Viet Nam News
Lan Anh - Xuân Long
HÀ NỘI — Nguyễn Thị Thu Thương is no taller than a toddler, but she manages a souvenir company and provides jobs for 20 people with disabilities.
Thương has brittle bone disease, which means her bones are fragile and break easily. About 80cm tall and weighing just 25kg, she uses a wheelchair for children and is unable to move easily.
However, she takes care of most of the important jobs at the 5-year-old company located in Phú Xuyên District, south of Hà Nội, from brainstorming designs to closing deals and dealing with customers.
Founded in 2013, Thương’s company specialises in quilted souvenirs. As well as medium-sized quilted paintings, she produces greeting cards and jewellery with the same technique, catering to both domestic and international clients.
She started learning the craft 15 years ago, when 20-year-old Thương took up handicrafts as part of her vocational training. The owner of a quilting store saw photos of her products online, thought she was talented, and offered to provide supplies for Thương to produce and sell products at her store.
“She taught me the basics in three days, then I learned by myself and taught my sister and others interested,” Thương told the Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
“During that time I got to know lots of people with disabilities who had the same desire to be able to fend for themselves like me. So I invited them to attend a two-month training course, gave them the materials to make the products, and offered to sell what they made.”
Now that her Thương Thương Handmade souvenir brand has made a name for itself in the market, the 35-year-old is planning to open her second factory on the outskirts of the capital city.
Nguyễn Thị Thu Thương is 80cm tall due to brittle bone disease. She is the director of a souvenir company that provides jobs for 20 others with disabilities. — Photo tuoitre.vn
Although she has never gone to school and only received occasional English lessons from students who came to volunteer at her store, Thương has no trouble communicating with foreign customers via email.
She wants her clients to purchase the products because of their quality, not out of sympathy for her and her colleagues, Thương said.
“One thing I realised after all these years is that people who bought our products out of sympathy only bought them once,” she said.
“But lots of them have returned to buy more several times. Some companies always placed orders with us during special occasions such as the Lunar New Year (Tết) holiday as presents for their partners.”
The success of the business has helped provide a steady income for Thương’s staff. Each staff member gets paid VNĐ2-6 million (US$86-257) per month depending on their performance.
Since last year Thương was able to pay her employees an annual bonus. She also provides free accommodation for staff who live far to save them the long daily commute.
Hoàng Phương Thảo, 24, an employee from the northern province of Tuyên Quang, said she is grateful for the opportunity to work with Thương.
“I was really struggling with my life before I met her because I was unable to find a job,” Thảo said.
“Now not only do I get to work at her factory but also stay there for free and learn from her how to stay positive,” she added.
“Thương is a shining example of a strong-willed woman, and she has helped me a lot in overcoming my own insecurities.
“I was living in a shell before I met Thương and felt really lonely. Now I’ve become more open to people around me, and the changes that came are a real surprise.” — VNS