Sao Lonsdale: “Fish In The Water” Journey, Vietnam Gen Z Consumers & LIXIBOX Founder Pivots - E387

· Vietnam,Founder,Start-up,Podcast Episodes English


“In the US market, there’s a lot of fast brands, but it doesn't mean that they will be lasting. When it's a mature time, a lot of private equity folks come in and make it, shape it up, and make sure that it's in a professional way as well, but building a good brand takes time. And in the Southeast Asian market at this point, it's very fragmented, but there's a lot of good brands building. I would say that if somehow, they’ll be able to keep it on their core value, growing it, and keeping that core value without running the hamster wheel of pounding on revenue growth and things that you know, which which will last.” - Sao Lonsdale

“People definitely care more about personal and self care and that's a great thing for the market. The market is getting to the point of maturing and people are going to be more selective about the product they use. That's the reason why I think that specialized e-commerce and specialty products will still thrive despite the marketplaces. There's already so many other products, so there has to be a character that comes with the product with the brands. Gen Z will adapt those stories behind the brands. They educate themselves about everything. It's not about how expensive the product is. It's about the function. They're a very well informed generation that will choose the right product for themselves.” - Sao Lonsdale

“It's very helpful to get a coach. These days, there’s also a lot of apps that help you on that. You should also be able to go through a friend and each of them will give you a personal perspective, but the key thing is that figuring things out your ownis hard. I find it very therapeutic and helpful to write about myself. It helps you to understand more about yourself. The more you write honestly about who you really are, the more you realize whether you find the right people in your life.” - Sao Lonsdale

Sao Lonsdale, CEO & Founder of LIXIBOX, and Jeremy Au discussed three main themes:

1. “Fish In The Water” Journey: Sao shared about her family experience growing up in a military compound in front of the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum. Feeling the desire to explore, she moved to the U.S. as a teenager and found herself embracing new communities and cultural experiences. She also discussed how she was inspired by Peter Thiel's "Zero to One" book to eventually leave behind her US corporate career to return to Vietnam and launch a new venture.

2. Vietnam Gen Z Consumers: Sao highlighted the generational shift with the aspirational Gen Z, who never experienced the wars with the US, France and China, and are thus focused on building better lives. She noted the significant impact of TikTok, Instagram and local social media platforms on the retail landscape, as well as the growing consumer demand for personalized and niche products.

3. LIXIBOX Founder Pivots: Sao highlighted the initial market landscape that Lixibox had entered into, and how the startup had to rapidly pivot every six months in response to the swiftly changing Vietnam market (consumer behavior, market trends and platform shifts). She shared about the difference between high-end and mass-market brands, and what it takes to build a strong omnichannel presence that sells both in-house and partner brands' products online and offline.

Jeremy and Sao also talked about reverse culture shock, the impact of professional executive coaches, and her own personal skincare routine.

Supported by HDMall

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(01:33) Jeremy Au:

Hey, Sao, really excited to have you on the podcast. You are an incredible founder who is building something amazing in Vietnam, and I'd love for you to share that. Could you please introduce yourself?

(01:42) Sao Lonsdale:

Thank you, Jeremy, and happy to be here today. My name is Sao Lonsdale. Hi, everybody. I started LIXIBOX in 2016 after 20 years living in the U. S. I graduated with a Corporate Financial Management degree. I work in Tax Finance, Operation, Accounting, analyze public and private company at Morgan Stanley, and also a Silicon Valley focused accounting firm before that.

And so there in Silicon Valley, I witnessed How technology had changed ways of life, especially in a consumer space. Also being born and raised in Vietnam, we saw a clear arbitrage opportunity to build a tech startup with great talent and much less money. So, and I was always with helping Silicon Valley founders and VC to build tech teams here or personally investing in a couple of them, but after a couple of my angel investment fail, and especially in the e-commerce space as a trend accountant and investment analyst, I did dive into the failed businesses.

