Vivian Nguyen is 15 but sounds far north of 25. Claims to be a sophomore at Martin High School, though that’s hard to fathom, too. Conversing with her is a little like having a back-and-forth with a living, breathing thesaurus. We chatted for 40 minutes and I spent 20 Googling half of what she said.
OK, I exaggerate. But just a tad.
Nguyen is the creator and chief executive officer of her own clothing line, Dyenosaur Apparel, a collection of cool-looking tie dyes, which in itself is something of a revelation, since you’d figure when it comes to tie-dye anything we’ve been there and done that. I mean, you can pick those things up at Walmart for, what, 79 cents? Nguyen has managed to do something a little different, which is handcraft and personalize everything from shirts and socks to scrunchies. She’s sold hundreds of tie-dye items around the country and has a fan base of over l,300 Instagram followers garnering some 100,000 views a week.
What’s more, this whole business thing of hers (visit viviannguyxn.wixsite.com/website) isn’t something she contemplated for months on end – it just sort of happened, the last-minute result of wanting to raise money for her National Junior Honor Society while at Young Junior High. She made and sold scrunchies to classmates and then their parents and then the friends of the parents, and suddenly she had a corporation.
Nguyen, whose dad is an engineer, is now part of Martin’s fabulous STEM wing, with sights on doing something in biomedical sciences when she, uh, grows up, and all a sudden this tie-dye thing slaps her across the head – or, more precisely, touches her heart. The monetary benefits of Dyenosaur Apparel are beside the point.
When talking about her little empire she preaches female entrepreneur empowerment and creativity and diversity and inclusivity, and wanting to use her newfound skill and celebrity, if you want to call it that (and you can, really) to promote such things. Last month, Nguyen participated in the GenZ Girl Con, a global women’s empowerment conference, speaking on a business panel, alongside other pint-sized rising stars such as Kriti Sarav, who addressed teen financial literacy; Taylor Wang, who runs a non-profit uplifting young, diverse artists through events and education; and Maysoon Hussein, the Saudi Arabian teen whose organization gathers students from around the world to pontificate on world issues.
For her part, Nguyen speaks candidly about how her own nagging fear of failure once hindered her pre-apparel success. Now she pushes to be that muse to help others.
“If I had seen others my age take initiative and become successful,” Nguyen says, “I would have been more eager to venture into this. It’s like a ripple effect. By achieving my own goals, I can encourage others to reach for theirs.”
One uptick to the pandemic is how it gave Nguyen time to collaborate with the business community, getting advice on everything from web designers to marketing and advertising. She also reaches out to fellow high school artists and illustrators for collaboration, bringing more GenZ voices under the tent.
“We’re adamant about youth and empowering youth, so each design has been hand painted and drawn,” she says. “We want to dedicate our platform to support other young creators. We all have unique and different stories.”
So her tie-dye items express those stories, and perhaps there lies her line’s success, platform or no platform. Where exactly Dyenosaur Apparel goes from here is a good question. Nguyen’s passions are numerable, and she certainly doesn’t want to get bogged down. She’s crazy busy as a part of the Vietnamese Student Association, the Key Club and those rigorous STEM classes, so “time management is key.” She already envisions, “Nights I’ll be staying up late” getting school work/company/extracurricular stuff done, but lately she discovered the revelation of the old school “To Do List.”
“Staying close to my planner is a daily ritual,” she says, laughing.
By the way, Nguyen claims to be turning 16 this fall.
Don’t believe it for a minute.