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80-cm-tall disabled Vietnamese woman runs thriving business

Tuesday, November 27, 2018, 07:00 GMT+7
80-cm-tall disabled Vietnamese woman runs thriving business
Nguyen Thi Thu Thuong. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A Vietnamese woman of short stature has managed a healthy firm despite her physical disabilities, an achievement that compels admiration from many people.

Nguyen Thi Thu Thuong, weighing 25 kilograms, is unable to stand but can roll on the bed and use her hands to type.

Thuong, 80 centimeters tall, has to sit in a baby wheelchair for mobility and suffers from brittle bone disease. 

But this woman now runs a company of 20 employees who are people with disabilities in Hanoi.

Fifteen years ago, Thuong learned handicraft at the age of 20, creating lampshades from shirt buttons.

A woman caught sight of Thuong’s skillful products shown on the Internet and decided to provide her materials from which she could make items to be sold at her paper filigree shop.

The woman introduced Thuong to quilling within three days, before Thuong learned the art by herself and even showed her younger sister how to create paper filigree designs, Thuong recalled.

Connected with other disabled people over the Internet, Thuong realized they wished to fend for themselves and have employment, as she did.

“That’s why I invited them to learn the trade at my place in two months and then gave them materials so that they could create handicrafts at home,” Thuong said.

She received their products and sold them to market.

In 2013, her dream came true when she opened her own workshop whose workers were people with physical impairment from her hometown in Hanoi.

The atelier evolved into Thuong Thuong Handmade, a company specializing in quilling pictures, handmade greeting cards, jewelry boxes and jewelry items – which are purchased domestically and exported to France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.

Nguyen Thi Thu Thuong’s employees at their workshop in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Thi Thu Thuong’s employees at their workshop in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Thuong receives orders and conducts transaction with customers.

The woman, who did not attend school but was taught literacy by her family and English by college students, can negotiate deals with foreign customers and send via email catalogues she and a disabled artist designed.

As Thuong’s business has been on the upswing, she is planning to open another workshop right in the capital.

She stated her philosophy of business shorthand: sell products with real quality and evoke no customer pity for the disabled.

“If customers have pity, they buy only once. But they have made multiple purchases with us,” Thuong said.

The 35-year-old woman often receives over a dozen morning phone calls for design advice from her workers, who are monthly paid VND2-6 million ($86-$258), depending on their performance.

As Thuong covers their accommodation costs, the salary is enough for the employees to send to families.

Her sister, Nguyen Dieu Nhu, said Thuong is unwavering in her decision, working hard to create jobs for others despite her family’s dissuasion.

Thuong said she could hardly remember how many times her bones had fractured as a result of brittle bone disease.

The latest of such incidents was in August and it took her nearly three months in bed to recover.

She could not have broken bones wrapped by plaster and had to lie in the same posture during the period.

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Thai Xuan / Tuoi Tre News

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