S02E04: Sophie Ha Nguyen, Co-founder & CEO of Skabella, Vietnam

“If you are at home and you are sitting on your couch and you are watching this right now, all I have to say is that this is hard work. I’ve worked hard for a long time and it’s not about winning. What it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There’s a discipline for passion, it’s not about how many times you are rejected or you fall down or you’re beaten up, it’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going.”

Lady Gaga said this in 2019 when she won an Oscar for the Best Original Song Academy Award for the song titled Shallow featured in the movie, A Star Is Born.  

Lady Gaga and her acceptance speech touched Sophie Ha Nguyen deeply as Sophie Ha saw a lot of herself in this celebrity.

Sophie Ha Nguyen is a Vietnamese entrepreneur based in Ho Chi Minh City whom I interviewed for this episode. She is the co-founder and CEO of Skabella, a children’s clothing brand.

Sophie loves this quote by Albert Einstein: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”.

Hers is an interesting story of courageous and creative problem-solving as well as combining strengths and experiences as you will hear from this episode.

Skabella was primarily sold in department stores and her earnings took a massive dip during the early days of the pandemic. 

As stores were shut in Ho Chi Minh City,, her retail fashion wear for children was badly affected. She felt deeply frustrated but decided that she would do something more proactive.

Not only did she manage to turn around her fashion business but she also created a new business as well as joined forces with a friend to work through this storm. She came out stronger and now even has time to coach and motivate her team. 

We spoke about:

  • How she convinced high-end department stores to retail her children’s fashion in the early days when no one had heard of her brand
  • Why she turned down investors for Skabella even though she had every opportunity to take the money and grow the brand
  • How she managed to cut her costs during the pandemic without firing anyone and even managed to give them all bonuses at the end of last year! 
  • How she has freed herself from going to the office to manage her team – she used to go to the office 3 to 4 days a week and now she only goes in for half a day (and makes more than before)
  • How and why she started a new business right in the middle of the pandemic and is now reaping the rewards in incredibly satisfying ways because she finally found a niche and the women who need her help
  • How she collaborated with a friend to grow into a new market segment that she doesn’t even need to manage or oversee!

She left a Government-owned organisation to pursue an MBA In the UK in 2005 which opened her up to the many possibilities of life. She was also glad she left the corporate world to start her own business, Skabella in 2014 and most recently in 2020, she decided to transform herself to create a brand new business during the pandemic. It is no wonder then that her favourite book of all time is Good To Great by Jim Collins.

Sophie Ha has managed to intertwine her entrepreneurial smarts with an acute sense of what the market wants and offer something fresh and new for Vietnamese women. Her business acumen and experience, independent spirit and overseas education are probably factors that contribute to her success. She started off feeling helpless and hopeless in March 2020 and has now emerged more confident and courageous than before.

Connect with her at these links:

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  1. I did like the Korea Drama “Crash Landing on You” alot lol…
    I like a quote from Sophie: “there is no smooth sailing in life….you have to overcome it (the problem)”

    1. Nice to see your comment Gideon! I still haven’t managed to catch that drama but I know lots of people enjoyed watching it (they were in love with the handsome protagonist). Sophie has a lot of good things going for her despite the pandemic and I wanted listeners to know that in every difficult moment, something good and pure will emerge as long as we don’t give up. Thanks again for being an avid listener. I know I have many men who like my podcast 😉

    2. Haha, you did? I still haven’t watched it until now and it has been more than a year since Sophie recommended it to me. I guess I am not the Netflix type. Give me a good book any day.

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