Member: Huynh Thi Minh Tam

Age: 39

Living: Y Yen, Nam Dinh province

After coronavirus pandemic, Mrs. Huynh Thi Minh Tam’s sewing workshop (Y Yen, Nam Dinh) has been operating at full capacity with 20 sewing workers who are VWU members, as well as TYM members living in the local. In the first months of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on her sewing workshop as there were few orders and the workers could not go to work due to social distancing. However, she managed to get orders for her workers and arranged them to work alternately or work from home so that they could make ends meet during the pandemic.

Mrs. Huynh Thi Minh Tam is among TYM members that are rather young but able to start her own clothing company in 2015 with an investment of over 2 billion VND. By working hard and actively in field of clothing, Tam and her husband own two facilities: one for manufacturing with an area of 180 square meters, the other is for transaction with an area of 120 square meters. Their total revenue reached 2.8 billion VND in 2019. They also offer job opportunity for 20 wage earners who are local members of VWU and TYM. These workers’ salary comes up to 7 million VND per month.

“My family used to be impoverished but we overcame difficulties. We tried to learn from anywhere and anyone to figure out the most effective way to operate our family company and workshop.”

Manage to seek for livelihood

Years ago, Tam was used to selling fruits at the market. Her humble fruit stall could barely help them make ends meet. To make more money, Tam and her husband started a livestock farm. Unfortunately, in the same year a raging storm sweeping through caused a lot of damages and cost them everything. After the incident, Tam’s husband resorted to labor export to make a living and pay debts. He went to Taiwan, where he worked for a clothing company. After 4 years, Tam’s husband came home, and together with his wife, considered to quit selling fruits at the market to start taking sewing orders. Although the job did not bring them much income, it helped them save money, and gain essential sewing experience and skills to prepare for their next step.

Dare to start up

Having become skillful in their job, Tam and her husband decided to start a company, a sewing workshop, on their own, which went into operation in 2015. Tam believed that her perennial experience and what her husband had learnt during his years of labor export would help them significantly. However, as they were young and quite ambitious in applying new technology process, they encountered lots of difficulties. They had to find the answers to many questions such as what to manufacture, where to get materials, who to sell, how to effectively manage revenue and expenses, etc. Their capital was insufficient, and they worried that hardly anyone would lend them since their business management skill and experience were limited at the time. Despite the fact that those questions discouraged them, with determination and support from their family, Tam and her husband managed to work out their challenges. In terms of business management, Tam applied for big manufacturers in industrial areas and private sewing workshops to learn from them. She learnt valuable lessons, the key of which was that she should put herself under the perspective of a corporation rather than that of a wage earner when making decisions.

Now Tam’s sewing workshop operates effectively and gains a sustainable number of customers, but Tam and her husband renovate and learn new things unceasingly. “The key feature of clothing industry is that a corporation needs to ensure their products’ quality and constantly change their designs to meet current trends and customers’ taste. Therefore, we are still learning from other manufacturers all over the country and join courses related to clothing to gain more knowledge and experience.” said Tam.

Tam and her husband also plan to innovate their current technology and machinery used at their workshop for further efficiency. Tam is also thinking of expanding the production scale to seasonal clothes, domestic protective clothing, and getting export contracts. It is expected that by 2021 their workshop will be expanded by 250 square meters and equipped with 20 more sewing machines to increase production scale

The capital for sustainable and further development

One of the toughest challenges for such small enterprises as Tam and her husband’s is finding capital for their business. At first, Tam used all her family savings and borrowed from friends and relatives, even mortgage loans from banks to invest in machinery and workshop. She soon got into difficult situation a year later because of unsustainable number of orders, low revenue and unrecovered capital. Tam and her husband needed working capital to buy materials and sewing machines, but they cannot mobile any more money from relatives and their properties had already been mortgaged. That was when TYM was introduced to her by the local VWU leader. Her first loan at TYM, 30 million VND, was not considerable but greatly supported Tam’s need for capital at the time. In a few months, Tam always paid back on time and therefore, was eligible for another loan. She continued borrowing investment loan from TYM, and has been TYM member for 5 years. “I’ve borrowed from TYM for years because their loans are stable, and their officers are helpful and facilitate customers to borrow and use loans effectively. I feel reassured and believe that that I will always have a stable source of capital to invest in new manufacturing technology and for production cycle.” said Tam.
In addition, Tam also believed that some of TYM loans’ favorable features were simple procedures and not requiring collateral. It enabled Tam and her husband to access to an official source of capital. Moreover, TYM mechanism of paying loans and interests in small amount weekly or monthly not only helped to ease the burden for borrowers but also motivated them to estimate their expenses and start saving so that they can repay on time.
Tam’s story is among many more stories about how TYM members start-up and overcome difficulties. No matter how much they borrow, they still get consultation from TYM officers and are offered to join training course on doing business. Moreover, as a TYM member, one can always be reassured as TYM and other members will stay by her side on her path of business start-up and economic development.