Minh Chau Nguyen

  • Case study - Minh Chau Nguyen
  • Personal details

    Name: Minh Chau Nguyen

    Nationality: Vietnamese

    Course studied at Oxford Brookes University: BA Hons Art and Illustration (based at Swindon College)

    Year Graduated: 2014

    Name of business: Chau Art – Papercutting boutique

    Website: www.minhchauart.com

    Business summary

    Chau Art is a luxury greeting card & stationery company based in Oxford, United Kingdom. Every piece is hand designed by Chau and laser cut on the highest quality of paper – each product is thus unique and visually therapeutic with a precious touch of hand-finished quality. The company focuses in producing luxury greeting cards, wall arts and a personalized service for dates and name arts that is extremely popular for weddings, family clelbrations and festive seasons.
    Chau Art stationery and paper goods are now stocked at a growing number of galleries and independent shops around the UK.

    Q&A

     Why did you apply for Tier 1 GEV?

    To be able to explore the entrepreneurial route which I have aimed to do since I was a child. I wanted my business to be based around something that I make, something reflects my creativity that is different and unique to the UK market.  My thoughts initially looked at silk embroidery, but during my time under this programme the business has evolved due to me testing the market and learning more about consumers' needs and perceptions.  So now the focus is paper goods instead – but my ambition remains the same.

     

    How easy do you find the application process?

    We went through the process in stages and slowly my ideas were developed into a viable proposal. My mentor helped me to get  on this journey -  but it took several months and quite a bit of research to get there. There is a lot of paperwork to fill in for the Visa but it is quite clear and straightforward

    What support have you been given since receiving your Tier 1 GE visa?

    I came from an artistic background but with a lack of business understanding. At first it was challenging as it was all new to me, but I received helpful constructive criticism and advice from my mentors in particularly in monitoring my progress and the financial aspects of the business. From helping me to think about how to price my products in relation to competition and my position in the marketplace to exploring ways of minimizing production costs, the mentors have contributed in developing  the business and the brand I am building today.

    What are your future plans for your business?

    The last year has built a foundation for me in terms of finding a core product that sells and a selling strategy that has started to succeed. My next step this year, with the encouragement from my mentors, will be expanding my costumers base by exposing the brand to more high-end events in London including the main trade shows such as Top Draw and Home & Gift. Chau Art sales at the moment are 50/50 in wholesale and retail, however I would like to boost wholesale this year as a way to develop the brand's name and bringing papercut goods to a wider clientele outside of the UK.

    Within the next year I also aim to bring the brand to France and United States where stationery and paper good, especially greeting cards, are popular.

    The Chau Art website is also going to be professionally developed and I plan to develop a digital marketing strategy to boost retail sales as well. At the moment, the brand is available for purchase through a few retailer shopping sites which help directing costumers to Chau Art, but I would like to reinvest the Christmas sales this year for professional online marketing that will benefit the long term sustainability of the business.

    Long term I also plan to work with some graduate designers to expand the products range to homeware, but that probably will be another year or two yet when the company has achieved its distinctive visual image.

    What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying for a Tier 1 GE visa?

    If you have an idea and thinking of starting a business, do it!  Be prepared for a lot of hard work and for things to change as you develop your idea. You need to be good at constructive self-criticism. Starting your own business is really intense at first but it's worth it.