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From fashion to resort
By Nhan Tam
Sunday,  May 17, 2020,14:04 (GMT+7)

From fashion to resort

By Nhan Tam

Jenny Pham in her resort

“Fashionista” Jenny Pham is filling her resort in Hoi An with the romantic spirit of fashion, with the ambition to make it a home away from home for guests. She wants her resort not to be only a commercial establishment that caters to vacationers.

The childhood dream of Jenny Pham, whose Vietnamese name is Pham Thi Hai Nguyen, was to become a pilot so she could fly in the sky and travel around the world.

Years later, she found herself engrossed in making clothes for Barbie dolls and then chose the path of a fashion designer to indulge in her passion, fully aware there would be lots of difficulties and challenges ahead.

“That my first wholesale collection exclusively for the Bernadette

Mopera showroom in Los Angeles, California, was well received by clients is my fondest memory,” said the overseas Vietnamese young lady.

Another memorable experience of hers is unexpectedly getting the signature of a celebrity. “On one occasion, I was at a Jenny N store on Melrose Ave; Los Angeles, when an African-American woman walked in. She picked seven or eight dresses, asked for different sizes and consulted me carefully. She bought them for her sister. After she walked out, another customer came running with an exhilarated look on her face, asking, ‘Do you know who she is? That’s the younger sister of Beyoncé Knowles, Solange Knowles.’ Taken by surprise, I checked the newly printed credit card receipt and found her signature. What a sudden joy!”

Learning from the above events and the hardships she has gone through, Pham has come to realize that life is not always peaceful. She has coped with many business failures but never felt discouraged. Instead, she considers those as valuable experience that cannot be bought with money, since she believes as long as one lives with their passion and always works hard, things will work out eventually.

“You have to live as if today was your last day,” said Pham, talking about the story of her successful journey in the fashion industry, with frequent flights between the U.S., China, and Vietnam to decide on the patterns, approve the designs, set the standard size for each model and supervise production and business.

Return to Vietnam: a turning point

However, it seems fate wants to test this woman born in the 1980s once again. In 2008, the U.S. economy fell into recession. Doing business in any industry was extremely challenging back then.

She decided to return to Vietnam to look for new opportunities. She tried many different things, like joining her friends in the business of Dong Dao Tea Room in HCMC, founding a fashion company with the brand Jenny N, and becoming one of the owners of the Urban Station coffee chain.

After a while, Pham made a prompt decision to take over an old hotel in Binh Thanh District, HCMC.

“With the savings I’d earned from fashion design, plus my passion for interior and business experience, I transformed it into a charming hotel well loved by my guests,” said Pham. After six months of successful operation, she sold it to another owner to earn enough capital to open a new chapter in her hotel business journey.

By 2019, Pham had been in charge of redesigning the four old hotels she had bought, restructuring the entire operating system and adding her personal touches, bringing in stable profit, and then selling them to other investors.

“Along the way I’ve had a chance to meet up with so many people from around the world,” said Pham. “I’ve talked with them and learned more about the cultural life and the people of many different countries, which of course entails numerous interesting stories.”

Moreover, for her, a good hotel is one that can provide anything its guests may ask for. And a hotel that wins people’s hearts is one operating with a proper understanding of its guests, predicting what they need to go one step ahead and prepare it for them. It is a hotel “which makes guests feel lovesick.” Business that comes from the heart shall reach the heart. If too much emphasis is placed on profit, it will be easily forgotten in the future. “These things come to me naturally, not obligatorily,” said Pham. “I am always there when others need help, always try to give as much as I can.”

A view of Sea'Lavie

The distinction in Hoi An

Such philosophies and enthusiasm were adopted into the resort Sea’Lavie Pham acquired in Hoi An early last year. “It is to create comfort, fun and satisfaction, to treat your guests like your family, like a friend, so they may feel your dedication and no longer mind the imperfections,” said Pham.

“One may say I’m diplomatic, but I think this is the kindness needed between people. If something is wrong here, it can only be my excessive enthusiasm that sometimes leads to unnecessary misunderstandings.”

The facilities and service quality at Sea’Lavie may be nothing compared to the five-star hotels, and of course not everything is perfect, but Pham believes the business culture at her resort—the thought of always putting your customers’ wants first, being perceptive and understanding what they need—may help her take one step ahead in service.

When things were going smoothly, a challenge no one could ever expect emerged—the Covid-19 outbreak.

Like many other hotels, Sea’Lavie is now in troubled waters. As one who has been through turbulent times, Pham has done all she could. She has devoted herself to planning for the coming time with multiple options, besides consolidating human resources, repairing facilities, thinking to make a difference and offer new values.

At the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in Vietnam, there were still about nine foreign guests (from Western Europe) at Sea’Lavie who were unable to return home. They felt very reassured staying here.

“They’ve applied for a visa extension for a longer stay in my resort,” said Pham. “What’s more wonderful than when the world out there was under quarantine, they were living in a place with everything they need.”

Therefore, to share the hardships with them, the mistress of the resort in addition to bringing down her room rates lent these guests the kitchen so they could cook their own meals and feel like at home. Along with that, there was plenty of food left in the refrigerator, which she let them use freely and “pay as much as you want.”

Pham looked so proud when saying that while many resorts and hotels are temporarily shut down, Sea’Lavie is still open and every day provides attentive service to all the guests staying here though it may not be as perfect as expected.

“It costs an arm and a leg to run an apparatus, which cannot be offset with just a few guests, but this doesn’t mean you have to kick them out and shut the doors,” said Pham. “They are those who have been in Vietnam long before the nationwide quarantine.”

In the end, Pham said Sea’Lavie is probably the final stage in her 20-year journey with many smiles and many tears. She wants to make Sea’Lavie a place of relaxation for herself and tourists, a fun destination for everyone, with all the necessary services to fill the coastal town of Tan Thanh in Hoi An with liveliness and excitement.

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