In Vietnam, many people, especially the younger generation, dream about starting their own businesses. In fact, research shows that 25% of Gen Z already have turned their hobby into a side business, and 63% of this youngest cohort dream of being in a startup.
With Gen Z playing an increasingly prominent role in the workforce, we’re witnessing the rise of new leaders shaping tomorrow’s businesses. This shift is giving rise to a wave of emerging leaders like Duong Minh Chi and Dang Thi Diem Thuy, who stand out as entrepreneurs representing this new wave of business leaders in the country.
Their backgrounds, steeped in innovation and adaptability, propelled them to the forefront of the evolving entrepreneurial landscape in Vietnam.
While they could have decided to follow a traditional career after their time in international universities, they opted for the entrepreneurial path.
As any founder will attest, entrepreneurship is hard, but the desire to build something larger than themselves motivated Chi and Thuy to pursue it.
Disrupting the Real Estate Business
Real estate is one of Vietnam’s largest but arguably most traditional industries. Seeing a mismatch between what their Gen Z generation wants from their workplace and what’s currently on offer in Vietnam, Chi and Thuy decided it was time to disrupt ‘business as usual.’
The two young entrepreneurs decided their first venture would be to design and launch a new-style office building. With land available to them in Le Hien Mai Street, in the heart of the up-and-coming Thanh My Loi ward in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2, sketching ideas and imagining what they could create was underway quickly.
But with experience in F&B and being consumers of office space, the founder duo knew that just launching an office building wouldn’t suffice. There had to be an enticing experience that would make the most out of their building.
According to the latest survey from SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management in the US, 55% of Generation Z employees want to work in a flexible environment that meets the work-life -balance factor.
For this, they found a like-minded partner in the team behind Dreamplex –Vietnam’s original coworking space launched in 2015 by Nguyen Trung Tin.
With Managing Director Zoee Nguyen and her team, international architects T3 Architects, and light design consultants Kobi Lighting Studio, Chi and Thuy set out to create a dynamic and comfortable working environment for employees, motivating them to develop both in life and career.
Inspired by local cafes and international best practices, they started envisioning a place people would love coming to – something people don’t think about when they hear ‘office.’
This would help start-ups and scaling international businesses in Vietnam to offer an ideal working environment to attract talent and retain long-term employees. Even on a typically limited budget.
Talking with Vietcetera, Mr. Duong Minh Chi and Ms. Dang Thi Diem Thuy shared changes in style, working environment, and the promising future of the co-working space trend.
Why did you choose real estate and flexible offices as your first venture?
Ms. Diem Thuy: From working in offices as a young Gen Z, I always felt something was missing – a gap between what we would want from an office and what an office actually looks and feels like in Vietnam. So when the opportunity arose to create our own office space, we knew we had to do it.
Mr. Minh Chi: We knew it would be challenging, especially during this time, but we felt the potential would be worth it. Many businesses I speak to - both local, well-funded startups and international companies launching and scaling in Vietnam – share that they need better options regarding their office experiences.
In your opinion, how does the working environment affect employee productivity?
Mr. Minh Chi: After the COVID-19 pandemic, young people’s styles and working environments are clearly changing.
For me, the office is not only a place to sit and work but also a place for employees to develop their thinking, be creative, and explore new things. That’s also what companies want from their teams and where the office can play an important role.
What will the flexible office model bring to businesses and employees?
Ms. Diem Thuy: If a company wants to open an office, companies will often waste time and money renting premises, designing the space, and investing in fit-out and equipment. They often do that with the best intentions but lack the experience of what actually makes a workplace boost productivity and team engagement.
When we spoke to Dreamplex, I liked that they take their 8 years of experience running best-in-class office spaces to companies without any long-term commitments. A Country Manager or CEO could decide to move and, within 1 to 2 days after signing the contract, could gift their team a winning workplace experience.
This model suits startups wanting to save operating costs and businesses prioritizing speed and precision. For companies with flexible personnel, employee positions can change flexibly by hour or shift.
Mr. Minh Chi: This is critical in these times, as we live in a VUCA world: how big our teams will be, how much office space we need, and how long we need it for are all questions most business leaders wouldn’t know how to answer right now.
Besides this flexibility, another benefit of the flexible office model is that it’s also very connected. CEOs can connect with an ecosystem of other forward-thinking companies and get support from a community of innovative business leaders.
Besides providing office space, what other issues can Dreamplex support for businesses?
Ms. Diem Thuy: As we heard at a recent Dreamplex CEO roundtable, businesses’ biggest obstacle is how to get the most out of their current and future team members due to a challenging economy with quickly rising labor costs.
This means that companies must become more attractive for future talent and invest heavily into engaging their current teams, as staff attrition is incredibly expensive.
It seems easy, but it is difficult. Management needs to focus on the business and can only spend a little bit of time creating activities for their teams to connect, learn, grow, and work well. Therefore, together with Dreamplex, we will have decided teams to create activities and events in the workplace: March 8, Christmas, yoga classes, etc.
We also will take care of more practical challenges, such as office maintenance, strong Wi-Fi, wireless printing, and F&B, creating conditions for employees to feel comfortable and concentrate on work, while leaders can focus on growing the business.
What is unique about Dreamplex Le Hien Mai compared to other Dreamplexes?
Mr. Minh Chi: Dreamplex Le Hien Mai intersects classic and modern, focusing on fresh colors. This facility was designed in Vietnamese-French style by professional and experienced architects at T3 Architects, who previously designed Dreamplex Ngo Quang Huy.
One point I like is the Sky Deck, which is covered with many trees and water features. I envision we will be able to host many workshops, events, or personal relaxation activities.
We also partnered with a specialized lighting designer, Kobi Lighting Studio, to ensure that every single source of light has been designed to create a comfortable, relaxing, pleasant feeling.
Ms. Diem Thuy: Dreamplex Le Hien Mai is located in the commercial area between District 2, District 9, and Thu Duc City, surrounded by residential areas and high-rise buildings, which means the workforce is very large.
The roads in this area are also very spacious and airy, and it is easy to move to areas in the city center. Dreamplex Le Hien Mai is more thorough and complete than other facilities, focusing on the employee experience.
How do you imagine this model will develop to meet future work trends?
Mr. Minh Chi: Businesses can expand branches in many places thanks to the large amount of foreign capital flowing into Vietnam.
This requires additional co-working spaces to meet the office rental needs of companies. Therefore, the flexible office model will be a potential development trend in the future.
Me and Thuy are excited to launch Dreamplex Le Hien Mai in the next few months to offer an innovative workplace that meets the needs of these businesses and adapts to their demands in the years coming.