Antonio Sena | School Teacher Discovers Global Trade in China

Episode Summary

In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Antonio Sena, a Sales Manager at PingPong Payments discusses how he discovered global trade in China, shares his eCommerce expansion story. PingPong Payments is a global payment processing platform.

 

One difficulty e-commerce entrepreneurs have when they want to take their businesses global is the issue of payment. It can get really tricky to do business in several different currencies with several different bank accounts. Yoni Mazor of PrimeTalk discusses a great solution to this issue with one of the Sales Managers at a global payment processing platform.

 

In today’s episode, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Antonio Sena, a Sales Manager at PingPing Payments, an innovative payment service provider for cross-border e-commerce sellers. PingPong has helped over 600,000 e-commerce sellers since its inception in 2015 to save money on all kinds of cross-border transactions. 

 

Antonio Sena tells listeners about his interesting journey from California to China and back again and how his experiences in e-commerce led him to PingPong Payments. So if you’re in the e-commerce space and want to expand your brand into other countries, then this episode is for you!

 

Learn more at PingPong Payments

 

Learn about GETIDA's Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.

 

Find the Full Transcript Below

Yoni Mazor 0:06

Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of PrimeTalk. Today I'm really excited to have a special guest. I'm having Antonio Sena. He's the sales manager at Ping Pong Payments, which is a global payment processing platform. Anthony, Antonio, right? Or Anthony? What should I call you?

 

Antonio Sena 0:21

Antonio or Tony. Never Anthony. Never Anthony.

 

Yoni Mazor 0:23

Never Anthony. All right. Tony, welcome to the show.

 

Antonio Sena 0:27

Thanks for having me, Yoni. Good to see you again.

 

Yoni Mazor 0:29

Same here, same here. Thank you for having me a few weeks ago at the webinar, I had a blast. A good time. So today's episode is really going to be your episode. It’s going to be the story of you. So you're going to share with us your background. Where'd you grow up? Where did you go to school? Where'd you get educated? When did you begin your professional career and how did you end up in e e-commerce and so forth? So without further ado, let's jump right into it.

 

Antonio Sena 0:54

Alright, well hopefully I don't bore too many people in tears and they’re able to stay awake through my whole life story here. Yeah, no, I was born and raised in California. I’m from Thousand Oaks City, a little bit north of LA. I kind of split my time there and in Culver City growing up.

 

Yoni Mazor 1:09

What’s Culver City famous for? Remind me, it sounds, it rings a strong bell.

 

Antonio Sena 1:13

Now Culver City used to be a kind of a dump but a lot of tech companies have moved there. It's kind of a cheaper version of Silicon Valley.

 

Yoni Mazor 1:20

Ah, Silicon Valley. I got it. Yeah.

 

Antonio Sena 1:23

Yeah, so yeah, I mean, I studied history at UC San Diego with the plans of going to law school and ended up moving to China. Moved to China...

 

Yoni Mazor 1:32

Hold on hold on. What year did you go to school? When’d you graduate?

 

Antonio Sena 1:36

Oh okay. So yeah. All right. I graduated in 2001 from UC San Diego. So they're a very good school. A lot of nerds you know, but right by the beach, but we had some fun schools around so a good combination of hard studying and hard-partying.

 

Yoni Mazor 1:52

The partying part we can probably have a whole episode. But that's a different day. So what did you take in school? Where'd you learn in university?

 

Antonio Sena 2:00

Yeah so I studied history. So I was always really passionate about history. So I kind of focused on American contemporary history. And then I randomly had a minor in modern Chinese history and just cause I had a great professor. I kept taking his classes, and at the end, I'm like, Oh, you qualify for a minor in Chinese history. I said sign me up, I’ll take it!

 

Yoni Mazor 2:18

Sign me up. Yeah, wow. Lemme guess. And that was the beginning of your interest in China?

 

Antonio Sena 2:24

Yeah, sort of, I mean, it kind of piqued my interest more. What really actually got me interested in China, because, I think it was a year or two prior to graduation, China joined the WTO. And my goal was actually post-university was to go to law school. Yeah. WTO the World Trade Organization. Do you know?

 

Yoni Mazor 2:43

Oh WTO. Yeah. Yeah, sorry.

 

Antonio Sena 2:44

Yeah. So China just joined. I wanted to go to law school, I wanted to do entertainment law. And I thought I want to do entertainment law, like kind of focused on Asia. So that's kind of where that kind of happened. But I decided to take a one-year break between law school, move to China, teach English and then come back and go to law school and start my life right? Hadn't really traveled a lot, not from a very wealthy family or anything. So I'd never been outside of the US other than Mexico to see family.

 

Yoni Mazor 3:09

Got it, got it. So 2001 you graduated college and when did you shift into China? Right away?

 

Antonio Sena 3:13

Right away. I moved two months later.

 

Yoni Mazor 3:15

Two months later. And where Mainland China? Hong Kong?

 

Antonio Sena 3:18

I did Hong Kong for one month and then I was in Gwangju. Yeah. Where all the factories are, used to be where all the factories were.

 

Yoni Mazor 3:28

Electronics is there in Shenzhen for, you know, in the Guangdong area, it's heavy loaded with electronics. Even today, as far as I understand it.

