“I was born and raised in Ham Thuan Nam, Binh Thuan. When I graduated from 9th grade, my family’s finances became very hard, so I dropped out of the regular school and went to Sai Gon to learn sewing. After 4 weeks, I registered my skills at the footwear company. I succeeded, then rented a boarding house and started my working life. The boarding house was far away from the company while sometimes I had to work until 10pm. Every month, I earned about 500,000 VND, minus my house and food, and the rest I bought gold and sent to my parents (early 90s).
At the time I was 16 years old, the work of the sewing machine took me away. Some nights I fell asleep and was pierced with blood. When I looked at my friends in white dress (Ao Dai) by roding on the street to their school, I wish I was the same. My biggest wish at this time was to be worker in an air-conditioned office later. It was a small but distant dream.
After my sister got married, my brother-in-law helped my family a lot. I was determined to go home to study in grade 10. Then I returned to Saigon to study at an in-service university, because I did not pass regular university. Outside of university, I worked in a buffet restaurant and distributed newpaper flyer on the street or worked as a salesman to gain experience.
After graduation, I started with the position of “maid” for offices. I was on the phone, copied documents, cleaned up, made coffee for guests, bought lunch for everyone … in a Korean company. Later, the company expanded its apparel business, and the boss built a large factory in Cu Chi. During construction, orders were sent to other factories for processing. I was assigned a new job. My job was to balance raw materials, to track progress, to process, to work directly with the factory until the goods were exported. There were times when we returned home at four or five in the morning.
When the factory was finished, no more orders to send to other factories. I worked in Cu Chi and were transported daily between Sai Gon and Cu Chi to handle about 1200 workers. At the same time, I met my first lover and also my husband later.
Apart from work in the company, I also saved money to buy land, build a house and then sell for profit. I worked in the garment industry for 5 years more then married. After the baby was born, I quit my job and started selling foreign baby goods. At first the job was very favorable, however, the exchange rate of Vietnamese currency and USD changed constantly. At that time I thought I had to do something to collect foreign currency instead of paying foreign currency to another country.
So I returned home in Binh Thuan. At this time my friends have completed college in Saigon and stayed here a lot. Some others were still living in the countryside and most of them have a good life from dragon fruit. I found dragon fruit to export mainly by small quota to China. I did not want to choose this path, I wanted to find my new direction.
Then I contacted Department of Science and Technology and they said that there was a group of engineers, who have studied the topic Dragon Fruit juice 3 years ago. The study was done but no unit applied so the study was stored in the cabinet. They can introduce me. Everything went very fast. I signed land lease contract in the industrial park, hired factory design, invited the food industry consultant, … However, a major problem has occurred. The engineers team tried to break out of technical transfer in the 89th minute, although the Department’s agents tried to persuade them. I was not a person trained in the food industry, could not imagine what is a cooking pot. To understand a whole line of equipment was not possible. Months later in Saigon, I attended all the exhibitions, equipment suppliers, as much as I could. I called the suppliers of food additives like violence. At the same time I write the project in the form. I was very fortunate to have a good-hearted sister, who helped me to complete project to apply for funding for a pilot production program. The day I went to present the project, the factory was completed the basic construction part. The project review committee saw my determination (and risk), so most of them voted in favor. I got a very high score and got a record amount for a project in Binh Thuan province.
The following days I moved between Saigon – Phan Thiet as a shuttle to push for progress. There were many days I spent all night to contemplate the thousand-page document. After the factory was completed, the machines were slowly brought in, and I looked at them as they were spacecraft from the planet. Then my first employees were there. A food specialist on my support.
From here my series of challenges began. I struggled in the factory with washing, blanching, cupping, stirring in the pot … My team work on the study, as well as drawing experience. One day the steam pipe heat burns and many other hardships that only manufacturer can understand.
Then the problem of personnel also made me headache but thanks to the determination of the team, slowly everything has become better. Some of the products that have been contaminated with microorganisms have become inflated after seven days. For months we have struggled with hundreds of incidents. We were trying to fix this, adding this one, removing that one, leaving one, replacing the other … finally we perfected the formula, the perfect product. I put the product on the table of the head of the Department of Science and Technology, I saw in his eyes a joy not hidden. I saw the joy in the sparkling sister’s eyes too, who had been silently with me for so long. So far, the formula seems to have changed 100% compared to the original formula.
And the time to bring products to the market has also come. It was a time of physical, mental and financial exhaustion for me and my family. I faced countless difficulties for the company to survive. There were times when I wanted to give up but I did not. I did not allow myself to collapse after what my family and friends have supported me. And above all, because behind me there were thousands of dragon fruit farmers in this hot sand land, who believe in me too. I was born here and I will repay my country with all my strength and wisdom. I hope thousands of other factories will grow up in Vietnam as the litchee factory in Bac Giang, the pomelo factory in Hue, the chocolate factory in the Central Highlands, the seafood factory in the Southwest. If I can say anything to you, let me say that if you have some talent and willpower, just try to startup in the manufacture’s world in and for your hometown. Just knock, the door will open.
“I was just a little girl, started from a worker of a textile and garment factory in a poor land. So I have made a standard of dragon fruit processing factory and helped my country’s agricultural products not be price squeezed by Chinese traders. I have done, so my friends, why are you not?’’
Source: Tony buổi sáng