HÀ NỘI — Khuất Thị Thắm managed to escape poverty and overcome the difficulties life had thrown at her simply by growing gấc fruits (scientifically known as Momordica cochinchinensis) in her garden.
Thirty-one-year-old Thắm lives in Minh Quang Commune, Ba Vì District in Hà Nội, and got married when she was 20 years old. Her family was listed as a poor household.
Her husband worked as a building worker with an income of about VNĐ120,000 (US$5.2) per day.
Her first daughter suffers from cerebral palsy. She is 10 years old now, but is bedridden and often cries all night, making Thắm’s life very hard.
After Thắm got married, she stayed at home to take care of their daughter.
Thắm believed the safe fruit and vegetables she grew in her garden were the healthiest option for her child, and she often used the gấc fruits to make soup and cakes for her.
One winter, Thắm used the oil from a ripe gấc fruit to sooth her chapped lips, and that gave her the inspiration to start making lipstick from the fruit.
Thắm discussed her idea with her older sister, Khuất Thị Duyên, who thought it was a good idea.
Thắm set her idea into motion in 2016, but everything was very difficult to start with.
“I tested hundreds of different samples, but they either broke or were too rough on the lips,” said Thắm.
Thắm tried adding more materials to the lipstick such as vitamin E and beeswax, and at last she was successful.
With the established trademark K’Duyen Lipstick, Thắm and her older sister have made thousands of products.
Each lip balm is sold for VNĐ50,000-80,000 ($2.1-3.4), while the coloured lipsticks go for VNĐ120,000 ($5.2).
Without any added preservatives, the products can last for up to six months once opened.
This year, the Hà Nội Women’s Union launched a competition themed “Creative ideas for a start-up”, and Thắm's lipstick from the fruit was chosen as one of 10 most creative products.
“The recognition is a great motivation for me to continue making better lipsticks,” said Thắm.
“For me, the lipsticks are not only a product, they are a bright dream helping my life become more meaningful,” she said.
Sharing Thắm’s joy, Nguyễn Thị Thu was also awarded at the event on Monday to honour the businesswomen.
Thu, 29, lives in Khánh Hà Commune, Thường Tín District.
Starting with a passion for medicinal herbs and aspiring to enrich the community in her hometown, in July 2017 Thu founded the Tâm An Co-operative with six colleagues. The co-operative's goal was to make tea from medicinal herbs and grow clean vegetables using organic fertiliser.
Thu said that medicinal herbals sources in Việt Nam were abundant and diversified. They were easy to plant and care for. Each plant had its own strong point and economic value, so she decided to make use of them in her products.
At first, the co-operative sold the herbs to pharmaceutical companies in Hà Nội and neighbouring provinces.
Then it invested in a production line to make tea with the trademark Tâm An.
The co-operative now has more than 1ha of medicinal herbs on what used to be a rice field. The area had subsided so rice productivity was low, she explained.
Now the land has rich economic benefits.
Tâm An tea is now sold in big supermarkets across Hà Nội such as Lotte, Aeon and Vinmart.
Besides, the co-operative plants seasonal vegetables using organic fertiliser on a 1.800sq.m field.
“Organic agriculture is a sector with great potential, so the co-operative is trying its best to take advantage of that,” said Thu.
Making progress together
Ten women receive awards for their outstanding start-up initiatives. — VNS Photo Thu Trang
At the awards ceremony, Lê Kim Anh, chairwoman of the Hà Nội Women’s Union, praised the women's efforts, creativity and talent, saying they had enriched themselves and the community.
The ceremony took place in Hà Nội on Monday to mark the anniversary of the Vietnam Women’s Union, which will fall on Sunday.
The 10 women to receive awards had taken the initiative to create different products including silk towels, cloth bags, organic rice and leaf hats.
Anh said the winners represented women of the capital city, who always contributed to the cause of economic development for equality and women's empowerment.
The union would continue to create good conditions for women to shine, she said. — VNS