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Ho Chi Minh City businesswoman empowers the underprivileged

Ho Chi Minh City businesswoman empowers the underprivileged

Thursday, March 24, 2022, 10:01 GMT+7
Ho Chi Minh City businesswoman empowers the underprivileged
Nguyen Thi Anh Thu (right) checks a fashion product. Photo: Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Anh Thu forged her path to success by opening her own fashion brand and making an impact on underprivileged peers and disabled people in the process.

The 32-year-old Ho Chi Minh City resident has been working on one of the most impactful things in her life.

Her fashion brand, LMcation, is a big hit among local users.

The aspiring entrepreneur hopes her brand could reach more customers and her business can provide training and jobs for more of the city’s less unfortunate women and physically challenged people.

Before launching her own firm two years ago, Thu had stable, high-income jobs with multinational companies for ten years.

The financial security of well-paid jobs with the multinationals was not enough to keep the woman from taking a shot at achieving her dreams.

She knew her heart belonged to somewhere else.

Despite being told it was risky to leave the jobs to run her own compnany, especially as the launch came in early 2020, when the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic hit the country, Thu remained undeterred.

With belief in her heart and a mission to empower Vietnamese women, she finally set the company in motion.

Instead of increasing production, distribution, and generating sales and profits like in many conventional business models, Thu chooses to place an emphasis on upskilling her staff, up to 40 percent of whom are underprivileged and disabled women.

The launch of the brand proves a spur for gradual expansion.

Eager to improve the workers’ skills and give them a chance to get involved, Thu is ready to provide them with materials, including satin and high-class silk, tools, and ideas so they can learn the way to get things done and gradually come to match their skills to her brand’s standards. 

Looking back, Thu said she was not always on a sweet journey.

“Until now the road I was taking after quitting the jobs is still considered a rocky one,” Thu said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the country also wore me out, but the challenge toughened me up.”

The aspiring business leader talked about the numerous stumbling blocks she encountered early on including the communication and psychological barriers she found herself struggling with while trying to demonstrate work tasks to her disadvantaged workers.

Keen on doing something impactful for the community, Thu persevered and began to pick up sign language to communicate better with her staff with hearing and speech impairment and read books to gain first-hand insights into the disabled’s psychology.

Almost everyone was convinced Thu was wrong.

“To them, my decision to quit my jobs to run my own company is a shock already,” she admitted.

“They found me teaming up with the disabled community even more unacceptable."

Some advised the woman to get her priorities right and focus on earning money as a social enterprise could come later.

“But that’s not what LMcation is after,” she noted.

Thu shared her patience and tolerance were put to the test at the beginning.

She had to discard hundreds or even thousands of fabric strips just because of sewing flaws.

Nguyen Thi Anh Thu poses with a cloth bag which spreads a message of environmental protection. Photo: Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Anh Thu poses with a cloth bag which spreads a message of environmental protection. Photo: Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre

The woman did not realize the cause until too late.

“Maybe, their inferiority complex with their own bodily defects keeps them from letting others uncover more of their flaws,” Thu said.

“They tended to claim they knew how to do things at first and messed them up shortly later."

Thu’s social enterprise is on a fast track of success.

The woman is using her talent to teach the trade to more of those with special needs and lift the disabled community.

The underprivileged staff at her business rose from only a few in the first place to 16 now.

They earn basic monthly salaries of VND5-7 million (US$219-306), a fair sum by local standards.

As Thu tries to diversify her product line and improve quality, there is an intense public interest and increasing market demand for what her firm is selling and more people are willing to pay for them.

“Whenever I get positive customer feedback, my first thoughts go to the disadvantaged workers,” Thu divulged.

“What I want is seeing them improving their skills and living a rewarding life.”

Thu’s sustainability-conscious business makes use of environmentally friendly materials and spreads a message against utilizing plastic bags within her own company.

Instead of plastic bags, her products are all wrapped in free cloth packaging.

Many even place orders for the multifunctional cloth bags, Thu said.

LMcation items, which have secured a strong foothold on many local electronic trading platforms, are expected to hit international giants including Amazon and Shopee in the Southeast Asian region in six months.

Thu plans to launch a ‘global marketplace’ application in the first quarter of next year to connect with any Vietnamese women who want to sell their fashion items in the global arena.

LMcation made it to the Asian Development Center’s Top 100 Enterprises with positive community impact in 2021.

In February 2022, the brand was also honored among the top 19 innovative businesses with positive social impact at SheDisruptsVietnam Contest, which was jointly organized by Creatella Impact, a New York-based non-profit organization, and Women's Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE) Vietnam, established by the Mekong Private Sector Support Program.

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Ngoc Hanh - Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre News

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