With the fervid beauty, gentle voice and easygoing speaking manner, Phan Bich Thien makes interlocutors easily mistake that she works in term of art. In fact, she is an overseas Vietnamese entrepreneur, who has been chosen as one of 50 most successful businesswomen by Hungarian Businesswomen magazine.
Born in Hanoi, Phan Bich Thien went to Russia in 1986 to study and then to be acquainted with a Hungarian overseas student. Both expatriates, they sympathized and shared with each other. After graduating from university, they got married and continued to live in Russia.
Thien’s husband became a representative for a famous electronic group of Hungary in Russia at that time and Thien continued to study as a PhD in economics. One time she went to husband’s hometown in Hungary to visit his relatives and she saw fish sauce for the first time sold there and it was not sold in Russia. So she decided to bring about 30 boxes of fish sauce to Russian to sell. She sold the batch of fish sauce out quickly and the interest from her first business mission now still surprises her.
From that first success, Thien established a food export and import company, which mainly traded wholesale Asian food and foodstuff products. In 1998, the financial crisis in Russia affected her family. The life became harder and the severe weather also made Thien yearn for stability.
Therefore, she and her husband decided to return to Hungary, her husband’s homeland. “In comparison with other Vietnamese people in Hungary, I was a “greenhorn”. The initial time was not easy for me because I didn’t know the Hungarian language so I couldn’t communicate with many people. I also didn’t have any Vietnamese friends. I cried my heart out many times due to feeling powerless. Then I decided to study the Hungarian language. During the process of studying Hungarian, I made more friends and gradually integrated into Hungarian society,” Thien said.
In 2002 saw a turning–point in her business when she and her husband decided to buy Fried Palace, which was built and owned by Fried Imre, owner of the largest leather shoes factory at the beginning of previous century in Hungary. The couple researched and restored the palace to its original shape but its interior was redecorated in Orient style.
In order to develop both ecological and historical tourism, they bought grape vineyard surrounding the palace with an area of 19 ha and built nine wine cellars. In 2008, they received a project grant from the Europe Union on developing hotel tourism, so they built a new building with swimming pools, spa service, hot baths and an amusement park for children.
In 2011, Fried Palace hotel won the “hotel of the year” award organized by ESZALLAS, Hungary. In 2010, the hotel was also voted as the most beautiful hotel in Hungary.
“I am proud because I have integrated and affirmed my position in spite of being in a foreign country. These are great rewards for my efforts over 10 years of living in Hungary,” Thien said.
Thien also undertakes the role of President of the Vietnam Women’s Union in Hungary and President of Vietnam-Hungary friendship development fund. “I myself has experienced empty times in a foreign country so I want to create a place of exchange for Vietnamese women. Everyone who has demands can meet each other to learn how to cook Vietnamese dishes, give regards and help each other if sick or having a wedding for their children. More importantly, it is a forum to educate and resinate our love of Vietnam to the second generations, of which the role of mother is very important,” Thien said./.