Dana Bradley is an American expat who has called Vietnam home since January 2019. She is a marketing consultant, Instagram business coach, and influencer (@whereinhcmc), an English Instagram account that helps many discover the best bits of the city. Since its inception in August 2020, it has amassed more than 5,000 active followers and helped many expats to navigate through life in Ho Chi Minh City.
We catch up with Dana Bradley to find out more about her life in Ho Chi Minh City, her favourite places to go as well as the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur in Vietnam.
What is WhereinHCMC, when was it founded and why did you start it?
Where In is a family of Instagram accounts that loves Vietnam. It is run by adventurous, curious and passionate people. The brand was created by Cydney in Hanoi in 2019 when she moved to the city and wanted to document all the cool new places she was finding. As a marketer, she quickly recognised there was no other English Instagram focused that focused on where to go and what to do.
I met when Dana was stuck in Hanoi and came across her account @whereinhanoi. When we met, we instantly clicked being marketers, from the same region in the US and share a similar interest in exploring! When I moved to Ho Chi Minh City in August 2020, it was only natural to launch and run @whereinhcmc in line with the Where In brand values.
What’s the goal of WhereinHCMC?
WhereinHCMC exists to support the Saigon Community in two ways:
1) It exists to show you the best places to eat, hang out, visit and experience throughout Saigon.
2) It exists to support small businesses by connecting them with our community.
Expat Living in Saigon
What were 3 things that surprised you when you moved to Saigon?
The tropical weather all year round, traffic and how amazing the food and beverage scene in Saigon is!
What are 3 pros and cons of living in Saigon?
Pros: The community, food and neverending sense of opportunity. Cons: Rainy season, mosquitoes and being so far from my family. It’s been nearly 3 years since I have seen my friends and family back home!
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Every day is different and it’s busy, but in the early post-lockdown world it usually goes like this: Wake up, drink some water, coffee, journal & tarot, yoga or meditation then get started on work.
I always reference my strategic content calendar for @whereinhcmc and @wherebusinessesgrow, our new small marketing consultancy, to know what I have to post for the day and week ahead. My DMs are always full so I need to respond and get back to everyone too - I seriously love all the messages we get! In the evening, I might have some business coaching calls with my @whereinbusinessesgrow clients before I wrap up my day with some TV and reading before bed.
Name 3 of your favourite places in Saigon
1) On the back of a motorbike, traveling around the city.
2) Sitting on a high stool in Octo Tapas Restobar enjoying wine and tapas.
3) Sitting at the bar at Madame Kew.
What is something about living in Saigon that many people outside Vietnam don’t know?
The coffee culture here is able to rival places in Melbourne and New York City. Many people know that coffee beans come from here yet they don’t know much about cafes and coffee culture here. In a similar vein, the tea culture here is huge. It’s not uncommon to see people sitting outside at night and enjoying a glass of sweet tea.
What are some tips that you would give to someone looking to move to Vietnam?
Bring any clothes, shoes, cosmetics specific to your body type (bigger feet, bigger busts, curly or black hair, non-waterproof mascara lovers have limited product availability). Dana turned up with only a backpack so don’t worry about packing it all before you move. And of course to follow all the Where In Vietnam accounts!
How much would you say is the average monthly cost required to live in Vietnam including rent, social activities etc.?
It depends on your desired lifestyle. If you’re on a budget, you’ve got plenty of options, but you might need to avoid imported groceries and live in a smaller apartment. If you want to have amenities, eat out every night, go out for drinks, go shopping, your daily expenses are going to be higher.
In Saigon, 20m will get you a 2-bedroom in a high rise building with amenities, 300,000 VND is the average Dana spends on food in a day but it can easily go below that or way above that. Life is flexible and that’s what makes Vietnam so awesome!
Being an entrepreneur in Vietnam
Can you describe how it’s like being an entrepreneur in Vietnam?
It’s very exciting! I didn’t expect to live here and needed to navigate a new life when we decided to stay here long term- a more flexible life to boot - that was fueled by my passions. I have 8 years of marketing experience so I wanted to find a way to combine this with my passion.
It’s really the community that makes the difference in Saigon - it’s amazing how much networking there is in the city! Everyone knows someone and wants to recommend someone to help you or put you in touch with someone you should speak to.
What are some trials and challenges when you first started?
I was overwhelmed with so many ideas. It was hard to know what to do first. The city is so big and there is so much to discover that I wanted to grow faster. That being said, I was also nervous if I was “doing it right” (whatever that means!). But having a supportive and inspiring partner like Cydney has been a true blessing! It’s all about taking it one day and one step at a time.
Can you describe the opportunities for small and medium businesses?
The opportunities are endless from a business point of view. Other markets can be saturated but not in Vietnam. It’s a thriving business community, and I can’t wait to see the country get back on its feet post-pandemic.
But one mistake - or opportunity - I see too many small & medium-sized businesses make is not to have a brand strategy. They might have thought about the commercial side of their business, but have given little investment or thought into their branding. This is a big mistake that should definitely be avoided. Your branding is what makes people engage with your business and differentiates you from the competition.
Any tips and advice for anyone looking to be an entrepreneur in Vietnam?
Put yourself out there. Make friends with everyone.
Dana Bradley is a branding specialist and marketing consultant in Ho Chi Minh City. She is the lead content creator of @whereinhcmc and co-creator of @wherebusinessesgrow. Born and bred in Brooklyn, New York City, Dana has spent nearly a decade in London, where she worked for top-tier international strategic brand design agencies. Now, she spends her time helping small businesses in HCMC with their marketing. When not working, you can most likely find her trying a new dish or relaxing in the shade with a coconut.
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