When buying beauty or hygiene products, people often make sure the products don’t harm their skin, but not a lot of people consider how those products can damage the environment. Hoang Thanh Thuy, Founder and CEO of Mekong Coconut, worked in a beauty company before starting her own business and she discovered that a lot of beauty products contribute to climate change. Her discovery inspired her to start her own eco-friendly company.
Thuy shared her business journey with Faces of ASEAN SMEs team (F), here’s her journey with Mekong Coconut.
Hoang Thanh Thuy, Founder and CEO of Mekong Coconut, worked in a beauty company before starting her own business and she discovered that a lot of beauty products contribute to climate change. Her discovery inspired her to start her own eco-friendly company."Be tough with yourself and your judgement. See reality and play with it. As long as your business vision serves the benefits of other human beings, that vision will be realized"
Posted by Faces Behind ASEAN SMEs on Tuesday, January 21, 2020
F: Why did you start your business?
I worked in a beauty care company in my previous job and I was in charge of the importation of luxury brands. One day, I discovered that many of the products have a lot of chemicals. During that time, I also found farmers in Vietnam who tried to promote local coconut products for 10 years, but still, no one knew and supported them. I tried helping the farmers. Starting this business was a risky move. I was helping them while I was still working full-time. The business became successful after 2 years and we even have some requests from abroad, and that’s the time I realized that I have to scale this up. We provide the farmers with processing machines and we buy all the Vietnam coconut oil from the farmers. All of our products are made using organic materials only, from personal care to food products. According to a recent article published on 29 Oct 2019 by New York times, south Vietnam will be at the risk of disappearing in the next 50 years. I observed that one of the major contributors came from beauty products. We want to help fight climate change by using materials and ingredients that are not harmful to the environment. Our customers love our products. Some of them worry about how long they can use the products, that’s why many of our customers tend to hoard our products. We use high-quality ingredients. Coconut oil has a very light texture and the smell is light. People like it when they use it. We use every part of the coconut in making our products
F: Through your business, what problems do you want to solve?
There are three things that I focus on in my Mekong Delta journey. First is climate change. I grew up in Da Lat, a beautiful province in Vietnam, and I see how it has changed because of climate change. It started when Vietnam opened our market for globalization. People commercialized it too much and the surroundings don’t feel natural anymore. Now, even in the mountain, there’s flood. This affected me and the community that I lived with. I will spend my life protecting nature because air, water, and food are the basics of human existence. I’m fighting climate change by affecting the whole chain of productions and consumers by creating products that only use eco-friendly ingredients. We use glass and recycled plastics for the packaging of our products.
The second issue I would like to help is the livelihood of the farmers. They know about climate change but they need to prioritize their survival first. They also feel bad when they fell in that cycle because when their land got destroyed, their productivity became lower and this resulted in lower-income. I work with them because I want to make a sustainable income for them. I want to improve the lives of the farmers. They are the main stakeholder in the whole supply because they control the materials. Before we start, there were no farmers association. Through our initiative, our government decided to make organic farmers association. They help in inviting more and more companies to invest in local organic products.
Lastly, I also focus on women empowerment. Women that we worked with were always depending on their husbands, but now, they work and earn their own money. Before working with us, they never thought they can do something and earn money. This achievement made them feel more powerful and they also feel more confident. They value themselves more and they are respected more.
F: What have you learned so far from managing Mekong Coconut?
The growth in the first 3 years was very fast. We even got a very big and good offer but we must expand and industrialized more. We didn’t push through with the offer because we were worried that we may not be able to carry out the company mission. The journey in the business of sustainable development is long. It’s a marathon. It’s not a business that you can do very quickly because you have to deal with the supply chain that stuck with an old system. Some people reject new things because it’s not in their routine. Sustainability requires a lot of patience and clarity.
F: What is your advice to those who also want to start their own business?
Be extremely tough and realistic. See and accept the reality, and just play with it. Be tough with yourself and judgment. The whole journey of where you are and where you want to be is long. If you keep on sticking with your ideals you can’t perceive reality as it is. Stick to the reality because this is how you can change and make a big impact to change the world for the better.