And realize three things about the market is a very large market, a hundred million people with rising middle class. And if you combine all Southeast Asia, that's 10x the consumer here aspirational consumer, which means that the adoption of popular things in the developed world is very high here. It's because all the social media networks are working here, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even, TikTok as well. And we have a very high adoption of internet and mobile, which I think is a backbone for all the consumer infrastructure.

And you know, at the same time, when I was in the U. S., indie consumer brand, especially in the beauty and personal care space, was having huge traction and success. You name it, Dollar Shave Club, Elemis, Harry back in the day, and even last year, L'Oreal also acquired Airso for 2.5 billion dollars. There are also many specialized. beauty e-commerce such as Sephora, Blue Mercury, Code Beauty, Credo Beauty, you name it. Even some of my very favorite one that is not even in the beauty space, which is still a specialized e commerce, such as Maisonette, where mom and baby clothing and Grove Collaborative, they do cleaning supplies and pet food. I see when you find all these like crazy, cool products around the world and the neighbor, neighbor goods as well. If you like sport, there's G.O.A.T. And many other places as well. Yeah. So just a little bit background about myself.

(04:00) Jeremy Au:

Wow. What an incredible journey. So I got to start from the beginning. What were you like as a kid?

(04:05) Sao Lonsdale:

Yeah. So born and raised in Vietnam. Hanoi, actually. So, my grandfather was a general that serving under Võ Nguyn Giác in the you know, fighting against the French. And so we were born, I mean, we were raised in a military compound right in front of the Ho Chí Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi. And, you know, back then we thought it was a very cool thing that we can see all the parade and things are in front of the mausoleum for a long time. And yeah, later on they move us out. It was going to build a, huge, parliament house. And when they dig it up like my childhood home. They figure out there's a citadel underneath with like centuries of history in there.

(04:45) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. What a childhood I can imagine full of history. And so what's interesting is that you went on to like study in the U. S. Could you share a little bit more about what that change was like?

(04:54) Sao Lonsdale:

So, moving to the U. S. It was a choice. At that point, I would say that not a lot of people from Vietnam, would go into a foreign exchange student program at a very early age. It was quite popular in Europe and other countries as well, but not from Vietnam. And we would, we were one of the pioneer.

My, my parents say, okay, well, you know, she's definitely not fitting in the Vietnam kind of like social scene. So let's try to see if that work out, so, I remember filling out a form and I say, I want to live in a place that really far away from a lot of people, up in the mountains. So I just put out like craziest places and you know where they put me? They put me in the middle of Colorado, up in the mountain, 11,000 feet above elevation. My nose was bleeding every day for weeks and it was such a high altitude. It's really crazy experience, but I love it.

I was the second Asian in the school that sharing the high school was sharing a, cafeteria with a middle school. And they thought that I was in middle school until I was carrying the calculus book. So it was pretty funny.

(06:01) Jeremy Au:

Because you look young back then.

(06:02) Sao Lonsdale:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah.

(06:03) Jeremy Au:

This is how the cosmetics that you're selling now is working back then already. Right. I was just kidding.

(06:08) Sao Lonsdale:

No, no, it was all about math. And, you know, as an Asian kid, it was all about math and getting ahead and trying to get into a good college for me.

(06:16) Jeremy Au:

Why were you not fitting in, in the Vietnamese social scene?

(06:19) Sao Lonsdale:

I guess as a girl, there's a lot of expectation in terms of social norms, career path, what's the expectation in the teen age and also later on as well. And I definitely don't see myself fitting in any of those. I want to explore the world. I want to know what's out there and when I see an opportunity, I convinced my parents and, yeah. And there was 20 plus years. Yeah.

(06:43) Jeremy Au:

Did you fit in more in Colorado as a second Asian in the school?

(06:47) Sao Lonsdale:

Like a fish in the water.

(06:48) Jeremy Au:

Wow. Why?

