Rosie’s Cafe: Voices of Hoi An with Thuy and My

Hoi An is no stranger to cute coffee shops which make you want to linger in their cozy atmosphere or, for digital nomads, to solidly work away the hours in a quiet space. One place, in particular, Rosie’s Cafe, caught our eye, mostly due to the energy and warmth of the owners, 26-year-olds Thuy and My.

Inspired by the lead character in their favourite rom-com, ‘Love, Rosie’, it’s a space where travellers can feel at home, and possibly fall in love. 

The cafe already features in Hidden Hoi An’s Best Instagram Spots in Hoi An, and as one of the town’s Best Breakfast Spots, so we decided it was time to find out a little more about the owners. We met Thuy and My over a delectable brunch to learn why they ditched the corporate world to live the quiet life in Hoi An.

Beans n Greens breakfast
Beans n Greens hearty breakfast from Rosie’s Cafe.

What is the story behind Rosie’s Cafe?

My: Before we opened Rosie’s we both worked in Ho Chi Minh, I worked in marketing and Thuy worked in foreign trade. But the corporate world wasn’t what I thought it would be, there were some challenges in the working environment, and I wanted to leave.

Thuy: I came back to live near my family. We both felt bored at work, we felt we’re both single, we can do what we want. We loved spending time in coffee shops, so thought it would be nice to have one of our own.

Rumour has it you chose the name based on your favourite movie?

Yes! The name came quickly, we both loved the movie ‘Love, Rosie’ since we feel we have a lot in common with the main character. Like the character Rosie, we’re young, passionate, involved in the hospitality industry, and are determined to get where we want to be no matter how long it takes.

traditional architecture and modern design at Rosie’s in Hoi An
There is a blend of traditional architecture and modern design at Rosie’s in Hoi An

Usually, young people leave small towns for big cities. You left Ho Chi Minh to return home. Why did you choose Hoi An for your venture?

We didn’t choose Hoi An, it chose us. Initially, we wanted to be Da Nang, but after 3 months of struggling to find a location, we heard of this spot, which was perfect for us. So so decided on Hoi An. It’s a unique place in Vietnam, and we’re happy here. 

We grew up in a village outside of Old Town, so returning home seemed natural. We are extremely family-oriented and have made it a priority to spend Sundays with our families. 

It’s been 3 years, and you’ve made a success of it. How did you get the business off the ground?

Thankfully we had friends who believed in us and our vision of what a coffeeshop should be like. With so much trust in us, they loaned us 10,000 USD. 

We know that it can be tough when friends go into business together, so we had a clear map of what we both wanted out of it, and what we’d contribute. We weren’t afraid to work hard and to do as much as we can by ourselves to save costs. We painted, upcycled furniture, learned how to cook off YouTube videos! From the outset, we shared duties, from cooking to serving.    

A view of the outside of Rosie’s Cafe
A view of the outside of Rosie’s Cafe in Hoi An. Photo: Anna Jamieson

Some young entrepreneurs want everything to be perfect from the beginning. All we wanted was a space to make us and our customers happy. Starting off small helped us grow at the right pace. We were only recently able to buy a coffee machine, but that’s okay! 

In the first three months, it was very quiet, sometimes we only had one customer a day. It took quite long to make a profit but eventually, we did and could pay back our friends.

What have been the main challenges and learning experiences?

The biggest challenge as females is convincing family that we can stand on our own two feet. Men have far more support from families in opening businesses.  But we feel that once you’re a business owner, women are taken seriously. We are equal to men when it comes to being successful entrepreneurs.

It’s been gratifying to learn that we’re even more capable than we thought we were. We realised we can deal with anything, like a water or electricity crisis, and that we are strong, and can do what a man can do. We’ve learnt so much from Rosies. In a few short years, it’s taught us so much more, and we’ve had such wide-ranging experiences, something we would not have had working for a company. 

Why was it so hard to convince your family?

In Vietnam, there’s a very traditional mindset that women should listen to their parents, dress well every day, go to work, earn money, get married, have children. So we knew it would be very difficult telling our parents we want to start our own business. 

So when we left our jobs and opened Rosies, we decided to keep it a secret. We wanted to tell our parents once we’d established our business. Somehow, a year and a half went by without us telling them or them finding out.

But then, by accident, they found out. We’re from a small village near Hoi An, and people from the community would regularly see us in town. Since everyone was under the impression we were working in Da Nang, they were obviously suspicious. Eventually, a neighbour told Thuy’s dad who immediately came to the coffeeshop. When My saw him she ran away! 

He was so angry at first because we’d lied to them. Both our families weren’t happy at first but they came round, and now they support us.

Rosie’s Cafe is extremely popular with expats and travellers. Did you set out to target this market?

No, it’s not what we imagined, we thought it would be mostly friends and locals. When foreigners started coming in, we didn’t even have the confidence to serve them. But we adapted. We grew in confidence, learned to discern their tastes, and became more comfortable chatting with our customers. 

The menu was very simple at first, so we slowly added to it, serving dishes like eggs benedict, and toast with hummus and avocado. Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube have been extremely helpful. We gain inspiration from there!

We also both love travelling which is a gateway to another food world for us. Visiting other countries and towns has allowed us to tweak our menu, and experiment with new offerings.

Rosie’s Cafe
Rosie’s Cafe western breakfast. Photo: Anna Jamieson

How do you differentiate yourself from competitors?

We just do the best we can and focus on who and what we are. We don’t worry about what others are doing. 

You’re both romantics. Has Rosie’s played a part in new connections?

Yes, it has! When we started, we knew we wanted a cozy feel where customers can relax, and feel at home. We wanted a space which brought people together, which is why we decided to have a large dining table along with smaller tables. When it’s busy, customers share the big table. It makes us really happy to see people talk to each other, start new friendships and even romantic connections.

Rosie’s Cafe – Opening Hours, Address and Map

Address: 02 Mac Dinh Chi – Opening Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.

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