Common problem sparks Aussie’s $5m idea
Trung Vien's parents arrived in Australia "with nothing" - but today, he's worth millions.
The Sydney man started his career as a financial planner at a major bank before deciding to break into the business world at age 24 by opening a Domino's Pizza branch.
"I knew nothing about business but I liked the brand and the franchise model was scalable, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life," he said.
At the time, he had already bought several investment properties as he had always been a conscientious saver, and had managed to build up his savings with his relatively high paying financial planning job.
"My parents said, 'you can't go into business, you have to go to uni and work a corporate job and be safe', but I didn't tell them that in my first year I made more than double the amount I had made at the bank," he said.
Then in 2013 he started a second business, a gym in Cabramatta in the city's south-west, while also building up his property portfolio in the Brisbane market.
By the time he was 27, the property market in the Queensland capital was slowing down due to an oversupply, and Mr Vien found himself "up to his eyeballs" in debt.
He decided to sell off some properties and businesses, and today he has around 14 properties worth a total of $10 million across Sydney and Brisbane.
"I did it by working hard and not taking holidays because my long term goal was to put cashflow into my investments," he said.
After eventually taking a much-needed break and travelling through Asia for a while, Mr Vien started to get restless and felt the urge to start a new business.
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At the same time, he started to notice a common problem facing many of his friends, and his latest venture was born.
"I'm at the age where a lot of friends have stared getting married, having kids or taking on executive roles and they're stressed out - and they have started losing their hair," he said.
"I thought, you know what, there must be a good solution to this problem and seeing my friends are facing it, it must be happening everywhere."
He started researching hair loss and ways to treat it and eventually launched Hair Folli in March this year, a hair care company that uses "superfood" Kakadu Plum to address the common hair concern via the brand's growth activator spray.
He described it as his "passion project" and said when the company launched just as the COVID-19 crisis hit, he expected the company to suffer - but that the opposite had occurred.
"After the first two or three weeks we had a couple of hundred thousand dollars in sales … we had launched with a lot of hype because we knew there was a gap in the market," he said.
"And everyone was staying home at the time and they had all this money to spend, so we doubled down and started hiring staff.
"We will add another five or six products over the next 12 months and that's a conservative amount so it's a very achievable model."
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He said he estimated the company would turn over up to $5 million in 2021 based on current trends, and that a major strategy was launching into the Asian market.
Another strength was the fact the company was entirely online, which kept down costs while many traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers were being "slaughtered" in the current downturn.
"Many retail businesses pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent and their landlords aren't budging because they've got bills to pay too," he said.
"The biggest advantage of e-commerce brands is that there are very low overheads."
Mr Vien said he was inspired to succeed after hearing about his parents' struggles.
"My parents came to Australia from Vietnam after the war with basically nothing - not a word of English and no experience or qualifications," he said.
"They had a lot of government support … and they passed on their work ethic to me.
"Hearing my parents' story makes me want to work harder to prove to them that 'hey, I can make it big' and provide an awesome business to the people in this country who gave us so much opportunity."
Originally published as Common problem sparks Aussie's $5m idea