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Start-up dreams go from paper to reality

As a founder and chairman of the BestB business ecosystem as well as founder and CEO of Flower Farm, 32-year-old Pham Anh Cuong is a brand specialist and all-round start-up fanatic.

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Pham Anh Cuong (left) reaches an agreement with his partner. He wants to confirm that Vietnam is the best business environment and there are many best companies.

Cuong's journey to support Vietnamese start-ups was born from, of all things, confetti.

More than 10 years ago, when he was studying finance and banking in Japan under a scholarship, he had the opportunity to join a traditional Japanese flower club and was attracted to the art of kamibana confetti, a form of origami.

"Paper flowers are the crystallisation of the beauty of knowledge, the subtlety and dexterity of people’s hands that no machine can replace," he said.

Realising its potential in Vietnam due to the country's strengths in handicrafts and cheap labour, Cuong wanted to bring the art home.

In 2009, upon returning home he started his dream with a paper flower start-up named Kamibana.

Over the years, Cuong had opportunities to go on field trips to Singapore and India and was impressed with their start-ups.

In July 2014, Cuong established the BestB start-up ecosystem to connect and support start-ups.

As for BestB, Cuong said, it stands for Best Business, meaning "Vietnam is Best Business" as Cuong wants to show Vietnam is the best business environment.

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Many young people gather to listen to Cuong’s experience about start-up. — Photos courtesy of Pham Anh Cuong

To give the best for Vietnamese businesses, BestB has an ecosystem that helps firms seek investment capital and get advice on branding, and offers them professional office services, trade promotion and management consulting.

Continuing the success, Cuong founded paper flower company Flower Farm in March 2015 based on his start-up Kamibana with an initial capital of VND2 billion (US$86,270).

''Flower Farm is named after an international name, with an ambition to bring a Vietnamese brand and the traditional profession of the nation to the world,'' said Cuong.

To create brand awareness, Cuong opened class costing VND10,000 ($0.4) to teach students how to make confetti.

He revealed he only made enough money to rent spaces and buy materials, but the training courses spread knowledge of the firm among students and it became a trend, helping Flower Farm approach distribution channels.

To date, Flower Farm is one of the most effective projects in BestB, creating many jobs for students in vocational schools.

Cuong continued to build Flower Farm into an e-commerce channel selling fresh flowers from shops to consumers via an app.

So far, the start-up has expanded its coverage throughout the country and exported to Singapore, Japan, Europe and the US, bringing in revenue of VND60 billion ($2.6 million) per year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, BestB was not affected and even made more bold and breakthrough steps.

“The Vietnamese Government controlled the disease well so it gained good feedback from international friends,” he said.

Investing in Vietnam is becoming more attractive to entrepreneurs, investors and international investment funds, so BestB contacted many international investment funds to invest in Vietnamese enterprises.

“We have met with them [international investors] on Zoom and Skype regardless of day and night, regardless of time zone difference, and have concluded a lot of agreements on investment co-operation, leading foreign investment to potential Vietnamese businesses,” said Cuong.

They include the Ahome Smart Home Solution Project, Abank's KiTi Project with the application of platform technology connecting insurance companies with national insurance agents and the Project 88Go with the use of platform technology for long-distance transport services.

"Dare to think, dare to do, wrong and correct it constantly, it is my secret,” said Cuong.

“If you really want to make a difference and bring real value to the community, you must know 'commitment' and 'pioneering innovation', and constantly learn from both your failures and successes and from those who went before,” he said.

The most important thing is to practise thinking big and focus on the details in every stage, he said.

“Thus, whether you fail or succeed, you will always be happy with what you have done,” said Cuong.

BestB plans to continue working with domestic and foreign investors and investment funds to develop the ecosystem in Vietnam.

“BestB Group wishes to become a pioneer investment bank for Vietnamese enterprises. We will support not only the capital but also many other values ​​for small- and medium-sized enterprises and Vietnam's innovative start-ups to reach the international level,” he said.

BestB is gradually building a smart investor community, which has more than 100 domestic and foreign investors at present and the target is 1,000 by the end of this year.

It will also build a business advisory community. Currently, there are more than 50 advisors at home and abroad and the target for this number is 100 by the end of this year.

One more job is building a pioneer business community, which currently has more than 30 enterprises and the target is to have 100 by the end of this year.

“BestB believes that these are important communities to connect and spread the values ​​of Vietnamese businesses to creat a powerful and economically prosperous Vietnam,” said Cuong.  VNS

Thu Trang

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