, and secure method to source from China, and correspondingly, to become more competitive in the global market," says Moncayo.

Although ASIAM initially served clients from various industries, Moncayo realized that "we generated more value for our clients in the garment industry." That's why, since 2007, he decided to focus on more specialized services for leading fashion retailers "that want quality products with quicker delivery." The business has continued to grow, and last year, Moncayo and his brothers also started a new business unit, ASIAM INSPECTOR, which provides merchandise inspection and factory audit services to importers from China.

In 2008, ASIAM handled $29 million on orders from different importers, and during these last five years, the company averaged yearly growth of 112% and helped more than 70 clients import products from more than 300 Chinese factories. ASIAM's main clients are located in Mexico, Spain, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Argentina. Nowadays, Moncayo splits his time between China and South America. Despite his busy schedule, he still finds time to get some additional training: A year ago he was admitted to Shanghai's China Europe International Business School, where this December he will graduate with a diploma in management.

Manuel Baigorri is a reporter for BusinessWeek.

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