 

Antonio Sena 3:34

Yeah, for sure. Guangdong and Shenzhen are heavily electronics. Back when I was there, everything was in Guangdong. I mean Guangdong was like the industrial heartland of China. There are factories everywhere, but like, the real bread and butter where it was there. And that's kind of so I taught English my first year, and I got lucky to be teaching at a school with a lot of kids whose parents own factories. And I was roughly the same age as them. So I started meeting them, meeting their parents. And kind of a bell went off my second year and said, there's a business here, you know, I could work with these Chinese factories and help them sell to Westerners. And then I would look at their catalogs and they would have a mattress next to the refrigerator. But that's probably not what you want to be doing to sell these things. So kind of fair enough doing that helping them fix their English and then move to kind of doing sales for Chinese factories. So I went to the Guangdong or Canton Fair so many times. Hired, I got like a team of translators that worked under me that I would then farm out to people. Yeah, you know, built up a customer base. 

 

Yoni Mazor 4:33

This was your own business? Are you working on the shadow of a big factory?

 

Antonio Sena 4:37

I was my own business. It was kind of...

 

Yoni Mazor 4:39

You said, lemme help these factories and do freelance on this, you know, I have my own agency connecting all these factories, you know, and connecting between the East and the West in the early 2000s.

 

Antonio Sena 4:50

Exactly. It was like I mean, I wish I could say like I'm just a genius and I knew it was happening. It was just kind of dumb luck. Right place, right time. And enough free time on my hands to do things.

 

Yoni Mazor 5:01

In Hebrew, actually, we translate like into three components. We say (Hebrew), which is three letters. So it's the right place at the right time. And you said you said the right things. And you said, I think you said, I think there's an opportunity to help here. Not even to do business or make money. I think I can help you guys. That's because when you're helping you, you're providing value, providing value. And if you do any good one, oh, it probably pays you financially, so it is gonna reward you. So it made sense, right?

 

Antonio Sena 5:25

Yeah, for sure. That's always been an important thing for me. Anything I've done is like, as long as I'm learning and helping the people I'm either selling or working with, I'm doing something positive, like the last thing I want to do is be selling snake oil, and, you know, just doing anything transactional and then running across. So that was actually one of the good things about being in China because you know, a lot of people just didn't have the trust dealing with Chinese factories. So I was able to insert myself and help build a level of trust. And I got to a level of Chinese where I could do business in Chinese. So I was able to go back and forth. I mean, I can't read or write, but I was able to speak Mandarin pretty well. So I was able to be a good intermediary for everyone. So there's a good trust on both sides. So yeah, I mean, this got built pretty well. I did it for about six years. At one point I think I had 22 employees, quality people, and everything. It was, I mean, a very exciting, fun time. But at one point, it was after six years, I realized, no, it's I need to go back to the US, I need to go home. And the real reason was I was standing in line for the bus and an old lady like trying to cut in front of me. And I just kind of threw an elbow. That's what you do when everyone's cutting in line. And I hit it with ….yeah, in China. I hit her with an elbow and I was just like, kid-like, that's not me. I gotta, I gotta, I gotta go home. 

 

Yoni Mazor 6:34

Hold on, hold on. So you said like over there it's so crowded that people really elbow each other no matter who was in front of them or behind them?

 

Antonio Sena 6:39

Yeah, you know, things have gotten a lot different now. But yeah, back then. I mean, if you'd go to McDonald's, there's no such thing as queuing, it was just kind of like 100 people trying to get to a register and just be like... So I would have friends who come over and visit and they would just get so frustrated...

 

Yoni Mazor 6:53

So that basically, that trickled into your ear inside. You said, Okay, let me, I guess, reset myself. Let me suppose. I guess lack a better word. It's a culture shock. After six years, you realize you're in the shock itself. Yeah.

 

Antonio Sena 7:11

Yeah, exactly. I become so immersed. I was, you know, I was thinking, I mean, I was Yeah, I was immersed in everything. Which was lucky because I was able to meet some really good partners, people that I trusted. I had some partners in the business that were Chinese, which also helped move things along. But yeah, all in all, you know, really good experience, which actually kind of parlayed into what I did next, came back to the US joined a company where...

 

Yoni Mazor 7:34

So hold on, now we're touching around 2007? 

 

Antonio Sena 7:38

2007 Yeah. Came back to the US. I joined a company, a man named George Iny, a really cool guy, very smart, had been doing business in Asia since the 70s. So just really all around. I joined him and..

 

Yoni Mazor 7:49

Give a shout out to, what’s his name again, George what?

 

Antonio Sena 7:50

George Iny. I N Y.

 

Yoni Mazor 7:52

I N Y, Iny, okay.

 

Antonio Sena 7:55

Yeah, super interesting guy. Like he was born in India to like one of the last Jewish families in India. They had fled there from Iraq, like his grandparents. Just a really cool story. Moved to Missouri, met an American Jewish lady, married her. Like just stayed here. Just an amazing dude. 

 

Yoni Mazor 8:13

And he's based in Missouri or is he based out of somewhere else?

 

Antonio Sena 8:14

No, he’s in Santa Monica. Yeah, that's what I worked out in Santa Monica with him. But yeah, so we would sell like large projects to say Oakley or someone like that. And then go to Asia, go to China, mostly to like Vietnam and manage those projects. So I mean, just...

 

Yoni Mazor 8:30

Give me some examples of a project for Oakley for example.

 

Antonio Sena 8:33

Yeah, so all of their sunglass towers, so any store you would go into they had these metal black towers which would display on the sunglasses, yeah the store fixtures. We also did..

 

Yoni Mazor 8:43

Was this already Luxottica Oakley? When did it get bought by Luxottica?

