By Chibulu Luo (MEMP ’11)
Huyen Tran, MEMP '09 graduate and Co-Founder of women's fashion line, AmareSinh, is using her MEM degree in an interesting and unexpected way. Originally from Vietnam, Tran immigrated to the US when she was little and grew up in Philadelphia. Having an interest in advanced technology research, Tran received her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Temple University.
"I used to work in a laser lab at Temple doing research on molecular detection and selective segmentation of molecules using lasers," she recalls, "and while I am still very interested in science, I am more of a business person nowadays and can't see myself working in a lab."
Throughout her career, Tran has pursued a number of entrepreneurial ventures. After graduating from Temple, she returned to Vietnam with the hope of returning to her ethnic roots, and founded her own non-profit organization, the Hue Happy Project.
“We teach children who are not in school and forced to work by their parents how to make handicrafts such as necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, instead of working on the streets where they are exposed to all kinds of danger. Profits then go into schooling and materials for school,” she says. When Tran later returned to the US, she worked with a company that developed technology for clinical trial management.
But because she was always looking for new opportunities to develop professionally, Tran enrolled in the MEM Program in May 2008. “I saw the program as a way for me to gain knowledge on a more holistic scale and advance my thinking” she says. “I have so many great memories of Duke, but Camp Out was probably my best - I did not make it past the first night!” she laughs.
After graduating from Duke, Tran’s brother, who studied Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, approached her with an idea to start a women’s clothing line.
“For a long time my brother was passionate about women’s wear and when I graduated, he asked me to help him start AmareSinh - a women's ready-to-wear line for middle- and high-end markets,” she recalls. “I was looking for jobs at the time, and was thrilled about the opportunity to use my knowledge of intellectual property, finance, and project management in the fashion industry,” she says, “so I said yes!”
Coined from two words, "Amare" which means love in Italian and "Sinh" which means birth in Vietnamese, the name “AmareSinh” commemorates through clothing, the love, appreciation and beauty of life. Tran admits that given her knowledge of entrepreneurship and business learned at Duke, the bold move to start AmareSinh was less frightening.
“Having taken courses in Decision Models, Intellectual Property and Business Case Writing,” she says, “I felt I could really bring to the table business knowledge that would complement the creative ideas my brother had for the company”. She continues, “Even as a Duke alumnus, I still have easy access to and great support from other alumni around the globe. I also meet other entrepreneurs during DukeGEN events that I have co-hosted in several cities.”
While Tran’s career is testament to the diversity of professional options available to MEM students after graduation, she reflects that the path to starting one’s own company is far from easy.
“Do not jump into it without mentorship, research, cost-benefit or risk analysis” she says, “this in itself might take a year or two.” “Then,” she continues, “you just have to do it.”
“You also need to focus on the project 100% because few start-up ventures are successful if implemented on a part-time basis,” she says. “Personally, I was very lucky to have my brother be one of the few designers to have made it in the industry. But also believing in what we do and gathering a team of strong supporters has moved mountains for us.”
AmareSinh continues to grow as a company and has released four different collections, some of them also with accessories. More information can be found on all major social networks and at AmareSinh.com.