Cornell University Johnson at Cornell University

Startup Snapshots

Lyn Nguyen EMBA '05: Hope spring(roll)s eternal

Inspiration strikes at the strangest moments. For Lyn Nguyen, it came at the Johnson School when she was eating out for the umpteenth time. "The food was tasting the same – unhealthy, greasy. I kept thinking of my mom's food, which is light and very healthy," says Nguyen. Her mother, Tung Nguyen, is founder and chef of Hy Vong,* a highly acclaimed Vietnamese restaurant in Miami www.hyvong.com.

Lyn, formerly an investment banker, knew there were plenty of young professionals who hungered for better than ho-hum frozen dinners.

Lyn Nguyen, EMBA '05, with her mother and Hy Vong founder, Tung, holding a plate of Hy Vong's signature rice dumplings
Lyn Nguyen, EMBA '05, with her mother and Hy Vong founder, Tung, holding a plate of Hy Vong's signature rice dumplings
She thought, Why not make Hy Vong's culinary specialties available to a wider audience?

Returning to Miami, Lyn and Tung began packaging Hy Vong's delicacies and distributing them to local gourmet markets. Products first reached the refrigerated section in May 2006. "Growth has been exponential," says Lyn.

One challenge now is bringing in the right people. "We have extremely high quality – and we want to ensure that the people we hire care about what they do, have some knowledge about preparing food, and can adhere to our strict standards," says Lyn.

In addition, she's readying Hy Vong's specialties for a national rollout: a whole new proposition in terms of supply chain. "How do you deliver perishable food from Miami to Washington state, and ensure it's as fresh as when it left my door?"

There's a challenge, too, in exporting Hy Vong's strong brand presence. "People in Miami know and love our food – how do we recreate that nationally?" asks Lyn. "I think of Hy Vong in terms of a verb: 'Are you going to Hy Vong tonight?' 'Hy Vong' standing for very fresh, very exceptional food with no work involved."

*Hy Vong means "hope" in Vietnamese.

– Irene Kim