Terri Nguyen first learned the concept of entrepreneurship through her father, who found financial success exporting automotive parts internationally. However, when Nguyen was just 15 years old, the South Vietnamese forces collapsed under the rapid advancement of the North Vietnamese. This caused a significant rift in her life and millions of others. When the North took over, they sent Nguyen’s father to a camp and took everything he owned, driving her family to immigrate to the United States. Nguyen first came to America in 1980 with no money or knowledge of the English language. What she did know was that in order to be successful, she would need to work hard, just like her father did.
Thus her journey to success began. After attending high school in New Mexico, Nguyen attended the University of Minnesota, where she studied interior design. As a natural born entrepreneur, she explains, “I just wanted to work.” Nguyen’s first venture was founding a software company called Tertronics, earning her a spot on America’s 50 Hottest New Small Businesses by Entrepreneur Magazine in 1995 and Tertronics was also ranked #31 in Entrepreneur Magazine’s 1996 listing of the 100 Hottest New Small Businesses in America.
After selling Tertronics to Plexus. Nguyen later became the franchise owner of a sandwich shop called Lee’s Sandwiches, which was a popular destination in shopping malls. While her customers loved the sandwiches, she noticed they usually went elsewhere for coffee, and in her eyes was a missed business opportunity. So she created her own coffee brand in Garland, Texas, under the name J2C (an acronym for her kids’ names: Jaclyn, Calvin, and Collin). She sold this coffee in Lee’s Sandwiches shops in Garland and eventually grew the business even further, selling her coffee across Atlanta, Dallas, Austin, and Minneapolis.
In 2016, Nguyen moved on to launch her current business, LUA Coffee, with the dream of sharing delicious, single-serve Vietnamese coffee with unfamiliar consumers. “LUA means silk in Vietnamese and is an acronym for Lasting Unique Aroma,” she explains. Their products include ready-to-drink cold brews, single-serve pour-over coffee, coffee sachets, and oat milk lattes. She currently runs the business in San Diego, California, with her 19-year-old son Colin who is studying Entrepreneurship Business Management. Nguyen also receives financial help from her son Calvin and advertising support from her daughter Jaclyn.
Taking flight with RangeMe
From the beginning of her consumer packaged goods (CPG) journey, Nguyen took a strong interest in Hy-Vee, “Hy-Vee was so popular then and still is now. I couldn’t stop wondering how I could get into their stores.” Miraculously, on a random flight to California, a woman who worked for Hy-Vee sat next to Nguyen on the plane. “I asked her if she could help me get into their stores,” Nguyen explains. “And she told me that I would have to go through RangeMe.” With no prior knowledge of RangeMe, she pushed for more answers. “After researching online, I found out that not only does RangeMe work with Hy-Vee, they work with thousands of retailers!” It was seven years ago when Nguyen took the original initiative to sign up for RangeMe.
From there, her brand has brewed major success. Her first cup of success came after applying for Hy-Vee’s Best of Local Brands Summit and receiving the opportunity to meet with their buyers via ECRM Connect, ultimately landing LUA Coffee on 120 store shelves across the Midwest. Hy-Vee currently carries two of LUA Coffee’s products–the Oat Milk Latte and Original Black Cold Brew. LUA Coffee has since been accepted into new store locations, online in Hy-Vee’s “Aisles Online Grocery Shopping,” and is now working with Hy-Vee gas stations.
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Thanks to RangeMe, Nguyen lists off the many retailers she is currently talking with. “I’m working on deals with Albertson’s, 7Eleven, Metropolitan Markets, Peapod, Publix, UNFI, Meijer, Gelson’s, University of San Diego, University of Minnesota and much more.” She has also partnered with Chefs’ Warehouse, Central Market, The Butchery, Seaside Market, Sysco, KeHE, and Amazon. She has even been featured in Hy-Vee’s Seasons Magazine and Who’s Who in America: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women.
Nguyen plans to grow her reach into retail further by working with several universities and large companies, considering college students and nine-to-fivers love and need coffee!
Creating the perfect blend amid challenges
While the coffee business is growing, Nguyen still feels the effects of rising inflation and supply chain woes. “It’s more difficult to get the proper materials at lower prices promptly, and deliver the product to consumers quickly,” she says. To any suppliers dealing with the current market issues, she advises, “everything is not as easy as it once was, and you just have to be patient.”
One way Nguyen finds success during this time is by staying active on RangeMe and keeping in touch with her Supplier Success Manager. She likes to stay on top of upcoming sourcing campaigns her products are a fit for, special events, and informational content such as webinars. “I am just so grateful for RangeMe; I’ve gotten the opportunity to connect with multiple customers and buyers,” she says.
Regarding advice for fellow entrepreneurs on RangeMe, Nguyen emphasizes, “stay focused and submit, submit, submit to the retailer opportunities. Go for opportunities that will help you reach the customers you want to work and grow with.”
Hot off the French presses
LUA Coffee has many exciting opportunities coming up, including several new partnerships with retailers they’ve met through RangeMe. Nguyen plans to carry the same mission of providing the highest quality Vietnamese coffee while also giving back to children in need. With every LUA Coffee purchase, 1% of gross proceeds goes to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
On top of exploring several new retail opportunities, LUA Coffee is expanding their line of beverages beyond the original line. The latest additions will include Keurig K-Cups in cases of 100 or 12 cups and 12 oz bags of coffee beans for consumers or manufacturers to enjoy at home or in their offices.
If you’re a retail buyer interested in sampling LUA Coffee’s unique and silky taste, you can find them on RangeMe here.
If you’re a supplier looking to get into retailers like Hy-Vee, sign up for free here.