Young entrepreneur turns dragon fruit struggles into successful business

January 17, 2023 - 09:18
To realise her dream, in September 2019, the Bảo Long Bình Thuận Production - Trade - Service Company owned by Trần Thị Kim Lĩnh was founded.
Trần Thị Kim Lĩnh and her products from dragon fruits. — VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Hiếu

BÌNH THUẬN — Trần Thị Kim Lĩnh, a local of Bình Thuận Province in Việt Nam, has achieved great success in the dragon fruit industry. Known as the "capital" of dragon fruit production in the country, Lĩnh has built a thriving business centred around this exotic fruit.

Lĩnh, 31, lives in Phú An Street, Phú Long Town, Hàm Thuận Bắc District.

In 2010, dragon fruit’s price fell sharply to only VNĐ200 (8 US cent) per kilogramme, but local traders still could not find any buyers. They had to dump their stocks.

Lĩnh’s family is poor and her father is sick.

Lĩnh's mother counts only on selling dragon fruits to provide for her family with two children.

However, dragon fruit could not be sold, and her family fell into difficulties.

Every time Lĩnh saw sweat and tears rolling down her mother's tanned face or saw dragon fruit being dumped along the road, she wished she could do something to help her mother and local farmers.

Lĩnh was a first-year student of the Technology Faculty at the Bình Thuận Community College, who started researching and processing beverage products from fresh dragon fruits.

After failing nearly 20 times, Lĩnh felt discouraged, but with determination and perseverance, her first product – a naturally fermented dragon fruit juice, was successful.

But she was a student and her family was poor, so she could not develop the product.

Lĩnh did not give up studying while working and processing raw products to sell.

Lĩnh said that to produce a quality product, the first requirement is that the materials must be clean, without pesticide residue and with a clear origin.

Lĩnh contacted cooperatives producing organic dragon fruits in the area to supply her materials right after harvest.

The dragon fruit is then washed, peeled and cut into small pieces.

After that, it is mixed with sugar and fermented for 30-45 days, depending on the weather.

To realise her dream, in September 2019, the Bảo Long Bình Thuận Production – Trade – Service Company owned by Lĩnh was founded.

Its main product is naturally fermented beverages made from dragon fruits.

With the criterion 'clean, safe, no preservatives, no colourants and at a reasonable price', this product retains its freshness and beautiful colour.

On average, eight kilogrammes of fresh fruit will yield one litre of fermented juice.

Each year, Lĩnh’s company supplies over 45,000 litres of dragon fruit juice of all kinds, equivalent to about 3,000-5,000 litres per month.

The quantity of fresh dragon fruit consumed is also relatively large.

In the early days of its establishment, Lĩnh’s company faced many difficulties and challenges, especially in finance.

To build workshop and buy equipment for production, Lĩnh and her husband had to borrow more than VNĐ300 million ($12,900) from relatives and acquaintances.

After nearly three years, the company started to gain a foothold in the market.

So far, it has 29 distribution agents nationwide and is available on e-commerce platforms.

The products have stable quality and reasonable prices, ensuring food hygiene and safety.

The naturally fermented dragon fruit juice was awarded the certificate of typical rural industrial products at provincial levels last year. It received certification of One Commune One Product (OCOP) with four-star rating in 2021 and won the third prize of the Innovation Start-up Contest in Bình Thuận Province in 2020-21.

In her entrepreneurial journey, last year, Lĩnh was given the Lương Định Của Award. It is the award of the Central Committee of the HCM Youth Union for outstanding and typical young farmers.

Thái Thành Bi, deputy secretary of the Bình Thuận Province Youth Union, said that Lĩnh was a typical example of young people starting a business in the agriculture sector.

She has made many innovations, applied science and technology to process and improve product value.

Besides her enthusiasm for production, Lĩnh also actively participated in local volunteer activities.

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, she prepared meals to serve the frontline forces, and donated to the poor and hospitals, said Bi.

From the success of naturally fermented dragon fruit juice, Lĩnh continues to research and has 13 other products made from dragon fruit such as wine, syrup, jam, marshmallows and jelly.

She helped reduce the pressure of consuming fresh dragon fruit for growers, contributing to improving its economic value.

Always fond of the saying "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together", Lĩnh is planning to found a cooperative specialising in dragon fruit products.

The cooperative will gather young people who are passionate about start-ups. — VNS