(06:49) Sao Lonsdale:

There was no, I would say there was a lot of ignorance in the school about where even Vietnam is. Like they asked me, do you live in the jungle? I'm like, Nope. I live in a jungle here, you know, in Colorado. They were the sweetest kids ever. And it's very interesting that the time I came in, in 2001, you know, it's only like a couple of days before 9/11 happened. And so, right away, as a foreign kid going to school in the middle of nowhere in the States, and it's a very conservative state as well. Of course, I see things I've never seen before. They were so happy. They took me to go shooting in the middle of the forest, and a lot of house party. I came to their houses and guns are everywhere, you know, and it's very interesting. And they cook, they hunt. Their parents and are the sweetest people, but it's very, very different culture.

But you know, the kids back then, in high school, care more about, let's smoke some weed, figuring out what is going on in the world. Well, you know, to my surprise, they actually talk a lot about politics. It's very interesting at that age. But 9/11 happened. As an outsider, I see a clear change in the attitude of the kids there. The porn star picture in the room was taken down and replaced with American flags and a lot of people actually joined the army after. Yeah, kids in my like AP calculus classes, AP chemistry was just joining military. It's a very interesting changes. And, I clearly see a different side of America that I fell in love with.

(08:24) Jeremy Au:

Fell in love with the country and the United States many years in the U. S., you know, working your way up in the career and the finance industry and accounting industry. Could you share a little bit more about why you decided to stay? Because, you know, a lot of folks could have gone back right after exchange or after university to Vietnam. So why did you stay?

(08:39) Sao Lonsdale:

Yeah. I mean, to be fair, I did come back for about a year. And Yeah. After college, after my first job, I also see a lot of money from Vietnam actually come back to the States'. And you know, I was actually wowed by the fact that people are making it for themselves in Vietnam. And I was like, with my connection, with my family background, I should be able to make something out of that as well.

You know, now I have a degree in the U. S., that's what people start with. And I came back and actually worked at a government in Vietnam, at a government agency for nine months. And you know, it's just I couldn't feel the fit after.

I want to actually truly build something. I want to be more in an environment that I can learn from hardship. And hardship, meaning that there is a current certain structure, as much as I see how free it is in America. When you will go to work in America, it's very structured in a certain way. But there is still a lot of rooms for innovation to happen. And that's what I treasure the most when I worked in Silicon Valley.

(09:41) Jeremy Au:

And let's talk about that. So you went back to the US and then you stayed for a good number of years. What was it like climbing the corporate ladder, but also working across different firms as well. Were there any specific takeaways or learnings that you took away from that time?

(09:56) Sao Lonsdale:

I got a job at Morgan Stanley. I actually didn't graduate from any Stanford or any Ivy League school. I'm a product of public school, which I'm very proud of. You know, actually, San Jose State is a great public school. And I think that giving me a chance to just apply for a job without any introduction or any referral from anybody. It's a chance for me to prove my own self worth and you have to prove, constantly proving that you are making something right and doing something right. And it shaped me into a point that I'm annoyed at every single cell of Excel spreadsheet. If it's not pretty, to be honest. Yeah, yeah.

(10:36) Jeremy Au:

So it's all your species are all color coded. The yellows, the blues, the greens, the reds?

(10:40) Sao Lonsdale:

Yes. Yeah. And that's a skill that, no school will teach you. You know, self resilience is what American Corporate taught me. And also, I have to say that it was a very competitive environment, but then, you meet so many people with so many backgrounds. They're all hustlers. They all have their own story. And especially I was in, if you're in a West Coast or East Coast, you see right away, there's a lot of immigrants or children of second generation immigrants. And that's also is a very valuable network that we have as well.

(11:13) Jeremy Au:

And what's interesting is that after so many years in the US., you eventually did decide to do two things, I guess, become a founder in the U. S. And then, eventually also decide to return to Vietnam as well. So could you share that you were a founder first in the US. Can you share about more about why you decided to be entrepreneurial first in the US?