 

Antonio Sena 8:47

It was bought by Luxottica, but Oakley, Luxottica kind of runs all those as separate entities. So, Oakley is just based in Irvine, California, we were dealing directly with them, but they were under the umbrella of Luxottica sure, for sure. Yeah, backstory I think the guy was an orphan who started it. It's amazing.

 

Yoni Mazor 9:05

Oh, I didn't know that. You’re a history buff so we're gonna have to discuss that in a different format, but for sure. Yeah, in my car. I have a built-in Oakleys and in my office I have built-in Ray Bans. I think there's been okay with me.

 

Antonio Sena 9:15

Not too shabby. 

 

Yoni Mazor 9:19

Oh, yeah. So okay, so you’re with Iny, you’re doing this type of project in 2007 and...Well, I mean, how long did you do that for?

 

Antonio Sena 9:25

Yeah, I was there with him for almost four and a half years. Really great experience. I mean, really like living on the factory floor. So gave me a really good understanding of like, how things are actually made? You know, so we have tight deadlines, I would sleep on the factory floor sometimes. Right? So.

 

Yoni Mazor 9:38

Wow. Which region in China? So you went to China basically to make sure production gets done, you know, to the brim, especially for these super brands. When you come across them and which area? Same area? Guangdong? All over?

 

Antonio Sena 9:53

Yeah, so we were Guangdong, up there in Shanghai, (other cities in China).

 

Yoni Mazor 9:57

But you were just visiting for the project and you're back in the States? Or you stay towards your HQ at that point?

 

Antonio Sena 10:02

Yeah, headquartered in Santa Monica, but had an apartment there, but I was spending six months, seven months out of the year in China. So I had another apartment in Gwangju just because that's the part of China I had all my friends. So it's like I'm gonna, really I'm gonna have a place where I can have fun on the weekends with friends and then work really hard...

 

Yoni Mazor 10:18

You facilitated yourself for long enough to be, for you to call it your second home, right? For sure.

 

Antonio Sena 10:23

Exactly, exactly.

 

Yoni Mazor 10:24

Alright so, 2011ish is where we're looking right now, what was the next station?

 

Antonio Sena 10:28

2011 you know, the economy wasn't doing great. So I said, Hey, now it's time to do an MBA. You know, I studied history, so I don't really have much of a finance background. You know, I got an engineering course from George, did like the soft skills, was good at that, like finance was kind of a mystery to me. So getting an MBA actually, instead of doing something traditional. I moved to Spain and did it in a school called IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. You know, amazing school...

 

Yoni Mazor 10:52

How’d you find that? How did it come into your life this opportunity?

 

Antonio Sena 10:55

A good buddy of mine was getting his Ph.D. at USC and he's like, Hey, I just had a presentation from this school in Spain. I think you should check out they were ranked I think number eight or nine in the world at the time..

 

Yoni Mazor 11:06

You’re saying IE is for international exchange?

 

Antonio Sena 11:08

No, IE is for Instituto de Empresa, but they rebranded to just IE...

 

Yoni Mazor 11:12

Instituto de Empressa is the company just for the English translation.

 

Antonio Sena 11:16

Yeah. Business institute. Yeah so they’re a privately owned MBA program out there and they’re really good.

 

Yoni Mazor 11:23

And you said Madrid was the city?

 

Antonio Sena 11:25

Yep. in Madrid. Yeah. A huge Real Madrid fan. So it's perfect. You know, I’d go see soccer.

 

Yoni Mazor 11:30

And you said this is 2011 so Rinaldo was there already? I assume he was right?

 

Antonio Sena 11:32

Rinaldo was there.

 

Yoni Mazor 11:36

Who else was there? Zidano was there?  When did he retire?

 

Antonio Sena 11:38

Zidano was gone. Pretty much all the Galacticos were gone. It's like Rinaldo, then Marcelo was there, Ramos was still there. Many other guys. But yeah the first game I went to Cassidy was still in goal. In the first game I went to I saw Rinaldo scored a hattrick against Malaga. So it was perfect. 

 

Yoni Mazor 11:56

Amazing, I saw Ronaldo in Brazil. 2014 USA vs Brazil in the World Cup in Manaos. So that's when I saw him, he scored a..he actually helped to score the second goal which tied it 2-2 so. You know, US teams always mean victory.

 

Antonio Sena 12:11

I do a lot of people victories I think.

 

Yoni Mazor 12:14

We're still rooting for them. So okay. Wow, that's far out. So you were there for about a year or two?

 

Antonio Sena 12:20

Yeah, I was there for a year and a half. Oh, it was great. I mean, the Spanish know how to live life, right? I mean, they work to live, they don't live to work. So I mean, it's just great bars. Great food.

 

Yoni Mazor 12:33

And you knew you already knew Spanish from home, I would assume? You have...

 

Antonio Sena 12:36

My Spanish is okay. My grandfather spoke Spanish to me. But my parents didn't speak Spanish. So partly it was one of the reasons also why I went there, I wanted to get my Spanish better.

 

Yoni Mazor 12:43

So your grandfather was from with heritage?

 

Antonio Sena 12:45

He's...my grandfather, actually, both sides of the family are from Mexico. They're from Guadalajara. Actually, my father's side is from New Mexico, for like 10 generations. So pretty, pretty, pretty entrenched there. Yeah. So it was amazing, you know, studied marketing and international business there. Kind of...

 

Yoni Mazor 13:04

It was all in Spanish the studies, correct?

 

Antonio Sena 13:07

No, this was all...My program was in English.

 

Yoni Mazor 13:08

It was in English? Got it, okay. Just for context reasons. Okay, good.

