Mrs. Hien (Founder of Hien Paper Group)
“Happy with her business, but even happier with the social values she brings to others – a steady, fair-paid job.”
Hien left Tuy Hoa, a small town in the middle of Vietnam, she came to HCMC (Ho-Chi-Minh-City) for studying to become a hardware programmer. After having graduated from the University she worked for a short time. Unfortunately, she did not succeed. After having quit the job, she and some of her friends formed a group and were taught by the uncle of Duc (a member of the group) how to make vases, hats, small Vietnamese dolls etc. out of paper ( bee nest fold paper technique ). They sold their products in souvenir shops in HCMC.
One day in 2006, Hien came to a MAI shop asking if they could sell their products there. MAI was interested in her skill on making these products but it was not suitable for MAI’s customer market. After asking Hien about the reason why her group produces these products, Hien told us that they wanted to do some things very Vietnamese which should be sold to young Vietnamese people to use for decoration on their house. Furthermore, they wanted to preserve the skill of their families. When we were talking to Hien we realized that this group was very dynamic and potential, thus we asked Hien to make some more functional things such as bowls or plates which would be more suitable with Mai customers. Having understood what we meant, they formed their first bowl as requested from a FTO (Fair Trade Original; Fair Trade Company from NL) designer. When the first big order from FTO came, they were very happy, that they had finished it without any problems. Since then they’ve received more orders from MAI so that they decided not to sell their products on the local market anymore, but just to concentrate on exporting products. They exclusively work for MAI Handicrafts, which doesn’t suit MAI. We don’t want any group depending on us too much because it will be a risk for them. We talked to them about the risks, but they chose to take them.
What had to happen happened – their products were less demanded. We explained to Hien that the world is interested in recycling products, so we asked Hien if she could make things from magazines or news papers. One week later, Hien came back to MAI with some coiled, recycled magazine plates from which we ( MAI & HIEN ) took the idea to form plates and bowls from coiled bamboo. All our customers love these items, we’ve sold many. Hien had to increase their group, it grew to 30 workers rolling paper and 50 workers folding paper, most of their workers come from the village in Tuy Hoa. When we made the interview with them, they all seemed very proud of what they had done. They are very happy because they had found a good job. It is not a hard job and the salary is enough for them to cover their expenses. During the last years, not only their salaries have risen but their technique has improved too. In the past they produced very slowly and they had to spend a lot of time and worked hard on every stage. Now they not only save time but their work is easier and quicker. They also created a drying machine to help them drying the products on rainy and cloudy days when they can not dry the product in sunlight.