[Editor’s note: Mimi San Pedro of The Venture Center recently spent time in Vietnam exploring ways to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in developing nations with university officials and budding entrepreneurs. She chronicled her experiences exclusively for Arkansas Money & Politics.
Entrepreneurship is a hot topic around the world, even in developing nations like Vietnam. Home to one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, Vietnam is strongly encouraging its students to become creative entrepreneurs.
The Vietnamese government is highly supportive because it recognizes the role of education and mentorship in starting successful businesses. But it can’t do it alone. As developing nations evolve from industrial and manufacturing societies to join the technological revolution of the West, they need significant resources. Equipping entrepreneurs ultimately means these nations require more access to mentors who guide and encourage innovators as they build solutions for the future.
Resource centers like The Venture Center play a significant role in educating and training young professionals, startups and entrepreneurs by providing that mentorship connection. I recently traveled to Vietnam on behalf of The Venture Center to mentor my friend Xuan Do, whom I met when she spent four weeks in Little Rock through Global Ties Arkansas and the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI.) An economics professor at Tay Nguyen University, Xuan Do is in the process of building a business incubator in her hometown of Buon Ma Thuot. From the first day of my arrival, I knew I had been invited to be part of something exceptional.
The entrepreneurial spirit of the people I met was delightful. Before I’d even arrived to begin my YSEALI project, a group of ambitious and energetic enterprisers had already met and put together a PowerPoint presentation on a new business idea. Then, the work of YSEALI began in Xuan Do’s hometown as I met with local leaders, students and teachers. The first of these visits was in the region’s most populous city, also known as the coffee capital and home to Tay Nguyen University, Buon Ma Thuot. The university’s director of business innovation and I discussed his projects and vision for the future, and he shared information about a potentially life-changing project.
At the core of this project are local farmers harvesting the cassava plant to produce biodegradable plastic-like replacements for single-use plastics such as straws and grocery bags. Six Asian countries have welcomed the project’s expansion, and that’s likely just the beginning. Already blown away by the innovation I saw, I headed over to Tay Nguyen University to meet with the chancellor and several department heads for a comprehensive briefing. Then came the excitement of student collaboration during a presentation for around 150 students that focused on The Venture Center’s work with entrepreneurs. We wrestled with how to create business plans and worked through the best practices for marketing startups.
On the last day with lecturers, I strategized with a group of economics, marketing and entrepreneurial professors. By the session’s end, the group was resolute that to support their budding entrepreneurs, the university would work to build an on-campus innovation center to promote entrepreneurship, similar to The Venture Center.
The commitment to the hard work of entrepreneurship was evident in everyone I met, as was their desire to develop deeper international connections. With friends and family, Xuan Do proudly showcased her hometown to teach me a great deal, and as a result, I fell in love with their community. My time as an international mentor has forever changed me.
We have been building resources for entrepreneurs in the U.S. for years, and now more than ever, developing countries need our expertise in this area. We are all part of a global marketplace, and its evolution will continue to gain speed. To keep up with this constant change, we need to aid all entrepreneurs who are building solutions for the future.
As one of the fastest-growing markets, Vietnam needs the guidance of mentors. Thankfully, potential mentors can lend assistance from right here at home through Global Ties Arkansas or The Venture Center. Both are places where your time, your voice or your treasure are meaningful ways to work towards our shared goals of growth and success in our quickly changing world. We welcome you to join us in 2020 as we work to make the dream of entrepreneurship available everywhere from Arkansas to Vietnam and beyond.