Awaken the ‘start-up’ within

Awaken the ‘start-up’ within

As part of the Women Entrepreneurship Day celebration, three RMIT Vietnam alumni and entrepreneurs inspired students and other women to realise their dreams and show them what it would take to bring those dreams to life.

Using the four dimensions of the entrepreneurial personality explained by bestselling author and business icon Michael Gerber, including the Dreamer, Thinker, Storyteller and Leader, RMIT Alumni Relations Manager Pham Huu Hoang took audiences through inspiring journeys of the co-founder and CEO of tiNiWorld – the first-ever edutainment centre for children, founder and  Business Development Director of Rabity Kids Fashion – a leading childrens’ fashion brand, and founder and CEO of Passii – a sustainable clothing platform. 

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'news-1-awaken-the-start-up-within' (Pictured from left) Co-founder and CEO of tiNiWorld Nguyen Le Chi Mai, founder and CEO of Passii Thu Vu, founder and Business Development Director of Rabity Kids Fashion Tran Hong Hanh, and RMIT Alumni Relations Manager Pham Huu Hoang

From Dreamer and Thinker

Dreaming about a big playground for children her whole childhood, co-founder of tiNiWorld Nguyen Le Chi Mai finally turned it into a business plan thanks to one of her assignments during her time as a Bachelor of Commerce student at RMIT Vietnam.

“I finished the initial version [of the assignment] but never submitted it after my advisor the then my co-founder Mr Thomas Ngo said it is a very potential business idea and I can make it come true,” Ms Mai recalled.  

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'news-2-awaken-the-start-up-within' Ms Nguyen Le Chi Mai (pictured right) shared her journey with students as part of the ‘Women.Building.Businesses’ exhibition.

The duo transformed this business idea into the first-ever edutainment centre concept for children in Vietnam in 2009 after nine months of market research and preparation. From its modest beginnings, tiNiWorld has now grown to a network of over 50 locations nationwide, serving over 10 million customers annually.

Meanwhile, the founder of Rabity Tran Hong Hanh took the opportunity to persuade her parents to transform the 17-year-old manufacturing business – Tan Phu Company into a children’s fashion retailer after graduating from RMIT Vietnam with a Bachelor of Business (Accountancy) when seeing many parents trying to find a trusted local brand selling quality clothes at affordable prices.

“It was when I talked to my colleagues who couldn’t find a trusted local fashion brand for their children while Vietnam ranks among the world leading manufacturing of textile countries, I realised that Vietnamese parents and children deserve more trusted local brands and decided to quit the corporate ladder to join my family business,” Ms Hanh said. 

Initially it was not easy persuading her key stakeholders, aka her parents, but her persistence has taken Rabity into current success with its presence across the country and Cambodia.

The graduate of the Bachelor of Fashion (Merchandising Management) program Thu Vu saw the complicated and unsustainable relationship women had with their clothes, along with the overconsumption and overproduction.

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'news-3-awaken-the-start-up-within' Ms Thu Vu (pictured right) proudly shared the launch of Passii e-commerce site.

Inspired by the co-founder and CEO of thredUp James Reinhart, Thu Vu has successfully created Passii (formerly named as Coco Dressing Room) – a fun and experimental shopping experience and solution where women can exchange clothing and shop second-hand items with a sense of purpose.

“I want women to have a solution, not more products, and after three years with two years passing in the pandemic, today is our very first day of launching an e-commerce site,” Ms Thu excitingly shared.

To Storyteller and Leader

But without a compelling story, no dream could become reality in this world of ordinary people, said Mr Hoang, RMIT Vietnam Alumni Relations Manager.

“It’s interesting that the very first stakeholder I have to tackle in my journey is not my employee, my teammates nor the investors, but my parents,” Business Development Director of Rabity Ms Hanh recalled all the debate and tough conversations that she went through to finally come to a mutual agreement with her parents which resulted in the birth of a new retail brand. There are now nearly 80 Rabity stores across Vietnam and Cambodia. 