(11:31) Sao Lonsdale:

I was actually not really an entrepreneur in the US. Some of those project, which is very small, which is one person, which is myself, most of the work in the US was corporate. But then, during that time, I met a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of founders that inspire me. I read a lot. I went to meetings that, at that point, Airbnb wasn't a public company, Facebook was, it's not even a C-Corp yet, you know. So I, I went to those meetings, meeting people and especially after knowing Jeff, get into the world that, it's so inspiring, and I remember Jeff gave me the book, unpublished one at that point, from Peter Thiel, Zero to One, and there was a line in there that got me to think that, definitely, I need to do something. He said that there shouldn't be a reason why innovation only happen at Stanford or in Silicon Valley. Yeah. So, going back to the question, it's just got me to think that, hey, there has to be something. So, with a couple of American-Vietnamese friends who also have the same kind of background like myself, and some of them actually grew up with me in middle school, high school and things like that too. We all just gather and say, hey, you know, let's chip in some money and let's start angel investing in Vietnam. Maybe we know something and the market is still a little bit of an early market. Maybe we can actually make a dent in it.

(12:48) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. First of all, I love the line that, you know, innovation can be everywhere, right? It doesn't need to be in SF Why did you still decide to build, I guess, and become entrepreneurial in Vietnam versus entrepreneurial in the US?

(13:00) Sao Lonsdale:

So I think two things, the arbitrage of building a company in Vietnam, and getting the same kind of success, outcome, I think it's it's harder, but it's definitely cheaper to build. Yeah, At that point, Silicon Valley, to be able to even set up a company or renting an office was incredibly expensive. Hiring costs as well as engineering costs was too expensive at that point. I still see a great arbitrage in Vietnam with the talent that we can have. The second thing is that there's so many things that's still missing in Vietnam market. So it still is a land of opportunity. Just like, I would say that at that point, it was China 20 years back. but it would be like, what if we can apply both what was doing good in China. And at the same time, what I understand about the U. S. market as well, combined. So that's what I think that it was a decision to come back. And then, of course, there is a third thing that I have to mention. After all the failed investments of mine, small investment of mine, and it just led into the lab that like, well, it doesn't cost much to start. Let's start it. And when the first couple of weeks of LIXIBOX, I see so much traction. I mean, my phone and Slack was like ping, ping, ping, ping, ping in order. And I was like, okay, I think this is it. So at that point, I interviewed my tech co-founder through LinkedIn. And then when he heard the idea, he was like, yeah, it's crazy, but you know, let's just try it. I think there's something out of that. So, it's just all these little things come by.

I guess that the fact is that I absorb all this information, all this energy, and I see clearly where I go. And I was willing to go through the war for that too, despite of whatever that difficulties along the road. So it's almost like return back just like exactly the same day that I came to America and like, Oh, wow, you know, I'm a fish in the water. And it was exactly that feeling for me. Yeah.

(14:42) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. So was returning to Vietnam first, or was it coming up the idea of LIXIBOX first?

(14:49) Sao Lonsdale:

It was investing in Vietnam from overseas first. And then the idea came out from a couple of failed investment.

(14:58) Jeremy Au:

Right. And after that, you're like, okay, this is time for me to move back. I think I want to make this a reality as well.

(15:02) Sao Lonsdale:

Yeah. So the idea in the beginning was very, just very simple. You know, I see a very clear opportunity. I was like, if you imagine it as an, a triangle, this is a consumer. This is the micro influencer and this is the niche brand. So it would be a triangle that everybody need each other. The consumer wants to know what is a cool brands out there. And, you know, they, they want to know that maybe buy through the micro influencer. And they also need some niche brand to introduce to the, the population as well, right? So it's, it's a clear winning opportunity for everybody right there. And that's what I started with.

(15:35) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. You know, a lot of Vietnamese Americans and Vietnamese who studied in America, it's a very common decision point about whether to return to Vietnam. And I was in New York last weekend, you know, kind of like at a panel and the Vietnamese Americans were kind of like thinking about that. Any advice you would have for them about how or whether to return to Vietnam?

