After founding and running their own startups in Ho Chi Minh City for over three years, entrepreneurs Vivian Story of Soul Story and Julie Huynh of Rita Phil endeavored to make the path easier for other female entrepreneurs. In the face of historic and systemic inequality, the duo has aspired to create a supportive community for women to connect, collaborate, and inspire one another. That’s where The Beehive comes in.
The Beehive is a quarterly popup event that features businesses of female entrepreneurs from Ho Chi Minh City. The participants are Vietnamese and expatriate women from around the world, here with the goal of producing and providing the highest quality and most unique goods to Vietnam. We had the opportunity to chat with Vivian and Julie about their initiative and Vietnamese female entrepreneurship in the city.
Can you tell us about yourselves and how The Beehive started?
When we first met, we immediately bonded over the struggles of being entrepreneurs. As we opened up that conversation to other business owners, we realized that the struggle is even more heightened as female entrepreneurs.
Within most industries in Vietnam, it’s still a boy’s club. When we go to most networking events, industry conventions, and trade shows, it’s very apparent from the first step through the door that we’re going to be among only a handful of women. We don’t mind being one of the few women representing our businesses. However, it does make it more difficult to make connections within that type of environment.
The Beehive is a solution to broaden the reach of women-owned businesses into a larger demographic by providing a platform for each of us to showcase our labor of love in the form of popup events! It also developed organically into a place for like-minded women to come shop and make new friends living in the same city that they would have never met otherwise.
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What are some of the exciting changes you’re seeing in female entrepreneurship in Vietnam today?
Something we’re noticing with each event and with every new person that hears about The Beehive is that there are more and more female entrepreneurs who want to join us and be apart of our supportive group environment. They aren’t new to entrepreneurship; they’ve just never had an opportunity to join something and receive support like this before.
No one tells you how lonely the journey is when you are an entrepreneur. You’re the “Queen Bee” of your hive! You need to manage everything and everyone who works for you! In theory, it sounds nice, but what it really means is that you are left with all the responsibilities and pressure without anyone to share with. The Beehive offers all these “Queen Bees” a place to turn to for people that understand their challenges and bounce their new ideas.
More importantly, at The Beehive, we are breaking down the stereotype that women want to compete with each other. We hope to build a supportive community that enables more women to pursue their dreams of being their own boss.
Where do you see more opportunities to grow and encourage more entrepreneurship?
Our goal for The Beehive is to support and bring awareness to female entrepreneurs and their businesses on a national level; then, to a Southeast Asia-regional level. With a commitment, little love and detailed planning, The Beehive can happen anywhere! Our prior events have caught the attention of friends and followers in Hanoi that have asked if we could help then set up The Beehive there, as well as fellow business owners in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
As we meet more female entrepreneurs going through similar challenges in different stages in their businesses, the Beehive concept makes sense as it provides like-minded people to work together. It’s a place to “start and build conversations, like this, about entrepreneurship, the struggles, and the rewards. Sometimes that’s all it takes to encourage someone else to pursue their dreams. Knowing that they are not alone.”
What can the typical Vietnamese business do to empower women in the workplace? What might motivate those actions?
Since the beginning of time, women have been hard-working multitaskers. In general, women are known to be extremely thoughtful and detail-oriented. They also have the ability to lead with compassion and as a result, build stronger and more loyal teams.
Businesses should be motivated to empower more women into management and executive positions to develop stronger companies. They can do this by providing more women with opportunities to take on leadership roles, provide leadership training, and offer mentorship support for women who want to learn more about different company departments and positions.
Tell us about some of the female entrepreneurs that are working with The Beehive today. How has the community responded to your initiative?
Since starting The Beehive, we’ve worked with 22 female entrepreneurs. Each of these women are a force to be reckoned with, and each of their businesses are so different and interesting. Every one of them motivates us to work hard, continue on our entrepreneurial path, and continue to grow The Beehive.
We are feeling extremely grateful for all our customers, supporters and friends that come out to support our events. We are just surprised and thankful by how many people want to support local business owners.
Even the businesses that have hosted our events have been graciously generous by offering their space for free to bring our collective group of entrepreneurs showcase their labor of love.
What are the challenges you face in developing the organization?
We have developed a pretty solid pipeline of businesses that would like to participate in the upcoming Beehive events. However, we are always on the hunt and welcome new businesses to contact us! The key factors we look for are female entrepreneurs who are excited and eager to share their goods/services with the community and the quality of their products. We want to ensure we are providing good partners for our fellow entrepreneurs and partnering venues. Also, it’s extremely important that we offer high quality goods for people who attend.
Our biggest challenge at the moment is trying to find unique spaces that are also large enough to host all of us. Each event brings in 80-100+ people. All our venues that are hosting The Beehive have been generous by offering their space for free in exchange for word-of-mouth and digital marketing. We are able to spread the word about their business, resulting in an influx of exposure to the community.
What opportunities are you most excited about right now?
Right now, the most exciting opportunity is having this platform and giving us a chance to start conversations about female entrepreneurship. It’s the importance of supporting and encouraging one another, to foster a healthier ecosystem of business owners. We are able to meet and motivate one another as we take this long unknown journey in pursuing our dreams of building and growing our businesses.
Most of all, it’s been extremely exciting to bring together people within the Vietnamese and expat communities that would have never crossed paths. We see a tremendous amount of opportunities for networking, conversations about potential business collaborations, and making sincere connections at each Beehive Pop-up event.