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'news-4-awaken-the-start-up-within' Ms Tran Hong Hanh (pictured right) was welcomed back to RMIT to share about her inspiring entrepreneurial journey.

“At that time the manufacturing business of my family was going quite well, that was why my parents were sceptical about my idea of introducing a totally new business model.”

“The lesson I learnt from that experience is with storytelling, the key point is not the story itself, it’s how well you understand your listeners, whether you can speak their language or not, and your ability to prove that your dream can be aligned with their motivation,” Ms Hanh said.

It’s also true to the CEO of tiNiWorld Ms Mai.

“Our biggest challenge is how to convince all the stakeholders [the investors, landlords and staff] to understand, believe and get on board with our business," Ms Mai shared.

Founding tiNiWorld whilst she was still a student meant securing capital was her first key challenge.

“My co-founder put all of his savings into our business and I had to convince my mother to sell our house and move to a smaller one so that we could use part of the money to invest in the business,” she said.

Ms Mai successfully secured her first targeted 500-square-meter location in one of the most expensive and hard-to-rent neighbourhood in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, even though her landlord was reluctant as there was no such concept in Vietnam at that time.

And the thing Ms Mai trained her staff for the launch of tiNiWorld’s first playground was not how to sell tickets but to deliver happy moments and childhood memories for children.

“I cannot explain enough how I felt on that day because after all the hard work to put things together, I finally saw my dream come true,” she said.

And leadership to these inspiring entrepreneurs is about co-existence.

That’s what CEO of Passii Ms Thu learnt from her role model – founder of the clothing brand Patagonia Yvon Chouinard.

“I lead by emotion and I am very impulsive,” Ms Thu said.

“Without seeing and learning from people with strong leadership in my life, including my mother, my staff and other stakeholders, I don’t think I can go this far.”

Business Development Director of Rabity Ms Hanh introduced to audience an interesting concept which has helped her address the challenge of being a female entrepreneur and mother of two – driving harmony instead of work life balance.

“It means that we should identify the key priorities in different aspects of our life. We have work, home, community, and ourselves, and all are connected,” she said.

“For example, I can take several hours from work to attend my daughters’ performance at school and I should not feel guilty because it doesn’t affect badly my work productivity but with a sense of fulfillment as a mother, it could actually boost the productivity as I come back to the office.

“It’s not about dividing your life into four equal parts but knowing your priorities and finding a solution instead of all solutions so that you can fulfill your dream and live a happy life.”

To CEO of tiNiWorld Ms Mai, her philosophy of “Never Give Up” and a business mindset are what have been keeping her going through all ups and downs during the past 13 years.

“I started my business when I was very young and inexperienced. From a growth mindset, I’ve kept learning from my team, partners, co-founder, and new trends,” she said.

“We went through a lot of situations, like nearly facing bankruptcy, but we do not want to think about giving up, what we think about is what to do and how to find a solution to get to the other side.”

Business Development Director of Rabity Ms Hanh advised aspiring entrepreneurs to be fearless but not to be perfect all the time.

“You have the circle of your loved ones who you can share about your dreams and passions, so be your authentic self,” she said.

“You have the most dynamic environment here at RMIT Vietnam so make the most out of it and be yourself.”

Last but not least, CEO of tiNiWorld Ms Mai closed the insightful sharing session with one of her favourite quotes: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live a life that you imagine”.

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'news-5-awaken-the-start-up-within' Participants enjoyed products and services, some of which are founded and led by RMIT alumni, as part of the exhibition ‘Women.Building.Businesses’.

Part of the celebration, the exhibition ‘Women.Building.Businesses’ introduced ten businesses from various industries, some of which are founded and led by RMIT alumni, showcased their innovative and impactful products and services to visitors who also had a chance to explore innovative solutions for sustainable living and versatile designs that are proudly made in Vietnam.

Story: Ha Hoang

05 December 2022

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