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  • By: LazBeat Staff
  • Oct 15, 2020

Sweet Transformation of a Traditional Family Business

Growing up in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region famed for its tea and coffee, Lê Đức Minh and Lê Đức Duy watched their parents and other farmers harvest, dry and pack their tea leaves for sale. They remember how tourists would come from far and wide to the highlands city of Bao Loc to taste the tea, and how their mother would proudly tell customers what care and labour went into producing the quality tea they sold. How only the newest leaf buds were plucked, how these were withered and oxidised to retain their enzymes, so that they would retain their flavour and health benefits.

The brothers, now 26 and 25, have grown the family business, and sweetened it. They work with the region’s bee farmers and producers to meet the growing demand for honey and honey-related products. To reflect their mother’s dedication to quality, Đức Duy and Đức Minh consolidated all their products under a single brand name that honours her: “Cô Cự,” which means “Mrs Cự.”

“We named the brand after our mother to retain the traditional aspects of our business and remind ourselves to continue our parents’ dream and passion of selling authentic, quality products at affordable prices for the Vietnamese people. This is a passion shared by many of the local farmers here.” Đức Duy said.

The brothers have bigger dreams. They want everyone across the country to be able to buy and enjoy their products, whether they are in Bao Loc, or far away. Four years ago, their dreams took them online and into the eCommerce world.  About a year ago they joined LazMall because of its commitment to authenticity and the assurance of quality it offers consumers. Having successfully digitalised their business, they closed all 18 of their physical stores, and now sell their products exclusively online.

Going digital has revived and re-energised their family business, and helped to sustain the livelihoods of the highlands farmers, the brothers said.  Their story has had its ups and downs.

“About 10 years ago, we started to see an influx of products that mimicked ours, but at much lower prices and more inferior quality. The competition hurt our business and our parents had to scale it back. We started to lose some suppliers and customers,” Đức Minh said. “It was tough, seeing our parents’ and the local farmers’ businesses suffer. We decided we needed to look at doing things differently.”

Selling online was a brave new world. The brothers didn’t know how to begin. But they took courses from Lazada University and became involved in the Lazada Sellers’ Club to learn the tools of the trade, as well as tips from other sellers. During the last 11.11 mega shopping festival, the brothers received more than 2,000 orders a day for their honey products.

“Seeing trucks loaded with Cô Cự’s honey products being shipped out is probably one of the happiest moments of our lives,” Đức Duy said. 

During the pandemic, they’ve sold nearly 4,000 litres of honey a month. The brothers believe that as people became more concerned about health and wanting more nutritious products, they were naturally drawn to honey.

Using the same care and dedication to quality that their parents lavished on their tea, the brothers always ensure that their bees are in the pink of health and in the largest numbers before moving the colonies to the “blooming areas” to harvest the honey. The farm staff will also take care to scout for areas where flowers are in full bloom. The brothers use only Italian bees, as these  are thought to be not only highly resistant to disease but are amongst the most productive. This means that the golden yellow honey they produce does not need any artificial treatment and can be stored for more than three years without discolouring.

“The mountainous area of Bao Loc is a great environment for bees. Each package, each product, is a gift of nature to our customers’ health,” Đức Minh said.

Besides ensuring that their facilities comply with regulatory standards for food safety and hygiene, the brothers also work with exporters to ensure that their products meet international standards and are certified as such. This will position them well to one export their products. “Then the world may also learn about and enjoy the tea, coffee and honey from Bao Loc.”

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