(15:54) Sao Lonsdale:

I do have a lot of questions like that too. I guess that it depends on a lot of factors, but to get yourself comfortable right away and understand about the market, what your expertise can be used for, the best would not be to come back and start a company right away. It's what we involving with a group that, understand about the market so you can learn those kind of, you know, or get those kind of knowledge from the best of the best, but also keep an open mind too because, whatever people say, no, no, no, maybe that is your opportunity. Yeah. So I think that's what the kind of mindset that I had.

A lot of people were saying no, that's where the opportunity is. But at the same time, there are also the fact that, okay, well, if you move to Vietnam, what change is your lifestyle changing? Yes, of course, expect 180% change. There's no other way around it. You, you readjust it with people with, lifestyle and everything as well. Out of that, I think, just the fact that focusing on what makes sense and building from that and always remind yourself when there's a hardship is that, hey, it's a much cheaper lesson if it fails and it's a much cheaper way to build a successful company if it's actually working.

(17:06) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. So, what hardships did you face while building LIXIBOX in the early days, because you said there was a very strong sense of customer demand, but I, you know, you already said that it was not smooth sailing. So could you share a little bit about that?

(17:18) Sao Lonsdale:

Yeah, so in the early day, there was, in the market, this was, I would say there's only like very high end brands that come into the market. And there's also a lot of mass brands in the market. And I think beauty was amazing in terms of, of course, as an accountant, I look at margin. And I also look at the market demand as well. And I personally think that I learned so much about the space as a financial analyst. And also, understand what company are doing well in the US market at that point. So, combine all of those kind of thing, I figure out the model how to build that in Vietnam market.

And of course, a lot of testing back and forth. Starting a company in Vietnam, I would say there's no difference at all in starting a company everywhere, except of course, cause the cost is cheaper, but you do everything from scratch. You reach out for people you're hiring and, you know, all those kinds of things. And, it's just that at the beginning, I think that, having LIXIBOX to start was something that the consumer loves so much. It become a sensation in the market right away. And I know that I was doing something right. But talking about that, that was in the past.

I have to go straight right in the present. So you understand that reminiscing the past like eight years ago. Oh, that's a long time ago. If I keep the same model of what it was, I would die in a year. So we pivot really fast in almost every six months. We pivot on something until we figure out a model. There was a pivot in terms of building our own brand right away versus waiting for the platform to get big. There's a pivoting when marketplace like Shopee coming in, but at the same time, with every pivot, we just grow bigger and stronger. So fast forward today, as a small e-commerce platform that's selling other people's brand, we actually are a very strong omnichannel.

So we sell online, offline, we sell on our online, offline, but also on other people online, offline as well. We have our own brand. We carry our other people's brand as well. So if you see what could evolve, of a company like us in the US, that would probably be I would say two times, would say that two times more than in Vietnam. But because the Vietnam market, and I think it's the same in Southeast Asia as well, it's changing so fast. The landscape is changing so fast. We have to change faster, twice faster.

(19:37) Jeremy Au:

One of the big changes, and I was discussing with Valerie Vu from Ansible Adventures in a prior podcast episode was about TikTok Shop has become quite popular, right? I mean, obviously tech was popular, but TikTok Shop is the commercial arm of it. And she was mentioning that she actually has bought like multiple products. And I was reading also that makeup is one of those products that are often being sold as well. How do you see that changing the future of like retail cosmetics?

(20:02) Sao Lonsdale:

Oh, I think that for us at LIXIBOX, we always embrace changes, especially platform changes in the market, from marketplaces to social commerce and TikTok came in. Every time there's a big corporation coming with a lot of subsidy in the market, we embrace it.

We're actually selling a lot of our brands also on TikTok platform again, right now we're an omnichannel so we sell everywhere. I don't think that TikTok will be the end of the changes. I will, I think that, in three years, there will be something else as well. Yeah. So, it's the matter of a couple of things I think will stay.

