RMIT Executive Dean (Academic and Students), Professor Rick Bennett, says Binh’s story is one of exceptional perseverance and ultimate success.
“Binh was inspired at RMIT and set himself a tough goal which he ultimately has succeeded in achieving. He represents the very best of what RMIT has been able to achieve in Vietnam during its 20 years here,” Professor Bennett said.
Binh is the co-founder of Survival Skills Vietnam and SiGen. He says “I received the best career advice at RMIT so I kept pursuing it even when there was no clear path for me. After graduating, my goal was to combine business and social impact into one career before I turned 30, and I achieved it three years before the deadline.”
Binh says he found his love for social impact in student club activities at RMIT.
“At that time, the term ‘social entrepreneurship’ didn't yet exist in Vietnam. But I knew that I wanted to both do well and do good at the same time.”
Despite being clear on his goal, it took Binh quite a few false starts before he found out how he could fulfill his dream. But he was nothing if not determined.
“I tried anything that I stumbled on that might serve a social value, but none of the jobs really met my expectations. I was a government official, a founder of non-profit organisations, a lecturer, a business owner in different sectors like investment, manufacturing, education, environment, marketing. Sometimes, it was exhausting.
“But I had only one goal, I would try until the day I could merge my business background and social impact hobby into one career.”
As Binh dived deeper into social ventures he could see that business knowledge and skills were often lacking in the not-for-profit sector which relied heavily on donations – and therefore those operations often failed.
“At that time, my father and I were working on an innovation that solved mosquito-borne diseases caused by the sewerage system. I was also working as a volunteer in the Survival Skills Vietnam project which tried to reduce deaths and injuries in Vietnam through first aid education. Both projects faced difficulties in generating income and in commercialising the product.
“One day in a first aid workshop, there was a high school student who had lost his dad two months earlier. His heart stopped beating and nobody in his family knew how to do first aid, so when the ambulance arrived, he had already passed away. The boy told me: ‘If I had known first aid two months ago, my dad would not have died.’
“My immediate thought at that time was, ‘If I don’t do something, if these projects can’t last, someone else will have to witness their family members, or their friends die. I don’t want to see another kid watching his dad die helplessly.’
“I could just walk away and come back to my office the next day pretending I never met the kid. But it would haunt me for the rest of my life if I refused to do something that could save someone. So I decided to turn the two projects into two businesses.”
Survival Skills Vietnam, has a commercial and a non-profit program which has provided first aid education to more than 32,000 people.
Binh says, “We are the only company in Vietnam to provide regular non-profit first aid education programs and the only one to offer a great portfolio of digital education. We want to make sure that everyone can access first aid education, whether they can afford our product or not, so that if someone has an accident, there’s always someone ready to help.”
Binh’s message to current and future RMIT students is, “You can only live through your 20s once. I am now 30, and every time I look back, I am always happy to have my 20s full of memories and adventures. What you will regret is not doing something when you have the chance, rather than the failure of doing it. Nobody will remember your failures, and failures will give you lots of valuable memories and lessons.”
“As stated in one of RMIT's values, when each of us contributes our part, we can make the world a better place. I myself have been seeking to make a positive impact since I was a student. And I will continue to do so and empower others to achieve great things together.”
Story: Sue Nelson