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Mar 17, 2024 / 11:50

Female owners of creative startups in Hanoi see more opportunities

Women in Hanoi have promoted gender equality and women's empowerment by enriching themselves and the community.

Many women in Hanoi's craft villages have successfully set up businesses making unique products from plants, silk, and available natural materials.

Khuat Thi Tham, a 36-year-old woman in Minh Quang Commune, Ba Vi District, Hanoi, has escaped poverty by growing gac fruit (scientifically known as Momordica cochinchinensis).

Tham married at the age of 20. Her family was classified as a poor household. Her husband works as a construction worker with an income of about VND120,000 (US$5.2) per day. Her first daughter has cerebral palsy. Now 15, she is bedridden and often cries all night, making life very difficult for Tham. She has to stay at home to take care of her daughter. 

Khuat Thi Tham (right) and her older sister pick Momordica cochinchinensis, the fruit used to make lipstick, in their garden. Photo courtesy of Tham

Tham believed that the safe fruits and vegetables she grew in her garden were the healthiest option for her child, so she made soup and cakes from the gac fruits. The idea of making lipstick from the fruit struck Tham one winter day when she used the oil from ripe gac fruit to soothe her chapped lips.

Tham set her idea in motion in 2016 after discussing it with her sister, but everything was very difficult at first.

"I tested hundreds of different samples, but they either broke or were too rough on the lips. Then I tried adding vitamin E and beeswax to the lipstick, and I finally succeeded," Tham told The Hanoi Times.

Under the well-established K'Duyen Lipstick brand, Tham and her older sister have made different kinds of lipsticks. Each lip balm sells for VND50,000-VND80,000 ($2.1-$3.4), while the colored lipsticks go for VND120,000 ($5.2). With no added preservatives, the lipsticks can last up to six months once opened.

In 2019, the Hanoi Women's Union launched a competition with the theme "Creative ideas for a start-up", and Tham's lipstick made from gac fruit was selected as one of the 10 most creative products.

"The recognition is a great motivation for me to keep making better lipsticks. For me, the lipsticks are not just a product, but a dream that helps make my life more meaningful," said Tham.

Nguyen Thi Thu, 34, a resident of Khanh Ha Commune in Hanoi's Thuong Tin District, started with a passion for medicinal herbs and a desire to enrich the community in her hometown.

Thu, along with six colleagues, founded the Tam An cooperative in 2017 to make tea from medicinal herbs and grow clean vegetables using organic fertilizer.

"The sources of medicinal plants in Vietnam were abundant and diverse. They were easy to plant and maintain," Thu told The Hanoi Times.

Initially, the cooperative sold the herbs to pharmaceutical companies in Hanoi and neighboring provinces, then invested in a production line to make tea under the Tam An brand.

The cooperative now has more than 1 hectare of medicinal herbs on what used to be a rice field. Tam An tea is now sold in major supermarkets in Hanoi such as Lotte, Aeon, and Vinmart.

The cooperative also grows seasonal vegetables on 1,800 square meters of land using organic fertilizer.

"Organic farming is a sector with great potential, so we are trying our best to take advantage of it," added Thu.

Phan Thi Thuan, Director of Mulberry Company Limited in My Duc District, told The Hanoi Times that the development of handicraft villages helps the district explore and apply new directions in economic development. Tourism combined with the sustainable development of traditional handicraft villages has created a stable source of income for local people. 

Artist Phan Thi Thuan mentors young workers. Photo courtesy of Thuan

Thuan's many products, including high-quality cotton blankets and pillows, are sold in Japan, England, France, Germany, the US, and other countries. This initiative brought Thuan many prestigious awards and her name was listed in the Golden Book of Vietnamese Creativity.

Thuan's initiative is also helping to improve farmers' incomes and has long since become a tourism product, contributing to the economic and tourism development of My Duc District.

With the idea of building a chain of wedding dress and art photography stores, Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy opened a wedding dress store under the VIVIAN brand at 74 Xa Dan Street in Hanoi in 2008. To run the business, Thuy attended the Smart Startup training course for women organized by the Vietnam Women's Academy.

"The course helped me improve my business skills and perfect my services. Since then, we have opened three wedding shops in Dong Da and Cau Giay districts with profits of 30-35%," Thuy told The Hanoi Times.

According to city government statistics, Hanoi has 1,350 handicraft villages and 318 typical traditional villages. Women make up 65% of the total number of workers in these villages.

The women's passion, creativity, and enthusiasm have been accompanied by support from the Hanoi Women's Union and the Vietnam Women's Academy. As a result, many women have made breakthroughs and started successful businesses.

Pham Thi My Hoa, Vice Chairwoman of the Hanoi Women's Union, praised the women's efforts, creativity, and talent. "They have enriched themselves and the community, promoting equality and women's empowerment. The Hanoi Women's Union will continue to create good conditions for women to be independent," Hoa told The Hanoi Times.

To empower women and help them start businesses in rural and difficult areas, the Vietnam Women's Academy has partnered with the American Center and the US Embassy in Vietnam to implement the Smart Startup Training Project for Women. As a result, many students have successfully created and developed their start-up ideas, increasing family income and creating jobs for many local workers.