Exclusive: Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.

by - 13:47:00

Female Entrepreneur "Duong Thu Huong" is the star of the January 2024 digital cover edition of OTS Magazine. The cover was photographed by Nguyen Van Anh Tuan -Mr AT, the Set was Designed by Nina Nguyenand styled by Tien Nguyen, with makeup artist Duong Huu Nghia, Nails by Pang My Nguyen, and hair stylist Nhat Linh.

Tien Nguyen dressed Duong Thu Huong for this editorial shoot in wonderful fashion designs by Deam By Kye, Hoang Tony, and Le Ngoc Lam. For Accessories, she styled her with pearl jewelry by Hoang Gia Pearl.

Finally, the art director is none other than our previously featured celebrity stylist of the year 2023 'Kye Nguyen'.

Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
Entrepreneur Duong Thu Huong is a prominent female face in the media as the former CEO of Forbes Vietnam Magazine, a world-renowned business magazine. She is also the Chairwoman & Founder - Scent of Autumn Investment, and COO of IDG Ventures Vietnam.

Thu Huong is well-known for her highly productive business strategies. She is known to have held key positions in significant organizations and businesses, including business analyst for a US oil and gas firm, project manager for a US software company, PR Officer, and marketing at Columbia Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

As a result, entrepreneur Duong Thu Huong is known as the "Rose of Power" of businesses in Vietnam's economic area of joint ventures with other nations.

Her enlightening conversation with us is a welcome change of pace that will provide you with the motivation you require for the new year ahead.
Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
It’s a pleasure to meet you. How would you describe your Personal Style?
Thank you so much for reaching out. I would describe my personal style as classy and elegant. I believe in timeless pieces that exude sophistication and capture a sense of refined taste.

Let's go back in time a little, tell us a bit about your background. Where did you go to school? And in 2003, what led you to join the IDG Ventures Vietnam Venture Capital Funds as one of its current Founders?
I was born in Hanoi, Vietnam, grew up in Ho Chi Minh City, and attended North Carolina State University for undergraduate. My first job was as an auditor at Amoco in Chicago. My second job was as a Project Director at a software company while in this job I had the chance to go back and forth between Vietnam and the USA.

I had the opportunity to meet the founder of IDG Ventures during his 15th-anniversary visit to Vietnam with his wife in 2000. Following this, he and his wife invited me and other Overseas Vietnamese to join IDG Ventures Vietnam. Recognizing it as the best opportunity for the Vietnamese IT sector, I joined, and indeed, IDG Ventures Vietnam played a significant role in creating unicorns and putting Vietnam on the world IT map.

Subsequently, I participated in a special Women's Leadership program at Harvard Business School. In 2017, I enrolled in another Executive MBA program at Stanford Business School.

You are amazing! Tell us about your current global investment firm "Scent of Autumn (S.O.A) and what are your three biggest priorities for the firm in the years ahead?
Scent of Autumn, named after me, is an investment and consulting company. Recognizing significant opportunities in Asia, particularly in Vietnam and Thailand, I leverage my strong background in Southeast Asia (SEA) to contribute to individuals, companies, and enterprises aiming to expand into this region.

The three main focuses for this year are:

- Identify exceptional founders and projects for investment
- Assist current portfolios in their growth
- Provide guidance for promising companies looking to expand in SEA and Vietnam
Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
What is your investment philosophy or methodology?
When I was at IDG Ventures, our slogan was 'People-Idea-Capital,' signifying that the crucial factor in investment lies in the founders and leadership. While ideas abound, the key to success with a significant impact on society is executing those ideas smartly, consistently, and, most importantly, ethically.

What do you like to invest in? What are your categories of interest?
I have a particular interest in investing in technology and new, disruptive ideas that carry strong social impacts. I believe in supporting ventures that not only demonstrate innovation but also contribute positively to society.

Please share a bit of the personal journey that led you to your position as the Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam and how do you define success for yourself as an entrepreneur?
I've been in public relations for a long time, and media relations is a subset of PR. The General Managing Partner of IDG Ventures Vietnam sought to introduce Forbes to Vietnam since it is a well-known media brand. I oversaw Forbes till the epidemic struck and assisted in founding Forbes Vietnam.