First of all, good brand will stay. Good influencer. Good content creator will stay that is the, things that will move from platform to platform. And it doesn't matter where, what that platform is, where the consumer are, those will move as well.

(20:50) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. Let's talk about that because, there's something that feels a bit different because of two things, right? Like good brands. And again, it's like good creators. It feels like Southeast Asia is quite young for both of these. So young in terms of the brands, a lot of them are. You mentioned from overseas as well, and also quite young in terms of creators, right? So could you share about those two angles about how perhaps you've evolved or how you're working to harness these aspects?

(21:14) Sao Lonsdale:

Yeah, definitely. My opinion about good brands is that it will take time. I mean, what I saw in the US market as well, a lot of fast brands, it doesn't mean that it will be lasting. So, good brand take time. And when it's a mature time, a lot of private equity guys come in and making it, shape it up, make sure that it's in a professional way as well, but building a good brand takes time. And in the Southeast Asian market at this point right now, I think it's very fragmented, but there's a lot of, good brands also building. I would say that if somehow they be able to keep it on their core value. And growing it and keeping that core value without running the hamster wheel of pounding on revenue growth and things that, you know, which which will last.

Unfortunately a lot of people having a pressure of getting good brands and then running the hamster wheel of the financial model that they have to run. So, yeah, I'm still watching for it, but I'm sure that the, Gen Z and you know, the next generation, which is Gen Alpha, hopefully our kids, will be able to find a lot of good ingredients, a lot of cool things about each of the country culture and make that become the best of the best to show the world if they can do that and I think that would be fantastic. Right now, I see that there are, a lot of son and daughters of farmers and people that own the manufacturing, or factory that come back, like second-generation come back. And they start to understand how to make brands. They start to take over their parents' business.

And I think that is a very great way to do that. And then when you see the technology coming in as well, AI in manufacturing, making things more efficient, real world problems being fixed. I think that we're going to be able to leapfrog much faster. So that's about brand.

(23:02) Sao Lonsdale:

There will be good brands and the way that we also build good brand is that it has to stick with a good platform as well. So having LIXIBOX in our case is a great way to having the brand to build attraction and to introduce new product into the market. And when it become popular, we leverage all the marketplaces to get the volume that we need. On the other side I think content creator is also very important. To be honest, I'm still in the fence right now to figure out that, in the future, will AI create a better creator than personal itself? You know, I see that what exactly is the trend of creator? You have to understand a lot of data of figuring out, of course, keeping yourself authentic. But at the same time moving with the market as well. So you that you don't keep being dull, right? Because you see it's almost like a movie star or Miss Universe. It's like there will be a new one. There will be always a new person as well. So yes, I think that it's going to be a borderline of somehow be able to leverage all these AI revolution in terms of platform change and making yourself become so adaptive and using as a tool to never get dull and stay behind.

(24:14) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. You mentioned something about Gen Z and Generation Alpha. And I have to ask this question, which is that, you obviously have a good sense of Vietnamese Gen Z, which are a very large chunk of the population. I was talking with Gita and talking about the Indonesian elections and most people are Gen Z, because it's a young population, young country. So how is the Gen Z of Vietnam different from Gen Z, for example, in America, from your perspective?

(24:37) Sao Lonsdale:

Gen Z in Vietnam never see a story of war. Yeah. So they focus on something else that you know, making life better. And I think it's a great thing. Gen Z in America, it's hard to say at this point. I would say that they need to toughen up a little bit more, in America and, and hopefully Gen Z in Vietnam, they'll, they'll focusing more on building a better life.

I think most Gen Z, because of the way that they were born and being protected, they rely on a lot of supporting system around. And so I think if some of those will be able to break out and build a very strong supporting system for other to flourish. And I think that's the way that the Vietnamese Gen Z is gonna be, you know, kind of like taking away the war, right?

