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Taking my first step as a young entrepreneur in Laos

Manothip Siripaphanh_1's picture
Manothip met her first customers at an entrepreneurship fair for young people in Laos.

How does one turn a creative idea into a profitable business? In my case, it started with a bag.

In Laos, where I’m from, wearing the “sinh” or traditional Lao skirt is still very common. I found it difficult to find a handbag that would match the sinh so I tried designing something that I could imagine myself using. The bag looked modern but I used traditional Laos silk as the main material for it. I was very pleased with the bag and thought that it would do well commercially. In 2012, the World Bank in Laos held its STEPS Young Entrepreneur Market Place Competition and I didn't hesitate to enter the contest and pitch this as my business idea. That's how I started my NAREE brand.

I was one of the 97 young entrepreneurs who made it to the competition’s short-list. Everyone in this round was trained by seasoned entrepreneurs on how to create marketing and financial plans. One lesson from them which I’ll never forget is the importance of thinking further and thinking outside the box. It gave me a better business perspective for NAREE. More than the lessons, participants also got a chance to bounce off ideas with each other. We became friends and that became my first step in building a business network.

From the short-list, I was among the 30 chosen to compete in the competition’s final round. An exhibition was held in the capital city of Vientiane, where the competition judges and the general public could see, sample, or even buy our products on display. It was very important to me because it was the first time that NAREE bags were seen by so many people. Some became my first customers.

What was my reaction when I won? It felt very good to know that my hard work was recognized. I remembered the people who supported me throughout the competition and was grateful.

My vision is for my bags to become trendy among Lao and international buyers. I'll train more designers and craftsmen because producing a bag using Lao cotton and silk requires skill and attention to detail. I also intend to work on a public relations plan that will introduce NAREE to the domestic and international markets.

I believe everyone has a dream, but opportunity does not often come knocking on your door – so you have to go out and find it!


Submitted by Ralph on
Dear Manothip, Your story is inspiring. I very much like the way your bags look in the photo and your commitment to make good quality products. I am sure you soon will be able to sell them in international customers and your company will surely grow. Keep the good work and never ever give up. Please let me know as soon as you can make your catalogue available online. I wish you every success in your venture. Best regards, Ralph

Submitted by Manothip on
Dear Ralph, I'm very grateful for your interest in my products. I hope NAREE can inspire lots of people. Lao cotton and silk is a part of our rich cultures and unique itself which I’m trying to present its value through NAREE bags. In the near future, we will launch the NAREE’s products via website. Please stay tuned. Best regards, Manothip

Submitted by Viengsamay Vongkhamsao on
Dear Manothip, Please keep on the great work. I like your ambition. Beside personal satisfaction and rewarding, the bags made from Lao silk will be known by many people outsides our country. Best regards, Viengsamay

Submitted by Manothip on
Dear Viengsamay, Thank you for your comment. NAREE promise to working hard for it. If you have more suggestions or advices please don't be hesitate to mail me : [email protected] Best regards, Manothip.

Submitted by Souksada on

Saa by dee Manothip, You are very inspiring. I like your ambition also. You know where you are going with your handbag designs, so I see that you will do very well. I will own one in the near future. Well wisher, Souksada

Submitted by Manothip on

Dear Souksada,

Thank you for your compliment. I'll try to improve Naree products as well as possible. Please don't be hesitate to contact me on [email protected]

Submitted by Ashley Barnett on

Dear Manothip,
I'm a college student and writing my term paper on gender issues in Laos. I'm focusing on women not having equal rights compared to men in the country. Your story is a very inspiring success story that I would love to use to show the progress of women becoming equal to men in business regards. If you have time I would love to talk to you more about your story.
Thank you,
Ashley Barnett

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