Frequently Asked Questions
Please read below to see if your question has been answered.
What is KOTO?
KOTO stands for Know One, Teach One - learning should be passed on; knowledge is meant to be shared. This is the essential idea of KOTO’s Vietnamese-Australian founder, Jimmy Pham.
In 1999, Jimmy opened a hospitality training centre in Hanoi, giving at-risk and disadvantaged youth the opportunity to break the poverty cycle by forging a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.
Twenty-two years later, over 1,000 graduates now include executive and sous chefs, hotel and resort general managers, business owners as well as university graduates. All are contributing to their families and society.
KOTO continues to be acknowledged as a leading unique not-for-profit social enterprise, not only in Vietnam but also internationally. Today, KOTO provides 200 at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam an opportunity to undertake our 24-month holistic hospitality training program to end the cycle of poverty and truly empower our trainees to realise their dreams.
How has KOTO being a social enterprise impacted the not-for-profit landscape?
We were the first social enterprise to be recognized in Vietnam. Consequently, according to the British Council 2019 report, there are now about 20,000 social enterprises working in Thailand and Vietnam, and around 22,000 businesses with social inclusions. So that’s a great impact that we helped create. When we did this, it was a lonely journey but now there’s a network of people supporting each other.
We changed the mindset of the community, which used to focus on short-term charitable giving, to a long-term investment approach. What typically happens is when people treat it as a charity, they provide handouts because it makes them feel better. When you come to KOTO, we have a very reciprocal relationship. We encourage the community to use social goods, social products, and social services.
We moved away from the NGO donor-driven agenda where we might receive $50,000 but being dictated on how the program would run. Instead, we turn it into a partnership. We can learn and try to fix problems instead of being so afraid that funding will be taken away.
How did KOTO turn into Vietnam’s first social enterprise?
I never wanted KOTO to feel like a business just caring about profits. I wanted these kids to have a family. It was never about money. Thus, the concept naturally gravitated towards being a social enterprise. That’s why KOTO is so successful. I never approached it as a charity which relies on donations, rather, the enterprise generates money and supports the foundation. Once you solve the need of a roof over your head, food in your belly and the chance at an education, these kids are empowered.
How did KOTO as a social enterprise respond to COVID-19?
We entered 2020 with excitement and ready to achieve big dreams, goals and planning for the new decade ahead. Like most businesses around the world, the last few months at KOTO have been incredibly challenging. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we have had no choice but to remain resilient whilst battling COVID-19. We have done this all whilst staying true to our mission, to provide disadvantaged and at-risk youth with a safe place to live, study and transform their lives.
KOTO on Van Mieu officially closed on the 11th of August 2020 after 21 very successful years. 90% of our patronage was from the international tourism sector. Since the future of the tourism industry was hanging in the balance, it was not a viable strategy for an organisation the size of KOTO to “sit and wait it out”. We had lives that depended on KOTO remaining in operation. Some of the reasons as to why we have taken this heavy-hearted decision is that quite simply, financially, it’s not viable for KOTO to continue leasing the very costly current location. Lack of international patronage at the restaurant severely impacts our ability to deliver training and being a social enterprise, it’s unsustainable.
We moved quickly to Tay Ho which is a highly densolated expatriate area so we could continue to do business. KOTO Villa was opened on the 20th December 2021 by H.E Robyn Mudie.
How did digitalization impact Vietnam’s SME’s post COVID-19?
Many SMEs are adapting to digitalisation during covid-19 whilst learning about the pros and cons of digitalisation and how to prepare a business, like KOTO, for more digital changes. With constant lockdowns in Hanoi, our restaurant KOTO Villa needed to move quickly to the online delivery platform so we could continue to operate. Gone were the days of serving hundreds of people per day in our restaurant, we now distributed orders through online delivery apps such as Now.vn and utilised Facebook as our main platform for our consumers. In addition to this, we moved many classes for our trainees to online so we could continue their education in the height of a harsh lockdown. Additional support classes were provided by volunteers to help our trainees practice their English.
How can I support KOTO?
Each year, our partners, volunteers and donors help over 150 marginalized youths gain an Australian Hospitality Certificate, enabling them to provide for themselves, their families and communities. KOTO wouldn't be able to offer hospitality training to impoverished youth without vital funding and partnerships. There are a number of ways you can support our mission. You too can help to break the poverty cycle.
KOTO is always looking for social investors to partner with. You can benefit from our expertise to bring your social start-up to fruition.
Sponsor a Trainee. A monthly contribution of $150USD will dramatically change the future of an at-risk child. Your investment will provide education, healthcare, food and shelter. Basic human rights that these children don't currently have.