DIEPPE – Hoang Nguyen often has to wake up at 3 am to manage his family business in Vietnam. A few hours later, he’s serving coffee at Café La Lieto in Dieppe with his wife Phuong Tran and his business partner Binh Nguyen.
The coffee shop on Champlain St. is owned by Hoang and Binh. Despite having the same last name, the men from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, aren’t related. They met in Vietnam and decided to open a business together in Canada.
“Looking around New Brunswick, I think [Greater Moncton] is the best place because it’s more commercial, there are more restaurants, more people, which is a fit to our capability,” Hoang said.
Hoang and his wife immigrated to Dieppe in 2015 under the Provincial Nominee Program. They brought their two children, one in high school and the other in elementary school. Binh had moved about a year earlier with his children, who are both in college now. His wife stayed in Vietnam to run her own incense company and help manage his baby-product business.
“When I come here with my friend and my children, we are thinking that it’s very good for staying here, and I like to open a coffee shop,” Binh said.
A coffee trader by profession, Hoang came with a business plan to open a company that would import green coffee from Vietnam and sell it to various roasters in Canada. When that didn’t work, he decided to switch to selling coffee by the cup. Binh was already experienced in running coffee shops and restaurants, so the pair decided to buy Café La Lieto in 2016. Their specialties include Vietnamese coffee and food like Banh Mi and Pho, home-made soy milk and bubble tea.
“We are new here in this city, and we have to adapt, we have to survive. At least we have a business to keep and to do, and from there, we will look around to do more,” Hoang said.
“We are people who are keen to work, keen to expand. We don’t mind to be in difficult situations but we always try our best. That’s the key for us.”
In the meantime, all three continue to manage their businesses in Vietnam. Phuong and Hoang’s family business makes furniture to be exported to the U.K. and Ireland, and sometimes the U.S. The company has employed 300 people on contract and full time bases.
“We have our relatives and family members to control the business in Vietnam, so we manage our business all through the web and internet, and communicate through Whatsapp, Viber, Skype. Nowadays with Internet, it helps a lot. We authorize our people to sign contracts [online],” Hoang said.
Binh, on the other hand, is an electrical engineer who went into business after getting married. He has four retail shops in Vietnam that sell baby products from Western countries, including Canada. He also owns a Japanese coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh City.
When we were young, we tried to work for a company. But in the meantime, we look around to be independent. So we look for opportunities to set up a small, small business and you start to grow from there,” Hoang said.
This entrepreneurial spirit is common in Vietnam, they said.
“Many young people, they look for opportunities to create their own business. If they’re working for one company, they’re still thinking about opening their own business. Men and women,” Hoang added.
In Dieppe, the trio is looking for ways to increase sales, including by possibly holding soy milk-making workshops and opening later, depending on customer traffic. But they also already have other ideas for the future.
Hoang wants to be the sole agent for Vietnamese coffee products in Greater Moncton and plans to have a drive through in future coffee shop locations. Meanwhile, Binh wants to cater to the youth.
“When I go around in Moncton, the young people don’t have place for when going with friend, boyfriend. In the future, I can open in the night time and gonna have something for young people,” he said.