I’ve met Loan (Nguyen Thi Cam) at the project-meeting of #YELL2015 about social enterprises in Dong-Thap-Region south of Ho-Chi-Minh-City, Vietnam. She was one of several successfull regional founders who participated in the workshop. People in Vietnam can’t expect any support by the state government to start their own business. Even though Loan is motivated and doing well in her business. So I asked her about her business and how she developed her business model.
What is your business about?
I produce bags, these are eco bags made by recycable material, which is also called non-woven bag or spunbonded non vowen fabric. I buy the in Vietnam. That’s why my brand is called l’eco: www.leco.com.vn. The products you’ll find on this website: www.TuiVaiMoiTruong.com
People in Vietnam and all over the world are using too many one-way-plastic bags. This is bad for nature. I want them to say no to plastic bags and offer well designed bags they can use for a long time.
How did you develop the idea of your business?
I worked 6 years as a manager for a japanese company which produced and distributed these kind of bags. I liked the idea but I wanted to establish my own business with my ideas. I started in December 2013, what my previous boss disliked. But I was always fair and won’t overtake his customers. I started with no money in my home office in Ho-Chi-Minh-City.
Which steps were necessary to develop your idea into a business model?
Before I started my business I’ve passed 3 years college in foreign trade in Ho-Chi-Minh-City. After college I worked for 6 years at the japanese company. At the college I had Mr. Duy as a teacher and he inspired me a lot to start my own business.
When I started I needed to learn more about online marketing. So I attended the cours at BeTraining.org with Mr. Duy, whom you meet in our workshops of YELL-project at Cao Lanh. There I’ve learned to know all important tools and I still visit his courses to learn how to develop my business.
After 4 month I had my first customer and I started to earn money. Now I have 10 customers per month including 3 big partners in Vietnam. And I have my own staff: 5 people to run the office, 10 quality controller as well as my own designer. About 40 people in Ho-Chi-Minh-City-Region are producing the bags in homework. We produce between 200.000 and 300.000 bags now per month. They are not only sold in Vietnam but to clients worldwide. They can brand the bags as they like.
What turned out different than planned?
That was definitely the marketing strategy. The marketing research I did was not well enough. I learned that my customers were very different and I needed to divide them into different groups. For each group I developed another plan and established a special way to reach them.
What did help most when you developed your business?
First of all my family did support me a lot and still does. Also the training with Mr. Duy is very helpful for me not only by providing knowledge but also by motivation.
If you could start today, what would you change?
I would be more active. I would ask more people to support my plans. And of course I would do more marketing research.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to have my own factory with about 200 workers. I would like to train them every day to improve the qualitiy of my product. And I would like to establish my own contacts to Japan, Germany and France with my own trading company.
In Yell Training, I’ve learned a lot about social business. So I decided to do in future training for people with special needs, like deaf people. I will teach them how to sew and make ecobags because it is not difficult to do. I plan to become a social company in the next 3 years.
Thank you Loan and good luck for your business!