 

Antonio Sena 13:10

Yeah. So actually there's where I kind of started understanding a little more about e-commerce. One of my classmates started the website, Nouveau which is now called talent.com. So I was kinda like sitting behind him as he's watching web traffic going, like, what the hell is this stuff, man? And he showed me like, Oh, this is showing our traffic. And while I was there, they got their first seed investments. I was like, Okay, this is really cool. I don't know if I want to sit behind a computer all my whole life, but it's a really interesting area. So yeah, I started diving into that a bit, took some digital marketing courses, took some stuff that kind of...

 

Yoni Mazor 13:42

Took a while you were there in Spain?

 

Antonio Sena 13:43

Yeah, they had some good professors who were teaching that stuff, though they do think it was interesting. And yeah, I mean, you could tell it was the future because it was also kind of the thing with digital marketing. And e-commerce is if someone tells you, they're an expert, you can just call them a liar. There's no expert, you just try to stay ahead of the curve. And

 

Yoni Mazor 14:01

Yeah, it’s so fluid, so hyper-dynamic. You maybe know your stuff today. But tomorrow is a brand new day.

 

Antonio Sena 14:06

Yeah, especially with Amazon, right? I mean, big changes, though, how they do things and their TLS and everything else by the minute and half the people on Amazon don't know what the hell's going on. So

 

Yoni Mazor 14:15

It's so true. Painfully true. It's so...it grew so fast, so quickly. And there are so many variables that you might be, you know, it's almost like anatomy, you know, a doctor can be an eye doctor special, but he has no idea what's going on with gastro or heart, nothing. Nothing. He’s an expert in one niche, and there are so many other niches, and to really get the hang of it, you need a lot of components to make it all work.

 

Antonio Sena 14:36

Yeah, much like doctors. If you don't constantly study and go to things you're not going to stay upright because just because this is like what they knew about the eyeball three years ago, they probably know twice as much today. 

 

Yoni Mazor 14:47

So true, so much innovation and always innovation because it's connected to science. And e-commerce essentially is in the tech sphere. So as the tech grows and develops, hyperdynamic. So 2012 already we’re heading into right? When you're living in Madrid and What was the next station there?

 

Antonio Sena 15:00

Yeah, so in 2012, I moved to the US and I joined a pre-funded startup, which was a great idea, in theory, a bad idea when you have student loans. So you know, no, no money coming in. So at the same time, I started a consultancy, where I actually started working with some Chinese factories, helped them set up their initial Amazon stores.

 

Yoni Mazor 15:17

Hold on, let's get back. Hold on. So you did two things at the same time?

 

Antonio Sena 15:20

Yeah, two things at the same time. I joined a startup as the director of marketing and sales. So kind of, we were making a television show for China but filmed in the US. So my job was to come up with a promotional plan, as well as sign-on brands who like them do sponsorship and product placement. Really fun, got to build a sales team, got to put all those learnings in the NBA into practice, because, you know, I still help the team with like, pitching investors. So doing some of that financial analysis, learned a bunch from the people around me because half of them were Cambridge MBAs and the other half were movie people. So kind of like real creative as well. So really a fun time. Stay at a house in the Hollywood Hills. So very, very fun to me. 

 

Yoni Mazor 15:58

You were definitely in the right state, you know, or kind of city LA ish. Exactly.

 

Antonio Sena 16:02

Yeah, but it's a really good casting crew. Unfortunately, you know, things didn't pan out. But yeah, I was there for a couple of years. Um, at the same time, yeah, I was doing a consultancy, which lasted I think till 2017. Yeah, I was working for...

 

Yoni Mazor 16:17

So from 2012 until 2017-18. You were running two tracks. There are 2017 writing two tracks. One was consulting which is your own separate gig. Right? But then also the production, the marketing, the marketing for the production?

 

Antonio Sena 16:33

Yeah. That ended in the middle of 2014. Because

 

Yoni Mazor 16:38

That was about a year, two-year stint. And then after that, you were still riding solo on your consultancy?

 

Antonio Sena 16:43

Exactly, exactly. And that was really cool. Because I was working everything from like startups who were, you know, a bunch of engineers that needed help. How do we talk to people? How do we sell our idea? Talking about that, working with a couple of European companies to set up their initial Shopify websites, some companies in China, and help them get going on Amazon. So like, really, at the beginning of the curve there. So it was really...

 

Yoni Mazor 17:05

So it was a mix of e-commerce players, a mix of startup technology, you know, getting funded and jump-starting businesses?

 

Antonio Sena 17:11

 even did some sourcing. So people, because I still have the connection in China. So people would come to me and say, Hey, listen, I'm trying to get this made. Can you introduce me to some people? And luckily, I still had those really good contacts that I trusted. And I'll say, yeah, here's, here's the person, why don't you see if they can help you. So did that as well. And then you know,...

 

Yoni Mazor 17:31

I see that the experience you gathered along the way is it's all about clutching things, you know, make it all connect. Make it all work and spin around and it involves sourcing hard, you know, products and goods, but also the digital space, where you have to make it all cohesive into a marketing or refined marketing message or you clutch it all together. It's today's extremely powerful.

 

Antonio Sena 17:52

It's been fun, a good learning lesson. But I mean, it all comes down to, is excited to learn about new things and then just going after them. Not not the traditional career path, but so far, so good.

 

Yoni Mazor 18:04

Nice. Nice. Yeah. So 2017. What happened there?

