In the adversity of Covid-19 on all of the world, let us join the conversation with Ngoc who decided to be a part of the pandemic support system by supplying face masks to the community of US with her experience and knowledge in Cross Border Trading. Meet Ngoc Lewis who received her degree in International Business from San Francisco State University in 2004. Yim- Yu Wong’s International Business class sparked her interest to study International Business at SF State. Because of her interest in International trade, she started working for non-profit’s membership services for promoting trades between US and Foreign Countries, learn about different innovations, products and services that Bay Area companies have to offer. With this experience, she focused on software companies and International trade Intelligence to understand their import, export and tariff duties compliance using data from different companies. All of these experiences motivated her to start her own consultancy services in import and export compliance. Due to her passion for trade, she also started her import business to and from Vietnam, her home country.
The Covid-19 pandemic pushed her into giving birth to the company Portland Mask Co. in April 2020. The company focuses on importing face masks to the US. Ngoc noticed the increasing market trend for face masks in the pandemic and started researching on how she can import face masks into the US in the event of high demand for face masks. She reached out to her connections on LinkedIn and in Vietnam, found out negotiation prices and with her background in International Trade, she was confident she could surpass the formalities of arranging the face masks and shipping them. Although, the risk factor as an entrepreneur was that she had to face the uncertainty of bad quality products or ghosting of the suppliers. She went ahead and took the risk to order from 4 different suppliers, tested the market with those products by offering them for free in the start to increase brand awareness using word of mouth and derive demand for the same, eventually driving the customer traffic on her website.
As the retailer, Ngoc gained trust of the vendors by buying from them regularly and built a trustworthy relationship which in turn helped her customize the product which otherwise was not possible. This shows her expertise in people skills and trading market. She adds that having an agent to advocate for you in another country for trade is an important factor in getting things done. She focuses on products that are of the best quality at the best price. She says identifying the market need is more important than focusing on what’s “fancy” out there.
After all that she has achieved in her trading business, Ngoc still believes one of her challenges is Digital Marketing and SEO optimization for a small brand that is competing with the big giants out there. She believes with the right resources to raise the kind of capital required for Digital Marketing, she could raise brand awareness in the US market and increase sales.
Ngoc has experience working at an IT firm to help them manage their Customs and Trade Compliance software that allowed traders to subscribe to the software and be up to date with the ever-changing trade regulations. She realized companies overlook the trade compliance rules while trading and she saw an opportunity to help them with it. To help companies in running their customs trades smoothly, she co-founded Portland trade compliance.The company helps export and import businesses stay up to date with their compliance requirements to avoid shipment delays and minimize disruption in their cross-border transactions.
An advice she gives to entrepreneurs starting their journey is to build networks, connect with the right business partners and have others promote you with referrals. Build alliances and have people who can advocate for you which eventually becomes your support system in your journey. She lives by the quote “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really start to look fear in the face.”
She would love to work with someone who has willingness to learn and get their hands dirty, try and fail until they get it right. She acknowledges that success never comes around at the very first time and the quality of never giving up will lead to success in the future.