Success is a long journey, and I like a saying from my good brother: 'The real successful people are the ones who walk through that road and come back to lead others.' I have been through a lot of ups and downs in life and work. I want to share and guide young people through my own experiences. From that, I can see them grow and succeed, just like a relay marathon. What I could not do in my time, they can carry forward and keep doing that, non-stop. To me, that is Success.

What are your latest and upcoming projects, also tell us about a project that has been your greatest achievement?
I keep searching for good projects to consult and invest in. I believe my greatest projects are still ahead. The 'project' that brings me immense joy so far is witnessing my mentees apply my advice wisely and achieve success.
Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
Yet again you blow my mind with your very insightful response
In my opinion, resilience Is critical for sustaining growth In the face of crisis but in your own words, how would you describe "Resilience"?
Personally, I feel resilience is the ability to adapt, recover, and maintain stability in the face of adversity, challenges, or unexpected setbacks.

In this turbulent world: war, pandemic, economy is slowing down, inflation is high, high risk in investment. Everyone will be more conservative. So Resilience is staying resourceful, positive, and flexible to navigate difficulties and sustain growth despite unfavorable circumstances. It is easy to talk but execution takes strong leadership & solid mindset.

What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs?
Business ethics is the key to sustainability. Initially, it may seem to progress slowly, but in the long run, embracing ethical practices ensures not only success but also a lasting positive impact. Upholding strong ethical standards fosters trust, enhances reputation, and builds enduring relationships with customers and stakeholders.

What do you want your legacy to be?
What I aspire for my legacy is to witness the impact of my advice on mentees, to see them apply those lessons and, in turn, pay it forward to others. I hope to create a ripple effect of positive influence, where the knowledge and guidance shared continue to benefit individuals and communities for generations to come.
Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
What do you wish more people understood about you as an empowered Queen?
Life's beauty often coexists with challenges like jealousy, rumors, and misunderstandings. As an empowered woman in leadership, navigating through these complexities is challenging. Despite our strength, we still experience emotions, sorrow, and moments of feeling lost. However, I always remind myself to 'keep my head down, and do things from my heart.' If those around me understand, that's a blessing and If they don't, it's also good because it motivates me to look at different angles, learn more, and adapt, accepting the differences.

In your own words, what does the term “Women Empowerment” mean to you?
"Women empowerment" to me is the promotion of women's rights, opportunities, and autonomy. 

I am delighted to observe that in today's modern society, there is a growing environment where women have the freedom to make choices, pursue ambitions, and contribute to society on equal terms with men. During my time with Forbes, it was incredible to witness the annual release of the list of top women leaders. They exhibited strength, power, as well as compassion, and flexibility.
Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
My favourite saying is -“we rise by lifting others up” What more do you think women could do to support each other, especially in this day and age where animosity thrives in the world today, especially on social media?
Wow, what a coincidence, I just briefly mentioned it above. 

I also advocate the saying, 'A strong person is one who carries others on their shoulders.' This emphasizes the strength found in supporting and uplifting those around us, especially among women, showcasing the true measure of resilience and compassion in a person.

In fostering support among women, promoting positive dialogue on social media, acknowledging achievements, and creating spaces for collaboration can counter animosity. Encouraging empathy and understanding diverse perspectives can further strengthen bonds among women in the face of online challenges.
Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
You are absolutely beautiful. You once stated that “Beauty or elegance will create initial sympathy, but to be successful, other factors and qualities are needed.' I resonate with this statement on such a deep level because I believe 'true beauty is not only about what we see on the outside but also what’s on the inside.' This brings me to my question; has the way you think about beauty changed since then? And, do you think of beauty as self-care? Why or why not?
Thank you for your kind words. I am lucky to have grown up in a family where my Mom and Dad focused on teaching us about manners and behavior. They instilled in us the understanding that time affects everyone; we all age with wrinkles, and people may not remember how we looked beautiful before, but they will remember our beautiful gestures, warm hearts, and kind thoughts.

We recently celebrated my Mom’s 90th birthday, despite her battle with Alzheimer's. Though she may sometimes forget her own children's names, she never forgets to serve guests during meals or to remind me to tip service people, caring for each staff at home. Every morning, she spends 10 minutes brushing her hair and then coloring her lips.