(25:23) Jeremy Au:

And from I guess cosmetics and skin care, any trends you notice? So for example, I was just chatting with a friend recently, for example, like, you know, Korean men, are into makeup more, for example. So I'm just kind of curious for Vietnam, what trends do you see for Gen Z across men, across women?

(25:38) Sao Lonsdale:

People definitely care more about personal care and self care. And I think that's a great thing for the market. I think the market is getting to the point that it's it's going to be mature and people are going to be more selective about the product they use. And that's the reason why I think that specialized e commerce, specialized product, specialty product will still thrive a lot despite marketplaces and despite there's so many already other products, so there has to be a character that come with the product with the brands. And you know, Gen Z, they will adapt those story they love the story behind the brands. They educate themselves about everything. It's not about how expensive the product is. It's about the function. And they even educate back their parents and grandparents as well. So I think they're very well informed, generation that will choose the right product for themselves.

(26:31) Jeremy Au:

Any special ingredients that are very hot now, bamboo or Asian ingredients?

(26:35) Sao Lonsdale:

You know what? I would say that the ingredients, well, you know, to be fair, I go to a lot of trade show. I read a lot. So, whenever you hear a buzz of new ingredients, it will take about two or three years is either going shoot up or it just goes straight down, but then the ingredients actually active and works, it's just coming from 1 way to another in different kind of form, right? So the Koreans are actually really good at that. At the beginning of the story, you mentioned K test, which is at the brand that we launched as a JV with a Japanese factory, in Yamanashi prefecture. So the Japanese are really good at figuring out, Korean science and, the next great things in terms of technology, the Korean is really good in terms of application.

What that means is one ingredients, they can making a lot of type applications, we're talking about beauty right here. And so, I think all the core ingredients in beauty that people already know of, for example, retinol, AHA, BHA and things that, those are the type that, you see the popularity and it will continuing that too.

(27:39) Jeremy Au:

So I have to askyou, what is your current skincare routine? I mean, maybe you get that question all the time. Me, is this, I use CeraVe, I moisturize.

(27:47) Sao Lonsdale:

I use CeraVe too.

(27:49) Jeremy Au:

Okay. So that's my routine. So, but I'm kind of curious what your routine is.

(27:53) Sao Lonsdale:

Yeah, I'm a very busy person especially with two kids and a company to run. So, you know, I, I keep my routine very simple, but that's why I need a very effective kind of products. So, the cleansing gel from the aurajins, is that what I'm using.

I use a vitamin C serum right now from theaurajins because it's getting all my dark spot away. You know, I love sun tanning, but now it's actually getting paid back on that. And yeah, it's just a normal, ReVive, which is quite expensive from US but it's a night cream. It re-texturizes your, your skin. And yeah, that's my skincare routine.It's quite simple.

(28:29) Jeremy Au:

Wow. Amazing. So now I know I need to start Googling all these things. I should try them.

(28:33) Sao Lonsdale:

Do you know, My company, there's a sourcing buyer department, you see everybody have amazing skin and that's why I got all the tips from of course, I'm an expert myself, but we are in such a good position right now that a lot of brands, it's almost like every week there would be boxes of brands sending us products to the product into the Vietnam market and say, Hey, do you want to try out this product? You want to list this product? We're very fortunate to have so many brands around the world sending us their sample products. And be able to experience that and try out to figure out what actually going to make sense to the Vietnam audience as well. So we, Lixibox is almost like a gatekeeper of all the, the world best secret that coming to the Vietnam market. Yeah.

(29:13) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. On that note, could you share about a time that you personally have been brave?

(29:17) Sao Lonsdale:

I would say personally, coming back to Vietnam was a brave decision. It was such a reverse culture shock. And people to leave potential of climbing up more of the corporate ladders. Going back to get a government job and to see if there's more opportunity that we can do from it. I think it was a decision. It was a very nerve wracking for even not just me, but for my parents as well was that we pay this much money and now you want to go back and getting the job. How are you going to do that? What is your marriage situation? All this kind of thing. And then, moving back to the U. S. at that point was another brave decision as well, and saying that, hey, I was sitting at the San Francisco airport, and that was, I think, almost 10 years from the first time I also stepped into the U. S., right? I was like, wow, I sit here and I was exactly the same position.

