women to women
A Burmese Woman Who Wants to Make Burmese Traditional Pastries World-Famous
Question: Please introduce your name and your profession?
Answer: My name is Shwe Yee Phyo. I run a Burmese traditional snack business named "Tent Tent." I have been working on popularizing traditional Burmese snacks and making them more accessible to people for nearly a decade.
Question: How did you start your business as a woman, and what is your current business like?
Answer: I started Tent Tent Myanmar Snacks in 2013. Growing up, my mother used to sell traditional Burmese snacks to supplement the family income as my father was a government employee. I grew familiar with Burmese snacks from a young age. After moving to Yangon, I worked in a company, where I gained a decade of experience in sales and marketing. Wanting to start my own business, I turned to my childhood familiarity with Burmese snacks. In Yangon, it was hard to find Burmese snacks easily outside of markets, and there was a need for better hygiene and quality. I also noticed a lack of promotion for traditional Burmese sweet snacks. So, in 2013, I started with about four or five types of snacks like Sanwin Makin, Shwe Kyi, and Kyauk Kyaw. In 2015, I opened a small shop in front of Golden City in Yankin. However, I had to pause the business in 2020 due to COVID-19. From 2015 onwards, Tint Tint became more well-known. "Tent Tent Myanmar Snacks" is named after my mother, as a tribute to her.
Question: As a woman entrepreneur, what challenges did you face when you started your business, and how is it different now?
Answer: I started my business in 2013, inspired by my mother who used to sell traditional Burmese snacks. I was familiar with these snacks from a young age. When I moved to Yangon and joined a company, I gained experience in sales and marketing. My own business venture began with my childhood connection to Burmese snacks. In Yangon, it was difficult to easily find Burmese snacks, especially with concerns about cleanliness and quality. I noticed a gap in the promotion of traditional Burmese sweet snacks, so I started with a few varieties like Sanwin Makin, Shwe Kyi, and Kyauk Kyaw. In 2015, I opened a small shop in Yankin's Golden City area. The business had to pause in 2020 due to COVID-19, but by then, Tent Tent had gained popularity. The name "Tint Tint Myanmar Snacks" honors my mother, underlining the significant influence she had on me.
Question: As a woman entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced?
Answer: Initially, I struggled with self-doubt and fear of criticism from society. Working with male colleagues also presented its own challenges, often facing less respect and recognition. Balancing work and household responsibilities is another challenge for women entrepreneurs. Additionally, financial constraints were a significant hurdle.
Question: What is your greatest achievement as a woman entrepreneur?
Answer: There are two major achievements I'd like to highlight. First, successfully producing Burmese snacks that last for six months while maintaining food safety standards. This was a breakthrough since traditionally, Burmese snacks have a shelf life of just one day. In 2022, I built a small factory to produce these long-lasting snacks using freezing technology. Secondly, developing three types of dry snacks that are convenient and easy to transport, with a grant from a program in collaboration with Impact Hub. These efforts led to receiving the Resilience Award from ASEAN for my contribution to traditional Burmese snacks and the success of Tent Tent.
Question: As a married woman entrepreneur, how did your husband support you in your business ventures?
Answer: Traditionally, many women, especially housewives, face challenges in starting a business due to responsibilities like cooking, childcare, and other household tasks. Some husbands prefer their wives to stay at home and not venture into business, focusing instead on family time. However, in my case, my husband plays a supportive role. He doesn't criticize me for not cooking or insist on traditional gender roles. Instead, he fully supports my professional endeavors. He even takes over kitchen duties and manages meals, allowing me to focus on work. This modern approach to shared responsibilities, including caring for our children and managing household chores, significantly helps in balancing work and family life. His input and perspective are valuable, especially in decision-making or addressing challenges. His contribution in managing the home and taking care of our children frees up my time, enabling me to concentrate on my business. This kind of support from a spouse is crucial for a woman to successfully manage both her career and family life.
Question: What have been the driving forces behind your success in your business?
Answer: The key driving force behind my success has been understanding and fulfilling the needs of my customers. Initially, I only offered a limited variety of traditional Myanmar sweets. However, as I began to understand customer needs better, the range expanded to over 40 varieties. This expansion wouldn't have been possible if I had remained rigid in my offerings. Another crucial factor has been my commitment to quality and hygiene, which is especially important for perishable items like traditional Myanmar sweets. Facing the challenge of maintaining product quality throughout the day, I innovated new preservation methods. This led to the development of frozen and dry sweets, catering to customers who wanted to transport them over long distances or store them for longer periods. Adapting to these customer needs and continuously evolving the product line have been significant contributors to my business's success.
Question: What strategies have you employed throughout your business journey?
Answer: The most effective strategy I've followed is a "do it now" approach. Rather than overthinking, I act on ideas as soon as they come to me. This immediate action has led to the completion and success of numerous projects. If there's work to be done, I make sure it gets done right away, which has allowed me to tackle tasks one after the other efficiently.
Question: As a woman, what message would you like to share with other women?
Answer: The key message I want to share with other women is that no matter how strong we appear, we all have moments of vulnerability and fear. I may seem confident, but I've had my fair share of moments of doubt and hesitation. Women, especially in business, often have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts. This means facing challenges head-on and not backing down. When you reflect on your struggles, you realize that the difficulties you faced were just stepping stones to better outcomes. In moments of societal, employee, or financial challenges, the instinct might be to retreat, but overcoming these leads to true success. I want to encourage women to persevere through challenges because the reward of overcoming them is immensely fulfilling.
Question: As a woman, how do you overcome your weaknesses?
Answer: My weaknesses include being easily upset and having a lack of confidence. Additionally, my lack of theoretical knowledge in economics and business was a challenge when I first started my business. This led me to a practical, hands-on approach without much planning. This approach had its difficulties, but it also brought success. My lack of theory meant I had to learn more about business and economic theories while working, which allowed me to run my business more systematically. My main weakness was my theoretical knowledge, but combining theory with practice has enabled me to conduct smarter business operations.
Question: What are your future goals?
Answer: My ongoing learning in theory and practice has taught me the importance of applying theory to practice. I'm currently pursuing a master's degree, focusing on sustainable and environmentally beneficial business practices. I am striving to make my business more sustainable and beneficial for the environment. It needs to be innovative. Currently, as I'm learning more, I plan to work extensively on making it sustainable and beneficial for humanity. I'm going to expand into more training centers for Burmese traditional sweets. Everyone should know about Burmese sweets, and every Burmese woman should be able to make them. That's the plan I've started in 2023 and aim to launch by 2024.
Question: What would you like to say through this interview?
Answer: "Through my interviews and participation in FNF Myanmar programs, which I've been involved in for the third time now, I've learned a lot. Currently, as TV commercials and marketing costs are high, I can't afford to advertise much. I can't give precise messages through ads. So, I'm grateful for opportunities like this interview to participate in such programs."