Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.
Leading and growing Labobo is my first entrepreneurial experience. I had registered my company in Can Tho City, in the middle of Lower Mekong Delta region, where I believed I could save cost and time delivering products across the Mekong Delta. After 1.5 years in operation, I had to shut down the company and reform it in Ho Chi Minh City in order to be closer to a concentration of manufacturers (in Ho Chi Minh City), and to increase economic options in distribution methods across and out of Vietnam (as Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city). The change was hard. But it is necessary for a start-up to have the best cost-effective operation to enhance the chance to soar. Also, in overcoming this cost challenge, I did find a new enthusiastic urban customer segment in Ho Chi Minh - a group we did not reach before. I learned that in an entrepreneur’s journey, it is ok to let go of approaches that no longer fit. If you do not quit, keep your head up and work hard - you will find better opportunities for your business objective.
Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?
WaterSHED has been my great investor. I received a loan and also mentorship in developing the business. I have been provided management calibration lessons, leadership skills and the great encouragement of gender equality in high level management. And I believe a grant from Unilever is an effective investment in leveraging the foundation that WaterSHED has supported.
As our advisors, leading academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in hygiene have helped me and my team understand HappyTap’s impacts on handwashing behaviour, and how to maximize the Labobo's role in improving people’s health.
We have also partnered with Unilever Vietnam on multiple occasions to promote a bundled LaBobo and Lifebuoy soap package. Our consumer testing shows that providing a bar of soap with the LaBobo increases sales by nearly 75 percent. Our LaBobo was also featured in Unilever’s Global Handwashing Day events in Hanoi in 2013 and 2015 where 4,000 students joined to wash their hands with LaBobo and Lifebuoy soap. Unilever Vietnam has since committed to purchasing 1,000 LaBobos to be placed in schools without proper handwashing facilities.
Most importantly, our most valued partners include our manufacturers, distributors and dozens of retailers across southern Vietnam. We work closely with them to ensure we manufacture a quality product with the best materials at a low cost and make it accessible to consumers anywhere in the country. We provide sales and marketing support to our partner retailers to ensure the product not only sells but provides a significant profit-margin for small businesses in the country.