She always looks at me, commenting on my makeup and outfit before I go out. Living with her, each day, I am still learning how to be better inside and out.

How big a role does fashion and beauty play in your life?
I love fashion and advocate for beauty. Those two are indispensable parts of life. To me, fashion and beauty are sophisticated forms of art for human beings. They indeed have the power to express individuality and creativity, shaping our perception of the world and ourselves.
Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
You have an exceptionally unique look and style, where does your style savvy come from, where do you get your inspiration and who are some of your favourite fashion designers and stylists?
My mom and dad are the first influencers in fashion for me. They both dress presentably. Even now, my mom, who is 90 years old and has Alzheimer's, hesitates to go out if I don't dress her properly or apply makeup to her face.

I appreciate all classic and elegant brands. Additionally, I strongly support local fashion. Vietnamese fashion designers nowadays are very creative and sophisticated.

Recalling my wedding four years ago, I wore a total of 38 outfits for pictures in studios, outdoor sessions, pre-movie weddings, 10 receptions, and ceremonies in different locations and countries. Each time changing and redoing all the makeup layouts was a hassle, but I know the designers embedded their love and creativity in the outfits for that unique occasion. They wanted me to wear them, appreciate them, and showcase how wonderful their work is. Now, I still have the full collection and am considering creating a small showroom for them.

Kye Nguyen is one of the stylists I work closely with. Not only does he have good taste, but his patience and dedication to fashion for each client is phenomenal.

What would you say has been the most defining moment of your career as an Entrepreneur and Media personality so far?
The defining milestone of my career was when I decided to move back to Vietnam in 2000. Despite having a good job, no one in my family supported my move. My friends and family said, 'I am in the wrong pool.' However, I always had a passion for returning and contributing my humble knowledge to my homeland. I am happy with my decision, which led me to witness the development of the Vietnam IT industry and contribute to building the foundation for IT and media startups. Additionally, I continue mentoring the youth and I am fulfilled seeing most of them growing successfully.
Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
What are the qualities of an empowered woman? And how can women feel empowered while maintaining their femininity?
Empowered women often exhibit qualities such as confidence, resilience, assertiveness, and a sense of purpose. They embrace their uniqueness, celebrate achievements, and support others. 

Some people say my management style is 'Iron hand wrapped in velvet.' Women are gifted with flexibility and a caring nature. Female leadership adds determination and stability. We can balance between the hard and soft, prioritizing self-awareness, setting and pursuing goals, cultivating meaningful connections, and asserting ourselves in a way that aligns with our values. Embracing one's strengths, expressing emotions authentically, and fostering collaboration can contribute to a powerful yet feminine empowerment.

What does a “typical” day in the life of ‘Duong Thu Huong’ look like?
As soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I smile and thank the universe for bringing me a new day. I do a bit of self-massage and exercise, read and answer messages, enjoy a mild breakfast, get in the car, and call my loved ones. I start a working day by answering emails, attending meetings, and trying to have business lunches and dinners with family and friends.

There are both good and bad days, but I've learned to look for positive signs in challenging circumstances. I don't hold onto stress for too long, and shopping is one of my remedies to release stress.
Duong Thu Huong 'Chairwoman & Founder -Scent of Autumn Investment' and Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam.
Duong Thu Huong Dazzles in this beautiful outfit designed by Hoang Tony. Its inspiration came from the 1950s and 1960s. The puffy coat is pleated, adding a pop of colour to the dress's velvet construction.
There’s so much talk these days about inclusivity and diversity but is enough really being done?
While there's increased awareness about inclusivity and diversity, there's still work to be done. Progress has been made, but challenges persist. Continuous efforts to address biases, promote equal opportunities, and create inclusive environments are crucial. Organizations and individuals should actively engage in meaningful actions, such as diverse hiring practices, fostering inclusive cultures, and amplifying underrepresented voices, to truly make a significant impact. It's an ongoing journey, and sustained commitment is essential for meaningful change.

What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
At the moment, I am particularly fascinated by the intersection of technology and sustainable fashion. Exploring innovative ways to merge these realms not only aligns with my personal interests but also feeds into my work by allowing me to contribute to the evolving landscape of responsible and forward-thinking fashion practices.

