Member : Dương Thị Tuyết

Age: 49

Living: Ý Yên, Nam Định

From street recycler to International Microfinance Award winner

“I was born in farming family; I grew up and got married. My husband has eight siblings three of whom were taught the copper casting trade by my father-in-law. However, in the late 90s, Vietnamese people stopped using cast pots to cook so the trade began to die off. Life back then was tough and our family was classified as poor in this locality”, reminisces Mrs. Duong Thi Tuyet, the current owner of a large copper manufacturing workshop in Nam Dinh Province.

20 years ago despite being a skilled tradesman Tuyet’s husband was unable to put together enough capital to set up his own business. He had to work in other copper workshops, while Tuyet collected cans and materials to recycle and sell. Although the couple worked hard every day, and tried to save, they couldn’t get ahead. They had two children; the elder daughter had to help her parents with housework, while the younger was sent to live with her grandmother.

When being asked why she decided to join TYM MFI she answers that “It was a very fortunate opportunity!” Being a poor famer she was busy all day with the farm work, and never had spare time to participate in social activities organized by the Vietnamese Women’s Union. Tuyet clearly remembers the day when Mrs. Thanh Duyen (TYM Branch Director) came to visit her house at lunch time. When Duyen saw the family’s lunch only consisted of a light broth, some pickled eggplants and salted fish, she was concerned, and so she introduced her to TYM and suggested they apply for a loan.

Following Duyen’s advice, Tuyet discussed the idea with her husband. Their hometown, Y Yen – Nam Dinh, was still a famous craft village known for its copper casting and they talked about starting up their own business. At first, her husband was hesitant because they had to work hard for quite a long time to save money. They were not sure if they could make repayments and they feared they would live in poverty forever.

After much consideration and calculation, the family decided to apply for an initial loan of VND 500,000 to start-up of their business.

In Vietnam there is an old expression that says – ‘The first step is always the hardest’, Looking back over her life Duyen couldn’t agree more with the saying!

When they opened the workshop, Tuyet and her husband bought two casting machines using their savings, and materials with the VND 500,000 loan. The couple worked together and hired one employee.

Initially, sales were low and they had no regular customers. Tuyet was busy because she had to manufacture and find new designs and models to replicate. To stay afloat they accepted to sell on consignment for another workshop which meant they had a low turnover. However, Tuyet did not lose heart; she continued looking for new markets for their products.

Tuyet’s husband is a highly skilled caster, having worked in other workshops he has extensive experience and makes high quality products so gradually their reputation grew. Over time, more and more orders appeared. The first year they made VND 10 million and were able to payback their loan. Their turnover increased by 30% the following year. Between 1998 and 2010, she took out 16 loans from TYM MFI gradually increasing loan size. Currently she has a Small Business Loan valued at VND 31 million. By 2010 the turnover of their workshop was an impressive VND 420 million!

Today, their workshop is over 200 square meters, and they have generated dozens of jobs. They have also created a network of regular customers.

The couple constantly seeks to create new designs for their products, making them more attractive and higher quality. Their products are now not only wholesaled and retailed in shops in Nam Dinh but have expanded to other provinces including Hanoi, Hai Phong and Bac Ninh.

The family plan to open one more workshop which will employ even more local people. Furthermore, Tuyet is scouting new market opportunities in Ho Chi Minh city and Central Vietnam.

Tuyet feels happy with where she is at. Financially, Tuyet has effectively used loans to enhance the family economy and improve of life. Culturally, she is working with a very meaningful task preserving and developing the traditional handicraft of copper casting. Socially, they are proud to employ local men and women and provide them with a safe workplace decent wage.

Being recognized

Tuyet was awarded the Citi Micro entrepreneurship award in 2008 by the Microfinance Working Group, Citigroup and the State Bank of Vietnam for her outstanding achievements.

In 2011 Tuyet became one of only six nominees across the globe for Planet Finance’s  4th International Microfinance Award which recognizes micro entrepreneurs who effectively use micro loans. The ceremony was held in Paris, and Tuyet was awarded 1000 Euros.

After her trip to France she said that “In Vietnam women just like me are working hard to escape poverty, this prize is a really a big motivator, it inspires us to overcome challenges and develop our businesses’”. Tuyet has generously given part of the prize to a local study encouragement fund and another part for presents for the center members’ children. She will use the rest of the prize to expand their business and create more jobs for the locals.

When asked if she is plans to remain a TYM Member she nods with firm confidence and answers: “Definitely, I will still participate in TYM activities 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 support fellow women”.