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Entrepreneur creates homes of her dreams

Update: July, 06/2014 - 18:43
Mushrooming: Linh builds houses in many shapes, such as these elaborate toadstools.

After seeing photographs of dollhouses, Vu Mai Linh became infatuated with the miniature homes. Today, in addition to her day job, she runs a growing dollhouse-building business. An Vu reports.

Dollhouses bring back childhood memories for many. However, Vu Mai Linh is unusually passionate about the miniature abodes.

As a student at HCM City's University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Linh dreamed of designing and assembling little and lovely houses for dolls.

"I saw dollhouses on TV and in newspapers, but never in real life. When one of my friends posted some pictures of them that she took during a trip abroad on Facebook, I was captivated. I asked her to become my overseas supplier. My parents completely supported me," Linh says.

Now 23, she has been making and selling dollhouses for two years.

"I spend more than one month to complete a multi-storey house in miniature with a living room, balcony, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. I use various materials from wood and plastic to cloth. Everything in the house is tiny, so I also need scissors, tweezers and glue. You have to be clever, meticulous and patient to do this work," says Linh.

As a student, she often stayed up until 3am assembling houses. Today, she has to balance her hobby with her job as a stockbroker.

"I don't have time to sit down for hours making dollhouses anymore," she says.

Running the business alone also presents challenges.

"Kids from northern regions like Son La and Lai Chau provinces have called me to order toy houses, but they live too far from me. I could not find anyone to take care of the shipment."

Her smallest house costs VND200,000 (US$9.4), while a more complicated house with three floors and vivid exterior decoration can cost up to VND1,200,000 ($56). But many customers can only afford the more moderate houses.

"They just see them as souvenirs, so the profit is not big enough. That is another obstacle for me," says Linh.

Skilled hands:With many tiny parts, the dollhouses require a lot of precision to put together.

She plans to eventually leave her job and work on the dollhouses full-time.

"I hope someday I can dedicate all my time and energy to the dollhouses. In two to five years, when I am able to find a reliable business partner, I will open a shop in HCM City and another in Ha Noi."

Many of her customers are not children, but young housewives looking for ways to occupy their leisure time.

"I love the houses in which the tea-set is displayed on the table. I am infatuated just looking at them," customer Nguyen Bach Dan wrote on Linh's Facebook wall.

Another customer, Truong Ngan Le, also raves about the products.

"The house sets are all cute and the owner is so cute," she says.

For Linh, this is reward enough.

"I have changed my job countless time to be able to work with my dollhouses. When there is something you truly desire, you're willing to pay any price to do it with all your heart. It is my childhood dream and life inspiration," she says.

"Besides, I can give so many presents to my friends and family." — VNS

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