Catherine Svangren (’11 MIS, ’16 MBA) chose the Carson College of Business for her online MBA program because it offered her the flexibility of balancing work and family life. Svangren lives in Edmonds and commutes to her job at Boeing, where she is a chief of staff of supplier management business operations. Having grown up around the congested streets of Vietnam, Seattle traffic presents little challenge.
In her home country, nearly every household has at least one motorcycle. As a result, Vietnam’s major cities suffer traffic congestion, and policing has not kept pace with the growing number of motorcycles on the road. From lax safety standards, ineffective policing, and drunk driving, motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of death in Vietnam.
Cruising the streets in the evening is a popular pastime not just for teenagers but also for couples and families. For many Vietnamese, the motorcycle is not just a vehicle for getting from A to B, it also means personal freedom, Svangren says.
But it comes at a price.
On a visit to Vietnam, Svangren, who is called “Hồng Ca” by her family, went out for a ride with her husband. While they were sitting at a stop light, an intoxicated motorcyclist smashed into the couple’s motorcycle. Svangren was fine, but her husband suffered a severe leg injury.
TRAGEDY BEGETS INNOVATION
Though devastating, the accident became the catalyst of Svangren’s dream to create an alternative, affordable, and safer means of transportation in Vietnam. For her MBA capstone project, Svangren developed a business plan for Tri-Safe, a three-wheeled motorcycle that can carry multiple passengers.
“I had the idea for a three-wheeled motorcycle business way before the accident, because I have always had a passion to bring Vietnam up to the next level,” she says. “This accident was really a call to action to develop my business plan.”
The three-wheeled motorcycles are fuel efficient and built with environmentally sensitive materials.
To date, no market leaders have emerged in the three-wheeled motorcycle industry in Vietnam, which creates substantial market opportunities.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD
“I believe the three-wheeled motorcycle will be a unique solution for Vietnam,” says Svangren, “because it will provide an alternative means of transportation that will likely save lives while reducing traffic issues and environmental pollution.”
Svangren plans to import three-wheeled motorcycles from Japan, Korea, and China. Corporate headquarters will be located in Rach Gia City in the Kien Giang Province of Vietnam, with distribution centers dispersed throughout major cities. Tri-Safe will also support repair service. She surveyed several focus groups to gain customer insights and preferences.
Based on the data, primary markets are the tourism industry, households with multiple family members, and small commercial businesses. The target geographic locations include Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and other major cities in Vietnam.
As next steps in her venture creation, Svangren will visit target locations and import about 10 units to test the market. She also plans to seek out a joint venture or a business partner who has the capital to potentially expand the business.
“I have obtained a great sense of self-worth after successfully reaching the finish line on my MBA,” she says. “Although I’m fluent in English, it is my second language. I found it challenging at times to balance life, work, family, and school; I am so glad I persevered. The overall experience was very positive for me and supported my dream to start a global business.”