That was a fateful story to me and Hoa Ban+ even though Hoa Ban+ project is quite complicated to MoG members. Hoa Ban+ was established after the first MoG project in Sep 2012. Introduced by CSIP Vietnam, C2I was the first social enterprise that very50 and 2012 MoG team aimed to support out with Thuan Hoa Social Protection Center in Maichau(THSPC). At that time, as Mrs. Thuan and Mrs. Huong(C2I)‘s friend, I was one of three Vietnamese volunteers that came to Maichau to work with the MoG team during their stay. That was the first time we met with very50.THSPC and C2I separated in Dec 2012 then Hoa Ban+ was established in 2013, took over what 2012 team has done and keeps developing with the support of 2013 MoGers in Aug.
*Our feeling of very50 and MoG: It was the first time for us to work with Japanese people that long and intensively. very50 is a very creative organization that we have never met before. We did not expect that the representative and all volunteers worked that hard. They always tried their best to make sure all their own experiences, knowledge and very50’s pre-training would be as much helpful as possible for SE. We felt “Time was always not enough” to them.
Why did you decide to work with very50 through the MoG program?
Hoa Ban+ is a new operating social enterprise. It came to existence based upon the realization that Social Protection Center has the weakness in its human resource as well as management skills and direction. Our workers are all disabled people and poor ethnic women. One of the founders comes from a local ethnic group that lacks in experiences of working independently in a right system. In terms of covering both social and business aspects, we have difficulty in giving a good direction.
While very50 aims to support SE with the use of brand building expertise, we also find it helpful their problem solving ability and the ability to propose future courses of action for a beginning SE. very50 staff works hard together with a group of MoG participants who are ready to struggle with SE’s problems and manual works. In short, they met our expectations. That’s why we have decided to do MoG with very50.
What does a typical day look like during the MoG project?
1. Pre-Vietnam period
MoG team and I began to get in touch and work out via email and skype one and a half months before MoGers came to Hanoi. During that time, MoGers needed to understand as much as possible about Hoa Ban+ by asking me questions (about 1000Q) to make sure what they should do/prepare to meet our needs. MoG team was divided into 3 teams: Strategy, Product and Promotion team. Three team leaders listed their schedules and asked me for group meetings alternatively via skype with all their team members. Those pre-meetings helped us a lot to understand each other. All team members and SE got closer and got to know what we need do.
2. Vietnam period
Since we are based in Maichau – 140km far from Hanoi, all members and I spent the first two days on doing some research in Hanoi. Then, we all worked together in Maichau for ten days. On the first day in Maichau, we researched around our factory, stores, shops and around the areas. Then, the representative and leader gave out the schedule/timetable of each team for the next day. Actually, I had a meeting almost the whole day with three teams. While we were in the meeting, other teams were working outside/in the factory/store/shops with workers and an English-Vietnamese speaking volunteer. To me it’s really necessary and important to work with MoG team the whole time in Hanoi and Maichau to change, improve or propose anything we need work together directly and tightly. That’s why I always arrange time before they come and to be with them all the time when they are in Vietnam.
What is the biggest change during MoG project?
Well, there are a lot of things that could be the “big changes” to Hoa Ban+ after the MoG project, but if I have to say what is the most impressive “Change” I think is: Creating our clear mission, vision and the face of Hoa Ban+ basement in Maichau (the shop looks very attractive and it made the revenue of Sep, Oct and Nov increased 75% compared to the last months).
Do you keep in touch with the MoG members after the MoG program has ended? If so, how do you interact?
Sure. Even after the project, we are still keeping in touch. We keep following each other’s activities and share our own works through Facebook and Skype even though it’s not too much because all of us have to get back to our daily lives. If any MoGer members come to Vietnam one day, I can make sure that I will be of help for them. They are also waiting for me in Japan!
What kind of issues did you and MoG members focus on during MoG project?
MoGers and I focused mostly on four issues:
- Clarifying our mission and vision
- Promoting Hoa Ban+ ‘s basement: re-decorating the shops, re-arranging the factory and stores, leading customers to our shop by painting footprints, testing Hoa Ban+’s visiting program
- Improving product quality
- Constantly Planning proposals
What was the output that the MoG program created for your business?
- A clearer mission (internal and external mission), more strategic visions (visions for three years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now respectively) and a long term strategy (target markets, target customers and so on)
- A clear guideline: After 10 days in Maichau, MoG members “issued” a guideline for us: “How to decorate the shops”, “How to control product quality”, “How to communicate with international customers”, “How to mix colors for products”, “Hoa Ban+’s visiting program” etc and gave it to our shop keepers, workers and managers as our a treasure for better work.
- A new connection with friends, people who love handicrafts and who are interested in Hoa Ban+ project in Japan (after the final report that took place in Japan in Oct, Saori- one of the MoG members informed of me that one lady decided to join Hoa Ban+ PJ in 2014)
How has very50 supported your activities in addition to the MoG program?
Well, I like this question, because it’s chance for me to say what I wanted to say to very50 but I’ve not said yet: “very50 played an important part in Hoa Ban+’s foundation”.
Unlike any other partners of Hoa Ban+, very50 has been with us from the very beginning. They understand deeply the situation and how Hoa Ban+ was born. very50 and the founder, Mr. Ryosuke, in particular has assisted me to decided to establish a new SE after THSPC and C2I had been separated. When I was thinking and brainstorming with what/how I can do or how to start, how to operate a SE, he helped me about brand building, SE management and operations since my background is tourism business and I didn’t know much about it. Every time Mr.Ryo came to Hanoi for other SEs projetcs, I met with him for several strategic questions (about mission, vision, product lines, value chains, target, direction analysis etc ) and worked out step by step. For example, the “+” in “Hoa Ban+” came from Mr. Ryo’s idea. He is really a great master.
After the establishment up to now
After Hoa Ban+ was established, we have been struggling with a lot of difficulties in changing a social protection center into a social enterprise, changing disadvantaged people’s mind and changing the organizational structure. Sometime I was frustrated and even tears came out but when I emailed and shared the situations, all relies ended with the sentence “we always stand by you”. They don’t know how much it encouraged HB+ and me. Thanks to this, we always got back to work. Even now, HB+ is still having difficulties but very50 always finds chances to support us: they introduced us to some organizations and companies that we are able to co-operate with, such as Crossfields NGO, HIS Japanese travel company. They also invited us to Japan for researching, promoting and expanding our business. We believe that in the future their support will keep helping us a lot to complete our mission as well as develop our brand.
Please tell us your vision for the future. (what is your next step!?)
During MoG PJ 2013, we have given out quite specific future vision:
- In 3 years, HoaBan+ will be a self-sustainable organization both financially and with human resources.
- In 5 years, HoaBan+ will be well-known with a system of shops, affiliates, and partners across Vietnam.
- In 5 years, more than 10 disadvantaged people will be helped and treated by HoaBan+ each year.
- In 10 years, HoaBan+ will have a world-wide market and exports
However to make that vision come true, Hoa Ban+ needs to figure out these two things from now on:
Manufacturing: facilities and production management.
Product’s direction: Hoa Ban+’s products have not that good competitive advantage as well as differential advantage. We need to find a unique way to make our products seen as better or different than our competitors by customers.