After a back injury left Trinity College alum Trang Dang in pain and unable to sleep, she knew Vietnam’s sleep industry needed disrupting. She also needed to change the way Vietnamese people thought about slumber.
Trang Dang is a 27-year-old on a big mission. The former Trinity College student wants to help the people of her native Vietnam get a better night’s sleep. Unlike in Australia, where the benefits of a good night’s sleep are well known, Trang says that in Vietnam, sleep is almost considered a luxury. ‘We do not think about the quality of sleep we receive and how it can affect our life,’ she says.
About two years ago, along with fellow co-founder, Vinh Nguyen, Trang quit her full-time job in marketing to launch Ru9 – The Sleep Company. The company sells foam mattresses direct to consumers and educates people on the importance of sleep.
Not long after launching the start-up, they appeared on Vietnam’s version of the television show Shark Tank.
The idea for the business was sparked by Trang’s own need. As a marathon runner, she injured her back in late 2017 and suddenly found sleep, or lack thereof, at the forefront of her mind. ‘Before that injury, I didn’t really care about mattresses or sleep products because I never really had a problem with sleep,’ she says.
But her back injury made her body more sensitive and sleep more difficult.
Trang did some research and decided she wanted a foam mattress. But there were few foam mattress options in Vietnam, and the ones she did find were expensive. ‘That’s why I decided to bring the foam technology here and manufacture foam mattresses in Vietnam,’ she explains.
She credits studying at Trinity College and the University of Melbourne for giving her a good foundation for business success.
Both of Trang’s parents are Vietnamese and she was born in Vietnam. But at age five, her family packed up and moved to Moscow. Here, Trang finished high school before deciding she wanted to study at the University of Melbourne.
She explains that her high school diploma obtained in Russia was not enough for entry into the University of Melbourne, and hence she was introduced to Trinity’s Foundation Studies program, which she completed in 2010.
‘I found Trinity College very helpful,’ she says. ‘It was like a transition year that helped me adapt from one educational system to another.’
At Trinity, Trang studied a variety of subjects, including drama, history of ideas and accounting, which equipped her with analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. Skills that are now vital in running her business. But she says, even more important than the subjects studied, were the skills gained and the lasting friendships formed.
‘Some of my friends are still in Australia, while some have moved back to Singapore, Malaysia, China and Indonesia,’ she says. ‘We continue to help each other grow by sharing our expertise and giving each other advice.’
In fact, Trang enjoyed her time at Trinity so much that she is now recommending it to her cousin who is looking at university options for next year.
After completing a Bachelor of Commerce with majors in finance and marketing at the University of Melbourne, Trang moved back to Vietnam and worked in marketing and advertising for five years.
She worked for big-name agencies and household brands, including Dove, Castrol and Samsung. ‘It was very fun and exciting; every job required a lot of creative skills.’
This experience, along with her studies, put her in good stead when she launched Ru9 – The Sleep Company.
Trang has big plans for the business and says in four to five years they hope to sell all kinds of sleep products. Everything from physical products like mattresses and pillows to products to help the mind rest.
But she is keen to remind people that more important than the products they sell is their purpose: to make quality sleep accessible to everyone in Vietnam.
‘Sleep is so important and so vital for our lives, but we don’t prioritise it,’ she explains.
But if we do, we can be more productive and live a more fulfilled, happy and healthy life.
By Nicole Thomson-Pride