It has been tough for micro and small-sized businesses to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic and Truong Foods, a fermented pork company owned by a young female entrepreneur in Hanoi, is no exception.
|Nguyen Thi Hien (first from right) and Le Thi Duc (second from right) at the launching ceremony of Ignite initiative in Hanoi last week. They will be among 50,000 female entrepreneurs in Vietnam to access to specific knowledge and skills on business management and financing tools to develop their companies. — Photo courtesy of Care International|
The company has been hit hard by the pandemic right after starting to recover from a three-year-long pig's blue ear disease crisis.
The prolonged closure of bars and restaurants hit wholesale consumption which was the company’s biggest market.
Nguyen Thi Hien, the 26-year old executive director of Truong Foods, had to switch her marketing strategy from wholesale to retailers through online channels on Facebook and e-commerce platforms.
She took an online marketing course run by experts of the Women’s Initiative for Start-ups and Entrepreneurship (WISE) to learn how to advertise online.
"The course taught me how to run advertisements on Facebook to reach my desired groups of customers. Online marketing tools help me target the right customers and cut down on marketing staff,” Hien said.
Hien is among 50,000 women entrepreneurs in Vietnam benefiting from the 'Ignite' initiative between 2020 and 2022 which offers professional and financial support to women to realise their growth potential and build financial resilience.
|Nguyen Thi Hien is a young female entrepreneur who wants to learn more about online marketing to be able to sell her fermented pork products online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Hien|
The initiative which was launched in late October targets woman entrepreneurs with two to 10 employees in major urban and peri-urban centres of Vietnam who are looking to grow their businesses and hire more staff but lack the right type of financing and need access to knowledge and skills.
Care International, a non-profit international development organisation, and its partners including financial service providers and business accelerators will work to make sure female leaders get access to more opportunities, which will promote their economic empowerment.
Le Thi Duc, who owns an organic mushroom company in central Thanh Hoa Province, will get assistance from Ignite to expand her model in the post-pandemic recovery period.
In 2000, thanks to loans offered by the provincial microfinance fund, she started the business and created jobs for local labourers.
|Le Thi Duc and her organic mushrooms grown at her house in Thanh Hoa Province. Photo courtesy of Duc|
From the experience of a farmer, she understands planting techniques but realises she needs to learn more about employee and financial management if she wants to expand her business.
Tu Thu Hien, CEO of WISE, said women faced a number of challenges when they start businesses because most of them lack business management skills and knowledge. When women want to expand their businesses from micro and small size to medium size, the knowledge holes become more obvious.
Another challenge is getting access to capital. A report conducted by International Finance Corporation, a member of World Bank Group, indicates the gap between the capital demand of small and medium-sized enterprises owned by women and what banks offer has been estimated at VND27 trillion (more than US$1 billion).
Stakeholders of the Ignite multilateral partnership believe direct support and training are helping women-owned businesses stay afloat amid the pandemic, but financial tools customised for women can help them thrive. Those small woman-owned companies will be on the frontlines of economic recovery as Vietnam emerges from the pandemic.
Hien from WISE said female entrepreneurs also face difficulties in maintaining a network of business partners. It is clear to see that women entrepreneurs face bigger difficulties than men in social interaction and networking with partners. Women have to take over dual roles of a mother in the family and a leader in the business, making them sometimes struggle to balance time between family and work.
Le Thi Duc said owning a business and at the same time having to take care of four grandchildren, she has to wake up at 4am every morning to water mushrooms and then take the children to school.
“I have to save time and tightly control my daily schedule to juggle family and work life,” she said.
At a younger age, Nguyen Thi Hien faces the same pressure of balancing work and taking care of her husband and family.
“My company is in Hanoi but I live in Hung Yen, about 40km from the capital city. I leave the office at 10pm and drive home for one hour. It’s not until 11pm that I reach home every day.
“I try to balance work and life and only hope my husband is sympathetic with me,” she said.
Female entrepreneurs in Vietnam also have a high rate of “fear of failure”, according to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019.
The fear demonstrates the existence of potential underlying vulnerabilities that may be preventing progress. Those vulnerabilities are likely to have been amplified by the impacts of the pandemic.
Within the framework of Ignite, WISE not only offers training for knowledge, skills and access to financing tools but also creates a network of mentors who help women with psychological problems in their lives and overcome fear of failure.
Le Kim Dung, country director of Care International, said the project is aimed at women living in disadvantaged conditions and looks to empower women who lead micro and small-sized businesses.
“We believe that unleashing the power of female entrepreneurs will promote their economic potential as well as their independence, thus they can make more contributions to families, communities and society,” she said. VNS
Vietnam is among top 20 markets for women entrepreneurs in the world, according to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs released on Tuesday.
In the development of the Vietnamese economy, more women are running businesses across the country.