 

Antonio Sena 18:06

Yeah. 2017 I ended up joining a company called Noble House Home Furnishings. One of probably the biggest companies you've ever heard of. There were like the top five companies that are selling furniture via Amazon, on Wayfair. When I left them, I was there for two years, when I left them, they were close to half a billion dollars in sales. Like 99.5% e-commerce. Just really, really smart people, really good ownership. Yeah, and we were good because we had the inventory and then we were...

 

Yoni Mazor 18:36

How’d you up there? What was the trigger for you to get there?

 

Antonio Sena 18:38

They were looking for someone to help them grow internationally. So I talked to the person at the time who's the VP of sales and then also the global sales director. And yeah, kind of came in and helped them expand more into Canada and the UK, Germany, little in the Mexico and in...

 

Yoni Mazor 18:53

But when you say expand into those, uh, marketplaces, what, through the Amazon platform or any platform possible?

 

Antonio Sena 19:00

Any platform is possible. So we mostly used Amazon, Wayfair, Walmart, and then we used a couple like Canadian-only sites and a couple of sites that were specifically UK and Germany the auto houses was a big one in the UK so...

 

Yoni Mazor 19:14

So you helped to set up the actual account, the marketplace account, and..?

 

Antonio Sena 19:19

Yeah, did that some of the good settings up 3PLs, you know, working with the bank accounts, which actually kind of helping me now in my current role, knowing how much easier we make things versus how it was used to have to do it, right.

 

Yoni Mazor 19:30

Right. So cross border logistics, cross border payments, cross border taxes, VAT, all these components, you helped them set it all up to penetrate into these markets?

 

Antonio Sena 19:39

Correct. As well as doing...working with our China team to bring in the right products, right? Because we have over 7000 skews in the US. We couldn’t support that in the UK and Canada. Just in furniture, indoor and outdoor. A nice probably 5050 split.

 

Yoni Mazor 19:54

And they run there on their own brands or brands or they..?

 

Antonio Sena 19:58

Yeah, they had many brands and they also do private labels for, you know, for major companies as well. They just had a really strong buying team, really strong operations, and the owner was willing to hold a lot of inventory. Right? So I mean, he would hold, you know, $100 million in inventory and not bat an eye. Because he knows that, he knew that when other people went out of stock, we have it, our we're gonna get better, our organic, you know, listings are gonna go higher, less need for PPC spend because we're the only ones having good, having the product. So yeah, we sold a lot about outdoor stuff...

 

Yoni Mazor 20:31

And that owner is invested exclusively into this, this enterprise or he has other tracks of revenue that allows him to have that liquidity capability where you can sit on inventory, which is sitting on your money?

 

Antonio Sena 20:43

Well, he was a doctor who, you know, he sold a, I think as an early version of like a Kaiser, if you will, and made a mint. And then he got into furniture because he...the woman he married had a business at the time, and then together they just grew it from something I was doing 5-10 million a year to I'm sure they're probably at six or 700 million now. I'm probably having a gangbuster year this year because no one’s shopping in stores.

 

Yoni Mazor 21:07

And they do their own logistics or they utilize FBA or 50/50?

 

Antonio Sena 21:11

Their own logistics. They'll use...they'll utilize...on the Amazon site, they're mostly an Amazon vendor now until I was there we went, we switched from Amazon seller to Amazon vendor. But yeah, with Wayfair, they do kind of a combination, the Castlegate program and then also their own. They want to, he has warehouses in Georgia, and like three or four warehouses in California. Their team is super-efficient. So everyone's saying like, Oh, go to Amazon, go to Wayfair, it'll be cheaper. It was always much more expensive for us because we were really good at what we did on that side of the table. Our ops team was awesome.

 

Yoni Mazor 21:42

Right. I know that North Carolina, I used to live there as a whole scene with furniture. I don't know if you're familiar with that. Tell me a little bit about that. What's the story? 

 

Antonio Sena 21:49

Yeah. So what was the name...It's North? North, something...I can't ever Yeah. North Carolina, but the name of the significant city, and it all falls into my brain is...

 

Yoni Mazor 22:03

I lived in Raleigh, there's Charlotte, there's Wilmington, there's uh...

 

Antonio Sena 22:09

High Point, North Carolina is kind of like, I think it was the hub of American furniture. They used to have the biggest furniture show. I actually started going to High Point under George Iny because we were a furniture company as well. But pretty much everything of recent years has moved to Las Vegas and Atlanta. But people still go to High Point, just not really. It's not very well laid out. Whereas, you know, Las Vegas is all in like three buildings. So it's much easier.

 

Yoni Mazor 22:33

In terms of the trade show? 

 

Antonio Sena 22:34

Yeah,  in terms of the trade show,

 

Yoni Mazor 22:35

Right, but the factories are there? What was the history behind that? If you know, you probably know the history.

 

Antonio Sena 22:40

I'm not 100% sure. I think that's kind of were just a lot of furniture manufacturers in the US started, out of North Carolina, because they have a huge amount of wood availability there. So my assumption is, yeah, that's where early manufacturing furniture...

 

Yoni Mazor 22:53

If we compare the output of, I guess, North Carolina or even the US industry, compared to China in terms of furniture, what's the scale at this point? Would you say?

 

Antonio Sena 23:00

Honestly, I'm not sure, I would probably say it's probably 10 to one. That'd be my guess.

 

Yoni Mazor 23:05

In favor of China? 

