At 25, SHMS alumnus Thai Son Le is already the owner and founder of Food Center, a popular chain of casual eateries in Vietnam and the Managing Director of Connected Agency, one of the leading entertainment companies that organises music festivals in Vietnam.
It all started with a loan he took from his family to start a restaurant business four years ago. Today, Son Le has built his F&B empire to include 29 outlets in seven different cities in Vietnam and is also making waves in Vietnam’s entertainment industry.
I’ve always been fascinated by the food and entertainment industries as they’re both essentially about making people feel good.
How did the idea to start Food Center come about?
I travel frequently and noticed that dining in food courts is very popular, especially in countries like Singapore, Thailand and China. People are not limited to a specific cuisine and can order different types of food and share amongst family and friends.
I liked the concept and wanted to bring it to Vietnam where it was not common. Vietnam is also rapidly developing and with that more people are becoming busier with work with less time for meal preparations.
So after 10 months of research and submitting endless proposals, I started Food Center, focusing on noodles, Thai hotpots and BBQ meats. In 2016, my business partner and I clinched a deal with a foreign investment fund with financial flow that has allowed us to expand quickly.
What is your plan for Food Center moving forward?
Having expanded the business to 29 outlets in seven cities in two years, our main priority now is to focus on upgrading the systems to achieve efficiency at our outlets. This year, we’re looking to open nine more outlets and introducing a new chain of outlets that will feature Korean steaks.
My goal is to become a multi-industry entrepreneur and it was during my time in Switzerland that sparked this ambition. It not only opened my eyes to different trends, cultures and experiences, but I also learnt many important life lessons that built my confidence and I started believing that I could achieve anything I wanted to as long as I was willing to work hard for it.
Tell us a little bit more about Connected Agency.
Connected Agency is a leading music festival organiser in Vietnam, founded in 2013. It’s one of the pioneers in promoting the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scene in the country. We organise three to four big music festivals annually, attended by over 100,000 people at each event.
When I was studying in Switzerland, I also visited other European cities and saw a huge following for dance music festivals, with the likes of Tomorrowland, Ultra and Electric Daisy Carnival. It’s a trend that has recently taken off in Asia and I saw a potential to develop this industry in Vietnam. In 2017, I decided to invest in Connected Agency and initially joined the company as their Food & Beverage Director. Today I’m the Managing Director of the company and together with the other Board of Directors, our vision is to bring in high calibre and globally renowned DJs and music artists to Vietnam and becoming a trusted partner in artist management.
What is the biggest challenge you face with both your businesses?
From day one, my biggest challenge has been attracting and hiring the right people. Sometimes we manage to find good people but they leave shortly after for better propects, whilst others don’t really have the motivation to thrive in a fast-paced start-up environment. I think this is a challenge a lot of businesses face, but as entrepreneuers we have to be adaptable to different situations.
Any advice for other budding entrepreneurs?
Dream big, but take small steps to get to where you want. Be patient and have a strong will and determination to get through the initial challenging times.
Thai son Le graduated with a Swiss Higher Diploma in Hospitality Management from SHMS
|Programme Details||Dates & Deadlines||Entry Requirements|