Business Business

28/02/2022 - 16:15

Companionship and support

Nowadays, more and more businesses and investors are willing to accompany with individual and group startups in terms of funds, consultation about market expansion, management and operation. This is like giving them wings fly high and far.

Kites made from lotus leaves by Sen Thao

 “Flying” with startups

Being passionate about painting and having a special affinity with lotus, Nguyen Thanh Thao, CEO of Sen Thao Co., Ltd., often wanders to the lotus ponds to enjoy and find inspiration for painting. Looking at the yellow and withered lotus leaves, the childhood memory of making rain hats from green lotus leaves rekindled in him many intentions.

And from those early memories, he started to discover and design hats made from lotus leaves. He officially embarked on his startup ever since, and his first recognized achievement was  the A prize for lotus-leaf conical hat at Thua Thien Hue 2018 Start-up and Innovation Challenge.

After the competition, he participated in training programs on developing business thinking, building brands, broadening markets, in order to develop the competence required of a businessperson.

Thao's lotus-leaf conical hat makes a real impression when it was exhibited at Hue Traditional Craft Festival 2019. Thanks to the exhibition, the product has become more popular with tourists and an indispensable souvenir to them when visiting Hue. Domestic and foreign partners requested a "handshake" with Thao to bring lotus-leaf conical hats "made in Hue" farther and wider.

Thao said that the products made then were not really diverse and it was impossible to produce in large number due to the lack of machineries. Therefore, Thao appealed for funding and was invested VND 250 million by Hue Startup Fund (HSF).

Having the additional fund, Thao invested in buying more machinery and equipment for production. As a result, the orders began to be secured. Thao also promoted the establishment of Sen Thao Co., Ltd. to facilitate the signing of supply contracts.

Unfortunately,  the impact of the pandemic in the last 2 years on tourism has led to the lack of consumption of products made from lotus leaves. Instead of focusing on developing new markets,  Thao spends more time taking care of the old agents, researching and creating many new products with more sophistication. From the lotus leaf conical hat at first, Sen Thao develops more than 100 items with many different designs like handbags, wallets, lamps, etc., which are displayed in many major exhibitions.

Apart from Sen Thao, there have been  many projects appealing for funding, and they are offered funds by investment funds and private investors. HSF has approached and supported 10 projects. In 2021, they have committed to sponsoring  Hichagol Project of Hichagol Trading and Service Manufacturing One Member Co. Ltd. with a total investment of VND 1 billion. Kim Thanh Ice Cream Project of Sunfarm Agricultural Products Co., Ltd. was also disbursed VND 1 billion by the end of 2021.

To be trusted

Hue has not been place for huge investors, the investment fund from angel to adventures or sharks, like Ho Chi Minh city or Ha Noi. Within the last 2 years, private investors, private investment funds have started to be present in pitching spells (funding, which creates the ecosystem supporting innovation startups. More and more projects have registered to participate in funding appeals with well-prepared form and content.

Hichagol Project succeeded in appealing for funding of VND 1 billion

Funds is always the most difficult in all difficulties when starting up, which makes the company easily falter, Mr.Nguyen Dinh Hung, CEO of AIO Funds said. Therefore, besides funding from relatives and friends, source of capital that comes from budgets, investors will reach to highly effective in development.

As investors have practical experience in business, once they have decided to pour the capital in, they are ready to accompany the project all the way, from consultation about human resources and market development to band building. These are areas start-ups often have little experience and skills.

This does not mean that the investors are ready to pour capital in all start-up projects without consideration of the effectiveness that the project will bring back. As “an investment fund is not the charitable organization, but it is created from money of investors. Thus, we must prioritize profit  then the support for the young,” Mr. Hung asserted.

Moreover, it is not easy to approach funds because each one will have its own principles and targets, as well as advantages in a business area and business sector. Therefore, when a start-up appeals for funding, it needs to consider the strength of each fund to choose the right sponsor and companion.

According to Mrs. Le Thi Hong Nga, Secretary of HSF Representative Board, if a project wanted to receive sponsorship from HSF, it should prove creativeness, pervasiveness and inheritability for next start-up generations. In addition, HSF still prefers the projects within  development-prioritized fields of the province, but not excluding the opportunities to invest in projects capable of attracting external resources of creative innovation to contribute to the development of the province.

Meanwhile, AIO Fund encourages to invest in projects that research and renew existing products. The issue arising is how creatively the project appeals for funding for existing products  to enhance quality, and especially solve “customer’s pain”.

The story of the investors guiding and sharing tips to “withdraw” money from their pocket sounds like paradox. Yet, according to the explanation of a proponent of building a network of innovative start-up investors, it is reasonable.

On explaining this, Director of Hue Center for entrepreneurship and innovation said that the successful establishment of private investment funds in the province helped to support innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The business is a significant base that indicates the grown-up of local entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem.

However, not all firms have basic skills to appeal for funds. Although there are many wealthy investors, they have not selected one to build confidence in. Such activities as networking investors or pitching spells will provide a link between investors and start-up projects.

Story: Hoang Loan

Photos: Sen Thao - Hoang Loan