 

Antonio Sena 23:07

In the favor of China. And that being said, a lot of the manufacturing in China has moved because of the tariffs, right? And also, with bedroom furniture having anti-dumping. So a lot of the furniture production now is actually in Vietnam and Malaysia, people are getting things out of India now. Even Brazil is kind of coming up with a lot of product. So yeah, I mean, China is less a force in the furniture industry than used to be just because that 25% tariff really, really kind of blew out everyone's margin.

 

Yoni Mazor 23:30

That tariff is from the trade war, the demonstration? The past four years?

 

Antonio Sena 23:35

Yep, exactly. The trade war.

 

Yoni Mazor 23:37

So that's one industry that kind of, you know, depleted itself a little bit from China.

 

Antonio Sena 23:42

Yeah. So I mean, most, most companies went either from like 100%, China to like 20-30-40%, China, and then getting things out of Malaysia, and Vietnam, which is great. I mean, they make great stuff. It's just they're a bit slower. And they're just not as advanced as the Chinese who have been doing it for longer. The other downside aside is like most of the material, I think the fabric and all the upholstery have to come from China. So like you're, they're ordering it shipped from China, then to Malaysia so they can build it and then ship. 

 

Yoni Mazor 24:08

Yeah, they build an unbelievable. Yeah, in China, what did they have in 20-30 years, the ability to build an unbelievable infrastructure for the world, to create almost anything you can imagine quickly, affordably, and boom, it's lightning speed. And now if the world wants to divest from China, or the manufacturer, or the brands of the world, they want to divest their manufacturing to the world, it's gonna take another 10-20 years to build their cross nations. They might have to do it anyways. Because COVID taught the world that it's not about which country or which nation has everything. It's more about that if you have to diversify, because, you know, there's something that happens, and one nation gets affected and you're fully invested there, you go, you're, you're in trouble. You're businesses. So you have to, and this is a big, big lesson for the modern world. And I really, really wonder how this is going to play out in the next 10 or 20 years.

 

Antonio Sena 24:57

Yeah I mean, I think in my current role, I talk to a lot of Amazon sellers, and a lot of e-commerce and sellers, and, you know, more than half of them have told me like this year is, you know, we're not selling in Canada anymore, we're not doing the UK anymore, why? We can't get the product, you know, we can get barely enough product to handle our US business. So we're pulling out of everywhere else because things are starting to get better. But even now, you know, some of the spikes that happened in Europe had hurt people's production. So yeah, I mean, you're right. People have...

 

Yoni Mazor 25:24

Global sourcing. This has been so disruptive, and it's gonna create new patterns or new logic of how to do things as a precautionary element. I think the world did great with China and I have nothing against China, I was their plenty of times, and I have much admiration and just on a business level. If you build something so strong, so robust, and it gets caught off guard just like that because you're so centralized in one location, you pay heavy, you get you to go from 100 million to zero, overnight. And that can be extremely risky. So to hedge, they're gonna have to change the mindset.

 

Antonio Sena 26:00

It'll be interesting to see like, in a couple of years when like, they look back on this year, and last year, how many companies went out of business, either due to the tariff spike and not being able to change where they're getting things manufactured. And then with COVID, coming on, so interesting to see how many companies weren't able to make that jump, and also the different sizes of companies that, you know, I'm sure there were some bigger players that went kaput because they just couldn't pivot and weren't nimble enough to make the moves fast enough.

 

Yoni Mazor 26:26

Yeah, I wonder how this is gonna affect also up and coming, you know, I guess sourcing countries such as Vietnam, or India, or Asia, for North Korea, will ever open up, you know, this has so much more to offer in terms of, you know, sourcing. And I wonder if these countries will be able to group together and create some sort of a trade area, where they could just expand that every morning and affect the lives of more people, hopefully, positively, and grow more middle classes there as well.

 

Antonio Sena 26:55

Yeah, no, I agree. I mean, I know, there's also there's always been long talk, a lot of talk of like, a Southeast Asian trade pact, or some sort of, you know, kind of like, you know, where we hear something similar, like when they have a free trade zone together, where then they can then use that to have A- a bigger market size for importing, but also help better their exports. I mean, it's been a couple of years since I've really looked into it. But yeah, maybe interesting to see if something happens, because, you know, Singapore is a small place, but a lot of smart business people in Malaysia right there with, you know, a lot of a young population, a lot of lands, and then the ability to build.

 

Yoni Mazor 27:30

I wonder if China will, I would assume that the United States is affecting, you know, Canada and Mexico. And by being a powerhouse, it just, I guess positively affects the region, hopefully, economically least, will be the effect around China. So we'll see how that plays out. Stay tuned. But what was the next station for you after the furniture company?

 

Antonio Sena 27:54

Yes. So I was there for a couple of years. And then the last couple years, I've kind of been doing a lot of like more contract roles, worked for a couple of different furniture companies, one up in Northern California, one back here in Southern California, kind of just more as a consultant, helping them get...getting their stuff in line, picking all the learnings I learned at Noble House and putting in place there, you know, helping them get there, you know, their supply chain in order, helping figure out promotions better. Noble House made me a really smart person when it came to like margins and promotions. So understanding like people's finance, margin,

 

Yoni Mazor 28:27

KPIs, the finances, everything.

 

Antonio Sena 28:29

Exactly. You know, I've looked at companies where, you know, they're like, Oh, yeah, we're selling 100 million a year. And then like, you dive into, like, you know, you're losing $50 on every sale because your Google Ad spend is out of control. You know it's costing you $500 to acquire a customer. And your average size is 400 bucks for, you know, your retail, your sale. So it's like if you don't have you don't have those numbers in line. I mean, that's what you live and breathe, right? I mean, if you don't know what your actual profit is, and what you're making on those sales, you might as well just go out of business, because you're selling, you're selling 100 Yeah, you're spending 100 and only making 80. You're not in your business. Yeah. Find someone dumb enough to buy.

