Women in Vietnam are learning to launch businesses and to grow them by attracting new investors and customers.

They have a partner in the U.S. Embassy’s American Center in Hanoi. With local organizing assistance from the Vietnam Women’s Academy and Vietnam Women’s Union (a rights organization), the center offers an intensive five-day course for women entrepreneurs in 16 provinces in northern Vietnam, in towns and cities as well as in remote areas.

The course offers basic training for women at the idea stage who want to launch a first business, as well as information on financing and growth for women already running a business who want to take it to the next level.

Vietnamese women have always worked hard, but some find upward mobility to be elusive. The course, called Startup Smart for Women, aims to help women find that mobility. According to Trang Pham, an American Center staffer, nearly 1,000 aspiring entrepreneurs or early- to mid-career business owners have completed the course since late 2017.

Each five-day course features lectures, case studies and field trips. Participants pitch ideas and share experiences. “At the end of the program, participants met with successful local women entrepreneurs who served as mentors for their projects,” Trang said.

Successful alumnae of the course have taken leadership roles in their communities while sustaining or growing their businesses. Some submitted business plans to the Vietnam Women’s Startup Festival 2019, and several have won prizes at business-idea competitions.

Success stories

Trang cited three women in particular who have taken the course:

Stalks of grass standing in field (© Jianghaistudio/Shutterstock)
Vetiver grass is used to produce incense, which is used every day by many Vietnamese. (© Jianghaistudio/Shutterstock)

Luu Kim Cuc, from Vinh Phuc, produces and markets black garlic as a heart-healthy cooking ingredient. Startup Smart instructors encouraged her to publicize her product more widely and broaden her network of business relationships. She expanded her business production, to more than 30 kilograms of black garlic each month, and plans further expansion.

Hoai Nguyen, from Hanoi, founded a company that provides Vetiver grass for incense production. With Startup Smart training, she learned to better define her customers and markets. She changed her marketing and sales strategy and expanded her network of potential investors.

Ly Thi Nien, from Bac Kan province, created a “home factory” for producing dried noodles, which she sold to restaurants and local families. Through Startup Smart, she learned how to register her brand name and improve her packaging. Demand for her products has soared, allowing her to buy more machines, hire more people, and produce a wider range of goods. Her products are now sold in one of Hanoi’s biggest supermarkets.

Program participants are embracing technology, too — specifically, using smartphones to communicate with customers online, according to Trang.

The American Center plans advanced courses in three provinces for 2020. Participation will be limited to current business owners ready to expand their enterprises. The 2020 courses will also teach successful owners to mentor up-and-coming entrepreneurs.