Sometime in the 1940s, the creative energies of the Renaissance fused with the ferocious drive-for-action of modern entrepreneurialism.
Together, they formed Kieu Hoang – a Vietnamese-born, American entrepreneur whose empire stretches from Shanghai to Napa Valley. Hailing from a modest Vietnamese village, Hoang lived the plot of many a rags-to-riches story when he immigrated to Los Angeles in 1975. There, he overcame a language barrier, rose to the top of Abbott Laboratories, and launched a global pharma company. His creative interests now range from blood plasma and nutritional supplements to luxury handbags and wine. Below, we share his incredible story while also discerning three lessons for entrepreneurs.
Hoang was born in Vietnam’s Quang Tri province in 1944, where he lived a modest childhood. He studied science for one year in University, and served as a “chief combat interpreter” for the U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam War. When the war ended in 1975, Hoang immigrated to Los Angeles at the age of 32.
Hoang’s first gig in the U.S. was an entry level position at Abbott Laboratories, where he was paid $1.25 an hour. While a harsher phase in his life, Hoang’s early days at Abbott were crucial. Studies have shown that individuals who overcome difficult periods emerge with incredible self-reliance. It is no surprise that many renowned icons – take Howard Schultz and George Soros for example – all shared experiences of overcoming hardship. This brings us to our first lesson: the value of sweat equity. Aspiring entrepreneurs should not be deterred by the difficulties associated with their trade. Instead, they should embrace them for their lifelong dividends. Hoang rose to the top of Abbott at a rapid pace. As director of testing for plasma samples, he got Abbott its first Bureau of Biology license for testing plasma samples at their labs.
Blue Ocean Strategy
Hoang soon founded his own blood plasma company – Rare Antibody Antigen Supply Inc. As his business grew, he made a decision that seemed bizarre in the 1980s: he expanded to China. China was poverty stricken at the time and most multinationals harbored little interest for the nation. But while others looked away, Hoang saw an opportunity in China’s large population. Hoang founded Shanghai RAAS in 1992, and his risk paid off – today, there is so much demand for his products that he rarely has the stock to service even one complete Chinese province.
This leads us to our second lesson. Entrepreneurs should achieve success by creating “blue oceans” of uncontested market space. It is tempting to follow a proven path. But as economics dictates, much of the surplus in opportunities gets milked when the herds begin swarming. It is the unexploited paths that yield the most return. Hoang ventured to a land nobody thought to do business, and he reaped massive rewards.
Turn Passion into Capital
After conquering pharma, Hoang began chasing a personal passion: wine. Many entrepreneurs start companies in hopes of getting rich. But as Virgin CEO Richard Branson states: “entrepreneurship is about turning what excites you in life into capital.” Our third lesson from Hoang is to do just that. Doing so allows you to wake up with a thrill to pursue your business. Hoang uses many of the filtering, pH adjustment, and fermentation skills that he mastered in blood plasma to refine his wine-making – yielding a blend that is both classic and high-tech. His aptly named Kieu Hoang Winery, based in Napa Valley, has allowed him to continue honing his craft while also dallying with a life-long passion.
Liked This Article?