Abundant resources, inexpensive start-up costs, and a thriving and supportive entrepreneurship community make Saigon “the place to be”. Doing business here is very different than what we’d expect in the West, with ever-changing business laws and vague visa and work permit requirements, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages if done right.
Start as small as possible. Expanding is easy and inexpensive – starting large often involves financial or governmental snags that may complicate or slow your opening process. Start-up costs are cheap, and once you lay the groundwork for your business there are many avenues and opportunities waiting to be explored.
Utilize your market. In a city as big and ever-changing as Ho Chi Minh, there is always a target market for virtually anything you’d like to do – but maybe it’s just a matter of reaching them. With a small and well-connected expat community, word of mouth is often the best advertisement, and networking at local businesses and events to spread the word on your endeavor often brings great feedback and support.
Be resourceful and patient in finding materials. I’ve found that you can find anything, literally anything, you might need to support your creative endeavors here, but sometimes it takes a little extra searching, especially if you don’t speak Vietnamese well or don’t know the city well. Most markets (from the craft market to the industrial markets to the fabric markets) sell wholesale or at cheaper prices than shops. That being said, do a lot of research on the cost of materials before buying, as you can easily pay too much for materials or equipment without knowing how much things should really be.
Know the different types of business ownerships. Foreign-owned, joint-venture, etc. A thorough google search or a reputable lawyer can help with this information. Foreigners no longer need a Vietnamese partner to own a business, however it is still an advantage to partner somebody that is trustworthy, but only if absolutely necessary. Partnering with someone you don’t know well can cause of lot of additional problems. Your embassy or chamber of commerce can answer your questions free of charge, or can recommend a reputable lawyer to help you get started.
Know yourself well and the goals you want to achieve. The more focused and honed-in to your goals you are, the easier it will be to reach out and achieve them. Know what you want to do and how you want to get there, what you care about most in your business and what isn’t of top priority. Be prepared to think outside the box and have patience while achieving them. For every obstacle encountered there are at least 3 ways to overcome it.
Adina Weinand is an arts educator. Check her classes at: facebook.com/saigonleatherworkshop.