 

Yoni Mazor 29:08

Yeah, this is what we preach day and night in terms of there's because Amazon, the industry of Amazon, and a lot of the sellers are, you know, they're skyrocketing. And they're going from 100 grand to 400 grand to a million. And as this revenue grows, I think they're growing and making money. But they don't see where the money trickles. And the base at some point, they lose money, it can be either because of the ad spend whatever is a component that they’re overpaying and putting them into a loss. But the thing is, they're okay because they're generating millions of revenue, they think they're or they're, they're millionaires, but they're actually digging a hole to themselves. So it's crucial. You mentioned it with the e-commerce space when you have ad spend by Google as well because you're trying to bring traffic to your dot com website. So Amazon sellers definitely relate to that in terms of, you know, driving traffic to the listing, if you pay on $500 and for every sale and you only generate 300 in revenue and that keeps that you know, and It keeps going on and it's gonna be an issue for you some point. Things will at some point have to be positively influenced with good ROI. And the bottom line says, Yeah, you're making money, you're making a profit, net profit, you can take that money and put it elsewhere or reinvest in the business, but you have that ability, if you don't have the ability, it means that you're either breaking even or losing money, you're gonna have, you're gonna have long term questions for yourself if you want to stay in that space or not.

 

Antonio Sena 30:22

That's why I think it's so cool that you guys provide that free P&L excel sheet. I mean, I think there are so many people that just, you know, they started an Amazon business, but you know, it's their, their side business. And also, they do not necessarily finance people. So, I mean, anyone who utilizes that free tool is.

 

Yoni Mazor 30:39

Yeah basic, basic, basic free tool, just try to put all the numbers together in one file and see if the bottom line says plus or minus, so thanks for bringing that out. So if you're listening to this, you want a free P&L template or profit and loss template, just visit getida.com/profit. Once again, getida.com/profit and you'll be able to download the free tool. So thank you, Tony for that. But okay, so you're doing good, the bottom line, right? But uh, okay, so you're doing, you're still into, I guess, the consulting and in the industry of furniture and e-commerce and helping them I guess, realize the bottom lines? And well, what was the next station for you afterward?

 

Antonio Sena 31:19

So yeah, I joined Ping Pong Global Solutions about three, four months ago. You know, it's really kind of cool. I'm really happy with this role because I'm a sales manager for the San Francisco office. So you have a team, but it's kind of combines everything I love about e-commerce. I mean, I don't, I'm not doing the selling, but I, I get to bring my experience to people that are selling outside of their home markets. So kind of explaining to them like, Hey, listen, you're looking to go to Canada, do you know about GST and HST, but half the time, it's like no idea. So you know, you can, you can not only help people save money on their currency exchanges, but we're also helping them, you know, make smarter business decisions, introducing them to partners. So kind of using that consulting. And I mean, I really like to hear because one of the ethe of the company is we want to be a good partner, we don't want to just be like a transactional person, we want to be part of your business, we want you to look at us and say, Hey, I know you guys don't do this but can you introduce me to someone who can help us here?

 

Yoni Mazor 32:10

But let's go back a little bit and give some context about the Ping Pong table, you know, people might not be familiar with Ping Pong. Tell us a little bit about Ping Pong, what's the function of Ping Pong, and the value and how it all makes sense?

 

