Meet four kings of Alibaba's online retail empire

Alibaba's shopping sites account for 80% of online retail in China. Meet four successful merchants.

Kumeijiao

alibaba kumelijalo yarn
Liu's online storefront on Tmall.com.

Liu Yuguo set up on Taobao in 2007 to sell wool yarn after hearing from his uncle that others were turning a profit on the site.

"He told me, 'Why don't you try it? At home, you'll go online anyway,' " Liu said. "At the time I started, I didn't think I could earn any money."

But opening his online shop, Kumeijiao, turned out to be easier than expected -- and he sold out on the first day.

"You don't need much investment or capital, and you can immediately start to make money," he said.

On Taobao, anybody can open up a shop for free and Alibaba doesn't take a commission on sales. Instead, the company charges for advertising and other promotional services.

Liu has added items over the years including wool and cashmere clothing, but his best-selling products remain the spools of yarn.

From humble origins as a farmer, Liu now employs 40 workers and has even opened a second shop on Tmall. Unlike Taobao, Tmall -- which is aimed at drawing in bigger brands -- does charge merchants a listing fee and commission.

After bouncing around from trade to trade before opening Kumeijiao, Liu now plans to stay in the online game. "Year after year, I earn more money," he said. "Of course I'll continue!"

- Last updated May 06 2014 07:39 PM ET