Apart from coaching jobs, sports stars of Vietnam now also apply their professional knowledge to running successful businesses supplying sports equipment to the next generations of athletes in the country.
Most of the brands have enjoyed instant success on the market, thanks to customers’ faith in the quality of products trusted by national icons in the sport.
A family of ping-pong legends
When it comes to table tennis, hardly is there an athlete in Vietnam who is not familiar with the Mai family, which has produced three generations of ping-long legends for the Southeast Asian country.
Among them is Mai Van Minh, founding father of the Mai’s brand of home-produced ping-pong equipment.
“Everyone in the sport has heard of my family, so I might as well build a brand of sporting equipment named after our own surname,” Minh said.
Mai’s products range from ping-pong balls, rackets and tables, which have become popular among regular table tennis enthusiasts in Vietnam since their introduction roughly one year ago.
“Good quality balls produced by foreign brands can cost VND20,000-40,000 [US$0.88-1.76] each, while we can offer balls of similar quality from only VN5,000 [$0.22],” Minh said.
Thanks to their comparatively cheap price and the help from friends in the business, Mai’s equipment has made its way to table tennis clubs nationwide and is now used even in training by some professional athletes.
Duan the ‘mechanic’
In road bicycle racing, the “king of sprints” Le Van Duan from Ho Chi Minh City has also prepared for himself a path in the business world after retirement from professional cycling.
At the age of 31, Duan knows he is well past his prime and has decided to open a small bike repair shop on Ba Trieu Street in the rural district of Hoc Mon.
|Le Van Duan assembles a racing bicycle for a customer. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
“I used to worry over what I would do for a living after retirement, as all I was ever good at was cycling,” Duan said.
“Luckily, I remembered having picked up some repair techniques during my time observing the mechanic in my team.”
Duan opened his shop in early 2017 from the savings he had put aside throughout his cycling career.
It was a small business at first, but then more customers started to come and eventually the shop grew into a medium-sized store selling all types of cycling equipment apart from repair services.
“Famous as I am, the shop wouldn’t have survived in the business without building on the trust of customers through the quality of our products and services,” Duan said.
World-class badminton player turned business owner
Nguyen Tien Minh, who at his prime in 2013 was ranked fifth in men’s badminton worldwide and won a bronze medal at the World’s Badminton Championships the same year, now runs a sports supply store in Ho Chi Minh City specializing in badminton equipment.
The business, which he runs with his wife, is how they prepare for their life after retirement from a professional sporting career.
“Our main job is still training and competing as athletes, but we have learned a lot from the past one year in the business,” Minh said.
Though the couple entrusts the daily running of their store to a full-time manager, customers to the Tien Minh Sport shop in District 5 are still occasionally treated to a pleasant surprise when finding themselves receiving customer care from Minh himself, whenever the badminton star has free time.