Which business learning skills will you recommend for becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Key skills for a successful entrepreneur include:

1. Adaptability:
Navigate through challenges and changes in the business landscape.
2. Decision-Making:
Make informed and timely decisions crucial for business success.
3. Financial Literacy:
Understand financial aspects, budgeting, and investment strategies.
4. Communication skills
Effectively convey ideas, negotiate, and build strong relationships.
5. Strong Leadership
Inspire and guide a team, fostering a positive and productive environment.
6. Problem-Solving:
Address challenges creatively and find practical solutions.
7. Resilience
Bounce back from setbacks and stay focused on long-term goals.
8. PR & Networking
Build a diverse network for opportunities, support, and collaboration.
9. Customer Focus:
Understand and meet customer needs, ensuring satisfaction.
10. Continuous Learning:
Stay updated on industry trends and embrace a mindset of lifelong learning.
Duong Thu Huong
Tell us about some hard lessons that you have learned to thrive as an entrepreneur.
Learning to embrace failure as a stepping stone to success has been a crucial lesson. It taught me resilience, the importance of adapting to change, and the value of continuous learning. Each setback is an opportunity for growth, and navigating challenges with a positive mindset is key to thriving as an entrepreneur.

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
If I could go back and tell myself one thing before beginning my career, it would be to think bigger and dare to take risks. Despite having a conservative style, I wish I had dared to take more risks when I was young. Additionally, I would emphasize embracing the journey and being open to learning from every experience. A career path may not follow a straight line, but each twist and turn will contribute to your growth and success. Trust yourself, and value the lessons in both victories and setbacks.

What is your daily health and beauty regimen? And what advice would you give to anyone seeking to achieve a flawless skin glow like yours?
I'm not a fitness enthusiast, but I enjoy engaging in fun sports like golf, dancing, and horse riding. To maintain healthy skin, I avoid prolonged sun exposure. As a judge for the Cosmopolitan Cosmetics Award, I read and learned extensively about skincare and cosmetic products. However, I don't overuse them; due to my sensitive skin, I carefully select the right products and don't stick with one for too long.

My routine involves avoiding strong sunlight, using sunblock, and a moisturizing mask daily, thoroughly cleaning my skin before sleep, refraining from smoking, consuming minimal sugar and alcohol, and taking custom-made vitamins.
Duong Thu Huong Chairwoman & Founder - Scent of Autumn Investment, Former CEO of Forbes Vietnam ,and COO of IDG Ventures Vietnam
What motivational quote or saying would you say keeps you feeling grounded and focused?
Stay committed to your goals, but be flexible in your approach. Progress may take unexpected turns, but the consistency of your effort will guide you toward success.

I admire you for your amazing ability to create many opportunities for young Vietnamese people to achieve their goals and dreams during your role as COO. How does it feel to see those you encouraged thrive at what they do?
I appreciate your kind words. Witnessing the success and achievements of the young Vietnamese individuals I encouraged during my role as Chief Operation Officer is incredibly fulfilling. It's a source of immense pride to see them thrive, realizing their goals and dreams. Their accomplishments reaffirm the importance of mentorship and the positive impact it can have on shaping the future for aspiring individuals.

Any Last words you’d like to add?
Thank you for granting me the honor of being a cover feature and sharing my story with the readers of the well-known OTS magazine
Special thanks to the beautiful and smart editor-in-chief for posing very sharp and thoughtful questions. I look forward to working with you all again soon.
Team Credit:
Art Director: Kye Nguyen @kye.nguyen
Photographer: Nguyen Van Anh Tuan – MrAT @mr.at_foto
Set Design: Nina Nguyen @ninanguyen.co
Stylist: Tien Nguyen @dal.ngn
Makeup: Duong Huu Nghia @duonghuunghia94
Hair: Nhat Linh @nhatlinh.hairstylist
Nails: Pang My Nguyen @pangmynguyen
Clothes: Deam By Kye, Hoang Tony, Le Ngoc Lam
Jewelry: Royal Pearl by Hoang Gia Pearl. @hoanggiapearlofficial
Do not copy, use, duplicate, or download any of these Images without permission (All rights reserved).
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