It was like a big question mark for me. You know, well, I'm going to start from scratch again and figuring out how to do that and start to find a house to rent, start to find new car and new jobs and all this kind of thing too. But every time I make those kind of decision, it, I think it's even though it's brave, but it's more refreshing.

It's a, it's it's a point in life that you realize that nothing can be worse than that. And this is a choice that you make so that you can have a bigger leapfrog. And so I apply the same thing for business. I can tell a lot about great decision in business as well, but that's the reason why we pivot a lot. We're very resilient in building the business. And I think Jeff and I, the same thing too, in in personal life as well.

(30:48) Jeremy Au:

How do you stay brave? Is there like people you talk to, are there books you read? Like how do you keep your spirits up for these like, major decisions in terms of geography, in terms of life stage, in terms of setting up a business.

(31:00) Sao Lonsdale:

That's an interesting question, and it's very personal as well. I would say that I have a lot of coaching from a very good psychologist in the US and I personally seek out because I see many of my friends that I know, struggling the same kind of like personal and also professional life as well. They have great potential and they were able to figure it out, keeping their head balanced. And so, yeah, I think, I think getting early, kind of exposure into I would say coaching is a good way to do that. And it keep yourself sane and be able to work in a very high pressure environment.

And at the same time, struggling between personal and professional life as well, and also expectation from Asian parents and Asian society and all these kind of things and be able to be a high performers and all those things combined, I think it's very helpful to get a coach, either it's a psychologist, it's a string these days you have a lot of apps that help you on that. But also, be able to go through a friend and each of those friends will give you a personal like perspective as well but the key thing here is that don't listen to anybody and figuring out your own, I think is the hard part. Yeah. I find it very therapeutic and also very helpful to write down about yourself.

Unfortunately, the first time I wrote by myself is through a dating profile. And I think it's really helpful because it's helped you to understand more about yourself. The more you write and the more you realize that, okay, you actually find the right fit of people in your life, if you really, truly honest about who you really are.

(32:30) Jeremy Au:

Why is it hard to be honest to yourself?

(32:33) Sao Lonsdale:

Because there's too much expectation from the world on you, the society on you and also the parents.

(32:40) Jeremy Au:

On that note, thank you so much for sharing. I'd love to summarize the three big takeaways I got from this. First of all, thank you so much for sharing about your childhood and your own personal journey. It was incredible to hear about how you grew up and there was a lot of history that was right underneath your floor, and also how you were, a fish out of the water in Vietnam, and then you were fish in the water in the US and how everybody thought you looked young already back then compared to everybody else. But it's just incredible to hear about your early days, about, being in a forest of Colorado and enjoying life and making a set of decisions about choosing to return to Vietnam to work and then return to America and work in your early career. I think that was a really interesting set of, career decisions and personal decisions that I think really resonate with me as well.

Secondly, thank you so much for sharing about Vietnam as a country. I think, there's a lot of tidbits in terms of like, Hanoi, the country, but also in terms of what you're seeing on the ground in terms of the Gen Z who, didn't experience the war but are also aspirational about building a better life and also taking care of their own health and wellness as well. And also adapting to different platforms like TikTok shop.

Lastly, thanks so much for sharing about building the company LIXIBOX. It was really fascinating to hear about how you felt like it has clicked. And it was an idea that came out from your previous field investments but it was interesting to hear about your early days, about the early customer demand, but also still pivoting every six months to the realities of the Vietnamese market, but also the different platform trends your point of view on creators. I love that little anecdote that you had about how everybody in your department has great skin as well, which is amazing.

So on that note, thank you so much, Sao, for sharing your journey.

(34:12) Sao Lonsdale:

Thank you, Jeremy. It was great to be here with you.