Yoni Mazor 32:22

Yeah, so Ping Pong we were founded in 2015, in New York, as a company to help people who are selling mostly on Amazon. But we also work with eBay, Wayfair, and a lot of other websites, helping those who are selling outside of their home market, bringing those currencies back to their home currency, without having to set up bank accounts, brick and mortar bank accounts in all the countries. The company originally focused on Chinese sellers, because Chinese sellers have a very difficult time getting bank accounts in Europe setting up accounts in, you know, in the US, and Canada, etc. So that's really where they hyper-focused. And about two years ago, they opened up the offices that were seriously in California, and in New York to kind of go after sellers in the US and, you know, basically anyone who is selling internationally on Amazon, we can set up virtual bank accounts for them, and then bring those currencies back. And we have one of the best FX rates, we use a mid-market rate. So we're not adding a spread, we're not putting in like, you know, three or 4%. To make some money there, what we do is we have a maximum 1% transaction fee, when the money comes out of our system, I know we'll also allow you to be really flexible with it, right. So if you want to pay if you're selling in Europe, UK, or the greater EU, you need to pay VAT, we can help you pay it back directly. So you don't have to transfer all your money from euro or pound to dollar, then re-send it back. So you're losing money twice, and then you're paying right. You can hold 20% over there and then pay the authorities directly. Same with Canada, you can also move money in Canada. Um, something else that we recently launched struggling with is our supplier pay function. So using your Ping Pong account, you can pay suppliers overseas. One thing we can do is we can help people pay its suppliers in China, which is really cool because you know, all your suppliers are used to being paid in dollars. So they're actually adding in a, anywhere probably the three to 5% or three to 7% to cover their currency exchange, because they're gonna receive it at their bank. Their bank is going to convert it to RMB. So if you can get them to invoice you in CNY RMB you'll see that cost come down. I always tell everyone like make sure you tell the factory that you're expecting to see something come down because they'll actually just do that conversion and then take the extra cash. Yeah, I mean, so we're able to, with no limits, we're able to help people pay in RMB which is really quite exciting. I mean, that's when I joined the company that's what excited me the most because I've never been able to pay someone RMB, it's always paying in dollars via wires. With us everything's trackable, traceable. We do like compliance not only on our customer but on the suppliers making sure that hey that web that you know the company name matches I think account so when you send it over it goes over to a faster but be your for sure to get it to them and it's not like you didn't transpose a wire and finding out in two weeks that hey, but $500,000 payment but they never got it. Oh crap. Now you have to work with the banks and try to trace this thing. And hope that, you know, I'd hope I have another 500 grand that I can send over to them while this is in limbo, which, you know, not many people do. I'm sure we get really excited. We have a good team here. But we have a very strong product team. One thing we’re always doing, constantly doing is talking to, you know, our clients and prospects. And we say like, hey, what else do you need? What can we build in our system that will make your lives easier? Now, with the Ping Pong system, it’s super easy to use, it's user-friendly, you can manage everything in the same place, we also can build out some cool reports. So if you're receiving money from multiple countries, get some cool reports, some cool graphs showing them compared to each other, both as line graphs and also as pie charts. So there are a couple of really nice things. So yeah, I mean, I'm really, really happy with what we're doing. And well, you know, we're kind of been hit a bit by COVID. Because we're not able to go to all the trade shows and get in front of people. So we're doing a lot more cold calling, reaching out. You're trying to do podcasts like yours doing our own podcasts, we're going to the Prosper Show coming up, yeah, just trying to help get our name out there. And, you know, build up that trust with the people because one thing we pride ourselves in our customer service, no, we, if you come on to us, you'll have either myself or someone on my team or my counterpart in LA, that you can call directly. It's not like putting your name in a queue and saying, Man, I hope they get back to me because I need to make sure I get my money. Like you can call our cell phone, you can email us and you can yell at us directly.

 

Yoni Mazor 36:23

That always sells. Very good. Okay, so your role obviously is pretty clear. Sales and marketing and the growth of the whole enterprise and I think you probably bring a lot to the table with your, you know, 20 years of experience through so much, so many components and in trade, and cross border trade, and marketing, digital marketing, consulting. I think you're in a good spot because e-commerce is just in the middle of a revolution. Historical ties, we're gonna look a few years from now, right now e-commerce is about what 15% out of whole retail, you know, we can bet our life that is going to grow to 16-17-20-25-30, who knows how far is gonna go? So it's good, so if anybody listening to this, and you're selling, and you're in that space, so you're in a good spot as well. Okay, so, thank you for the Oh, you know, sharing the whole story so far, let's try to do a quick recap to make sure we have it all locked down. Right? 2001 graduated, right? Then bounced into China for about six years, you know, it started teaching, you know, the local Chinese but quickly realized that China's in the middle of a revolution becoming a global powerhouse for manufacturing. So you opened up a consulting to bridge between the East and the West, then 2007 ish, you know, culture effect, you said I got it, you know, I need the taste of home and somehow mix between China and the US, but base yourself in us. So you partnered or entered into the Iny, right? George Iny’s organization. Did that for about four or five years? There we go. And then you said the time for me to educate, you know, put a bit more focus on education, do an MBA, hit up Spain, you know, get a little bit introduction into digital marketing through your friend, right? And then go back to the states and settle with furniture?

 

Antonio Sena 38:10

No, no, it was a startup, the startup space, and had my own consulting company, and then furniture.

 

Yoni Mazor 38:16

Got it. Right. So yeah, the two tracks. So for two years, we were doing two tracks and then kept with your own track with consulting, then into the furniture up to about a few months ago, hit the Ping Pong Payments, you know, enter hard into the e-commerce world and especially the Amazon, global Amazon expansion, helping many sellers with that. Awesome crazy ride. 

 

Antonio Sena 38:39

Yeah crazy ride, and well-rounded, non-traditional, completely asinine. I don't know. One of those things.

 

Yoni Mazor 38:43

That's the only way to go. It just, you know, you wrote your own story in it so far. It sounds impressive. So we wish you much more success as you go along. So now we're going to close up the episode with two components. The first one will be, you know, give a handoff to the listeners if they want to reach out to you, contact you, and network with you. Where can they find you? And the last thing will be what is your I guess your message of hope or inspirations for you know, entrepreneurs listening out there?

 

Antonio Sena 39:08

Yeah, so I mean, you can go to our website, which is USA dot Ping Pongx.com. You can reach me via email at Antonio.s (s as in Sam) at Ping Pongx.us You can find me on LinkedIn. I'm Antonio M Sena. I'm not very difficult to stick out, the big smiley guy with a beard. And I think in words of advice for entrepreneurs is I mean, don't feel you need to know everything. And don't be afraid to say I don't know. Like there are smarter people out there. People generally want to help you. I mean, I think people like helping other people. So don't be afraid to ask for advice. And just because you don't know everything that might happen. Just still jump in and keep that nose to the grindstone. I think that's gonna cause success.

 

Yoni Mazor 39:51

I think it's a major key to success. Stay curious and you just keep on asking the questions until you find all the answers that you have or make you confident enough to make your move successfully. And take it from there and keep growing. Awesome. So Tony, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure, much success as you go along. So, hopefully, everybody will have a good Q4 listening to this and a successful rest of 2020. Until next time, take care everybody.

 

Antonio Sena 40:17 

Thank you, Yoni. Pleasure.

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