From farms and fishermen to life in the city, growing up in Shanghai presented challenges for one family man. Later, moving to Dongguan meant introducing something new, in both business and pleasure.
When Mattia Cascino was just 14 years old, his father decided to move his family and trading business from Italy to Shanghai for a better quality of life. 12 years later, their f&b business is booming and they have even now recently extended to Dongguan. In the beginning stage however, things were not easy as the market was small and difficult. Luckily it has expanded and grown over the years. The business was importing flour and of course the Shanghai-based company relied on this trade, so when there was an unpredicted disastrous issue a long time ago, the family really suffered the consequences. Mattia’s family had to work hard to fight back for lost sales, money and connections, and restore the foundations his father had built. Even though he was just a teenage boy at the time, Mattia took it upon himself to ask his father what he could do to help save their family business and keep everyone together. I believe it was probably at this point, that he stepped into his true self and took on a greater purpose.
“When we first arrived in 2006, our father gave me and my sister a choice: either we were to attend an international school, cost him a load of money and not learn any Chinese, or attend a local high school, save him a load of money and actually learn Chinese! So of course, we chose the second. We were the only foreigners in the school and it was a good six months before we began to understand the language and how things worked in China.” Mattia commented. Subsequently, he attended university and dedicated his efforts to the family business. His sister also works for the family business operating in Shanghai. It was clear to me that Mattia has a strong work ethic and family values. Interestingly, he revealed that later down the line, his father asked him and his sister if they would like him to sell the business for retirement, meaning that the siblings would share some hefty profits—or whether they would like to help run the companies and continue to grow more established. Quite an offer, right? Remarkably, again they chose the latter.
Despite his understanding of the passing of Dongguan’s “golden years,” and the tough market, Mattia believes that to survive in this industry, and in Dongguan’s way of life in general the ultimate answer is “to have patience.”
Having now worked with his father for 10 years, Mattia operates and manages the Cascino Trading Company—one of the family’s trio of companies under the family name—a leading food and beverage distribution company that sells imported and local products all over China. Cascino operates with many esteemed partners and businesses such as hotels, restaurants and more. With a catalogue containing around 3,000 products, a large range of these are imported from Italy of course, but many items are also sourced from other countries. It was only in March that Mattia moved to Houjie, Dongguan to initiate an exciting new Guangdong project, his first company outside of Shanghai.
He revealed, “There is much more competition in this industry now. However of course we have been doing this for a long time, we have experience, resources and long-term connections. Until a few years ago we were able to distribute directly from Shanghai to Dongguan, but with changes in the market we decided to open here and this has been my dream for a long time.”
You can only imagine the drastic change of life from fast-paced, urban, over-populated Shanghai to steady, smaller, easy-paced Dongguan. You may even wonder why anyone would prefer Dongguan over Shanghai, but Mattia admitted it was a good change for him. “Growing up in Shanghai was a challenge. It’s beautiful and great for work, but on a personal level it isn’t my kind of city. I come from Sicily which is a small town with farms and fishermen and everyone knows each other. I like to have close relationships, so Dongguan is actually much more suitable to my preferred lifestyle.
“In terms of business, Dongguan is also logistically ideal, being positioned between Guangzhou and Shenzhen, as well as being so close to Hong Kong and Zhuhai and so on. It just made sense to open a business here,” Mattia explained.
From what we discussed, it seems that Cascino’s new initiatives in Dongguan are rapidly increasing and developing into a very large project which is happening right now, excitingly. Despite his understanding of the passing of Dongguan’s “golden years,” and the tough market, Mattia believes that to survive in this industry, and in Dongguan’s way of life in general the ultimate answer is “to have patience.”