From the collector of recycled materials to the laureate of the International Microfinance Awards 


Difficult start point…

“I was born in a farmer family, grown up and got married. My husband’s family got 9 children, three of whom were taught copper casting by my father-in-law, thus they had a sideline besides farm work. However, in the last years of the 1990s, Vietnamese people did not like using cast pots, so we could not do a lot with our skills. Life, then, was tough and our family was rated as “poor” in this locality.” Confided Mrs. Duong Thi Tuyet, the mistress of a big workshop manufacturing copper products in ward 1, Lam town, Y Yen, Nam Dinh.

Tuyet shared that, around 20 years ago, her husband, despite being skillful, could not have enough capital to set up his own business. He had to work in other copper workshops, while Tuyet collected recycled cans and materials to sell for some local agencies. Although the couple worked hard all days, and tried to save every single penny, they still remained poor. Then, they had 2 children, the elder 9-year-old daughter had to help her parents with housework, while the younger 6-year-old son was sent to Tuyet’s mother to be taken care. In spite of all the effort of the couple, the life was not at all better.

TYM came to help

When being asked why you joined TYM, she deeply thought and nodded : «Yes, it was quite a chance that suddenly came to my life. » Actually, being a poor famer women, busy all day with the farm work, she had not had time to participated into Vietnam Women’s Union, or any other social organizations. Tuyet still remembered the day when Mrs. Thanh Duyen, the branch director of Y Yen 1, came to visit her house at lunch time. Duyen saw the family’s lunch of only a soup bowl, some pickled eggplants and salted fishes, she was really touched. Then, Duyen asked about Tuyet’s conditions and introduced TYM to her, advised her to apply for loans from TYM to get the capital. 

Following Mrs. Duyen’s advice, Tuyet discussed with her husband. Her hometown, Y Yen – Nam Dinh, was very famous for the traditional handicraft of copper casting. The crafts produced here was favored by people in many other places and were traded to other provinces. Some families picked up the skills from other families then opened workshops and hired good craftsmen to work for them. Meanwhile, Tuyet’s family even had some confidentiality in casting copper but still had to work for other people. The couple discussed that Tuyet would join TYM, applying a loan, then combining with their small savings amount to open a small workshop. At first, the husband was hesitant because they had to work hard for quite a long time to have the small savings. Applying TYM, they had to pour all into business, and were not sure if they could repay both principle and interest. Otherwise, debts would be stick into their life. They were both worried, but if not, they would live forever in poverty.

Considering and calculating back and forth, the family decided that they would apply for the initial loan of VND 500,000 for their start-up of their business.

It is the first step that costs…

When the workshop was opened, Tuyet and her husband bought 2 casting machines from their savings, and the VND 500,000 was used for materials. Just the couple worked in their own business with one hired employee.

Proverb says that it is the first step that costs. Initially, the sales was little with undiversified products, while they had no regular customers. That’s why Tuyet had to manufacture, and at the same time, brought designs and models to detailed shops to advertise and introduce her workshops. They even accepted to sell in consignment, which meant only until the shop could sell the products, they paid the money to Tuyet.  Selling in this way, Tuyet had very slow capital turnover. However, not losing her heart, Tuyet carried on finding the market for their products.

Tuyet’s husband was skilful. Thanks to days working in other workshops, he had picked up lots of experience, so his products were beautiful, of high quality and gradually gained the belief of customers. Later, more and more orders came to the workshop. The income of the first year was VND 10 million, which fueled for the couple’s efforts. By that time, the family also finished the repayment of both principle and interest to TYM. Since then, the turnover became higher and higher year after year of fro 10-30%. Tuyet still joined TYM. From 1998 to 2010, she got 16 loans from TYM with higher loan size circle after circle. Currently she is having 31 million loan from TYM. The turnover of her workshop in 2010 is 420 million with the net interest of VND 100 million. She confided that she would try for the turnover of 2011 to be VND 700 million.

From a poor household of the locality, with their own efforts and hard work, Mrs. Duong Thi Tuyet has been enterprising and earned certain achievements with her business. At the moment, her working capital has mounted to billions with an over 200 m2 workshop. The workshop has generated tens of jobs with average wages of 2 million dong per month. Among the workers, 4 are women. Tuyet has also created a network of regular customers, making the sales raise to 15,000-20,000 per annum.

The couple always try to learn and create more designs for the products, making them more attractive with higher quality. Their products are now not only provided for whole sales and retailed shops in Nam Dinh but expanded to other provinces like Hanoi, Hai Phong, Bac Ninh.

For the next year, to serve the best for the demands of customers, the family will open one more workshop and hire from 5 to 10 local workers to train and help them with a regular job. Furthermore, Tuyet will try to find opportunities in markets of Hochiminh city or the Middle region.

Mrs. Duong Thi Tuyet is a member of TYM, who have been using the loan effectively to develop the family economy and improve their own living status. More importantly, she is working with a very meaningful task : preserving and developing the traditional handicraft of copper casting.

Being glorified

With outstanding achievements, Tuyet deserves the Citi Microentrepreneurship award in 2008, awarded by Microfinance Working Group, Citi Group and the State Bank of Vietnam.

A great surprise came in 2011, thanks to TYM writing the application, Tuyet became one of the 6 laureates, and the only microentrepreneur of Vietnam, in the 4th International Microfinance Award. This is the annual activity of Planet Finance, glorifying microentrepreneurs with effective use of the micro loans. The ceremony was organized in Paris, France with the prize of EUR1,000.

Mrs. Tuyet with her husband and the children hosted us happily after her trip to Paris. “With women escaping poverty with their own efforts like me, the prize is really a big motive, helping us to overcome challenges to work and develop our business”, said Tuyet. Tuyet would send part of the prize for the local study encouragement fund, another part for presents for the center members’ children. For the rest of the prize, she will use it for developing their business to create more jobs for the locals.

When asked: “Do you still join TYM?”, she nodded with firm confidence and answered: “Definitely, I will still participate in TYM and continue applying for loans to invest into my business. With TYM, I can have capital, and at the same time, I can share my life, my experiences and be supported with other sister members,” added her.

Tuyet shared that before joining TYM, she was very timid, could never dare to sing in from of a crowd, but now, it becomes normal when she could stand in front of the center and sing.

Everyone can see the happy smile and the happiness in her eyes.

Vu Hoa – Vietnam Women’s Union


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