A Vietnamese woman landed a spot in Forbes Slovakia’s 30 Under 30 list of 2020 for her successful establishment of a pho restaurant business in the country.
Lucia Thao Huong Simekova, whose Vietnamese name is Vu Thao Huong, 27, owns the aptly-named PHO, which managed to earn $3.4 million in just two years.
Born in Bratislava, Huong is the only daughter of two Vietnamese immigrants who met in Warsaw, Poland after finishing their European studies. She has three brothers.
As the only Vietnamese family in their village, Huong struggled to fit in growing up. She recalled times when other children teased her at school and even on the street.
“The discrimination around me pushed myself to study well and make efforts to prove that Vietnamese people can succeed,” she told VnExpress.
After winning a scholarship, Huong decided to study at the Bratislava branch of Seattle University. She then completed her master’s degree at the University of Reading in the U.K.
While working in real estate investment, Huong dreamt about opening her own restaurant business that would allow her to recreate meals her parents had fed her.
She turned this into reality in 2017, shortly after getting a hand in serving people Vietnamese food at a music festival.
Huong managed to open her first pho restaurant at the end of that year. Two other locations launched by the end of 2018 and in February 2019.
Huong’s entrepreneurial drive was put to the test after Slovakia imposed restrictions on restaurants amid its fight against COVID-19.
Instead of letting her revenue drop further, she took measures to save the business, such as cutting costs, registering online delivery applications and collaborating with online sales companies.
When restrictions were relaxed, Huong chose to reopen a store in a high-traffic area, integrated take-out services and expanded delivery coverage in Bratislava.
A representative confirmed that Huong is the first Vietnamese to make it in any of Forbes Slovakia’s lists.
When asked what the biggest problem of her generation is, Huong referred to the illusion of flawlessness in social media.
“The illusion of flawlessness [projected] in social media often control us and complicate our lives,” she told Forbes Slovakia. “My generation is looking for fulfillment and self-esteem online, and this has a significant impact on mental health. I noticed this in my surroundings and on myself, so I try to disconnect more and enjoy real life offline.”