|Tran Bao Khanh (L) and Chu Hoang Son, founders of Rens Original, which makes sports shoes from used coffee grounds. (Photo courtesy of Rens Original)
In addition to a headquarters in Finland’s capital Helsinki, Rens Original has opened a representative and R&D office in HCMC, the hometown of Tran Bao Khanh, one of the company’s founders.
Addressing an online conference this month on connecting and strengthening overseas Vietnamese human resources to support innovative startups in Vietnam, Bao Khanh said.
“We wanted to leverage our past experience working at shoe manufacturing companies and what we learned in school to produce a eco-friendly fashion product for young sneaker enthusiasts. This was Rens Original’s initial goal and still our current mission,” Khanh said.
Using discarded coffee grounds as a raw material for shoes, each pair of Rens shoes is made from six recycled plastic bottles and 300 grams of used coffee grounds, approximately the amount used to make 21 cups of coffee.
Rens Original launched its first shoes – 100 percent water-proof and odor-free – in China in 2019 just about the time the COVID-19 epidemic broke out. Soon after, Bao Khanh and Hoang Son decided to shift all production to Vietnam.
|Tran Bao Khanh and one of Rens Original's products. (Photo courtesy of Rens Original)
Khanh recalled, “All Rens shoe production takes place in Vietnam. We got great support from the Finnish government, but a lot of the credit goes to our bold decision made during the pandemic.”
He said all Rens Original members “were confident about the shift because Vietnam’s technology and quality of garment and footwear production and material resources have improved considerably in the past 5 to 10 years. As a result, the quality of Rens shoes is much better now than when we made them in China.”
Rens shoes are now available in more than 100 countries and territories, with the largest markets in the US, Germany, the Netherlands, and Northern Europe.
Bao Khanh went to Finland in 2011 to study international business and logistics. Hoang Son from Hanoi began studying IT in 2014.
The pair won Finland's Summer of Startups 2016 with their Factory Finder project, an online platform that connects European fashion brands with Vietnamese factories.
Last year, they were named in the Social Entrepreneurs category of the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list, which highlights “young visionary leaders brashly reinventing business and society.”
Khanh said he wants to share their experience with other Vietnamese startup entrepreneurs.
“You can learn a lot from China, whose startup businesses, set up inside or outside China, make full use of China’s resources. This helps Chinese startups grow quickly and compete with rivals in Western countries. All Rens Original members and I will do our best to support Vietnamese startups inside or outside Vietnam,” said Khanh.
Rens Original is currently employing 20 talented people from 10 different countries.