At just 25 years old, Huynh Duc Tai is raking in billions of Vietnamese dong (VND1 billion = US$42,900) thanks to his lucrative orchid business in the central province of Quang Nam.
Life was never easy for Tai.
After just one year of high school, his family asked him to drop out in order to help earn extra cash to make ends meet.
A few years later, he began his two-year mandatory military draft before jumping back into the job market in 2016 to help support his family.
During this time, he developed a strong sense of independence which he says was first ingrained in him due to his parents' constant absence during his childhood.
A big dream
Tai eventually landed jobs as a trucker and an excavator operator and began to save up a little bit of cash. He never guessed that these jobs would lead him to founding one of Vietnam’s most successful flower businesses.
“When I was a trucker, I used to see people selling wild orchids on the side of the road. I bought some and took them home with me. Soon they became my passion,” Tai said, adding that he even built a small orchid garden on the balcony attached to his rented room.
As he saw demand for wild orchids grow, Tai realized that he could turn his well-kept garden into a full-fledged business and, in mid-2017, he decided to buy a 100-square-meter plot of land in Tam Ky City, the capital of Quang Nam, where he could cultivate many breeds of orchid.
“The idea of an orchid business popped into my head when I saw how lucrative the market could be,” Tai remarked.
As his business grew, so did his need for space. He then returned to Quang Nam's Tien Phuoc District, his hometown, and began planting orchids on his grandfather’s 1,000-square-meter lot.
Though his operation began with selling cloned orchids, he later began venturing into forests to find seedlings and was able to transform his project into a stacked collection of orchid species.
In fact, his operation was growing so quickly that he even recruited two of his relatives to help him.
“After I graduated from college, Tai offered me a job in his garden. He is truly determined to meet his goal,” Huynh Duc Trung, Tai’s cousin and employee, said.
New breeds of orchid
Toward the end of 2018, Tai began to notice a surge in interest for mutation of the Dendrobium orchid variety. A pot of Dendrobium orchids can sell for anywhere between a few hundred million to a few billion Vietnamese dong.
Hoping to capitalize on the Dendrobium trend, Tai borrowed VND300 million ($12,900) from relatives and the bank and began to invest in the niche, spending the money on a shelving system and keiki seedlings — plantlets grown asexually from the buds of an orchid cane.
“Each keiki is only a few centimeters long but can cost up to VND10 million [$430]. I was so worried while I was taking care of them because if they died, my money would be all gone,” Tai said.
Growing orchids required diligence and attention to detail in order to ensure that the plants are farmed with the correct posture, strong leaves, and exuberant flowers.
Occasionally the orchids can catch diseases and growers need to be aware of how to cure them.
Tai’s lack of hands-on knowledge of tending to these types of flowers led to several of his early plants dying. Those losses forced him to seek out help and knowledge from nurseries around the country. The lessons he learned became the fuel for his success.
“I learned that snails in potting soil can climb up and eat the leaves at night-time, so I had to stay up all night to catch them. Caring for orchids really is a lot of work,” Tai said.
After his first ten pots of orchids were successfully grown, Tai moved on to selling orchid keikis.
Using the profit from the keikis as a stepping stone, he began to branch out into more premium strains of orchid. That money allowed him to grow his inventory to 500 pots of mutated orchids collectively worth approximately VND5 billion ($215,000).
Tai’s operation has helped him earn billions of Vietnamese dong since 2019, most of which has been reinvested into the procurement of new seedlings, scaling up his production, and installing a two-story shelf system, as well as irrigation and security.
Tai’s botanical garden has gained reputation within the orchid horticulture community as a trusted, partnership-worthy destination for orchid trading.
Le Thanh Thu, a 33-year-old orchid connoisseur from the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum, once visited Tai’s garden to buy two orchids.
“I have known Tai for quite a while and have visited his place twice already. I have trust in his earnest, hard-working personality. His products are well cared for, their origins are transparent, and their blooming ability is guaranteed. All of these things have helped Tai make a name for himself in the orchid community,” Thu said.
This year, Tai founded Vuon Lan Rung (Wild Orchid Garden), an entity dedicated to orchid trade and horticulture fostering. The company now employs 12 local workers.
“Tai treats us well and gives us Tet [Lunar New Year] holiday bonuses on top of our monthly wages,” Chien, a Vuon Lan Rung employee, said.
The rising businessman also runs a YouTube channel with over 42,000 subscribers where he shares tips on orchid horticulture.
“Pursue your passion with diligence and do not give up in the wake of failure. If you try, success will come,” Tai shared.