My Story

by Vara Vail

In 1995, I was in Thailand working as the Executive Secretary to the Director of a government hospital with 1,500 employees. I was also Manager of the Public Relations

 Department. At that time, I had one girl working as my assistant, and 20 more people working under me in the Public Relations Department. I began in 1991 as a Lab Technician with a 2 year Degree. While working at the hospital, I attended university classes at night, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s Degree in Management.

In 2001, while still working at the hospital, I got a phone call from my sister who was living in the US. She was selling orchids from Thailand in the US and she wanted me to find a better orchid supplier for her in Thailand. I was very busy with my job in the Hospital, so I was unable to help her at that time. Later, Tom Vail, who I had not yet met, wrote an email to me, explaining that he was my sister’s friend from her Master’s Degree program. He gave me a long explanation about the huge market for cut flower orchids in the US. So, I decided to jump into the orchid business without any prior knowledge of orchids or exporting.

One month after reading Tom’s long explanation, I decided to resign from the hospital. My boss didn’t want me to leave since he had no replacement for me. I began helping my sister part-time on weekends, finding cut flower orchid suppliers, buying airfreight, buying flowers that our suppliers didn’t have, etc. After 5 months of that, I was ready to resign from the hospital. The Hospital Director held a big going away party – something usually reserved for 60 year old retirees with more than 20 years of service. They invited all the high ranking people in the hospital to attend. This was a huge honor since I was 31 and had been working there for only 11 years.

After I resigned, my older brother and I went to visit my sister in the US for a month before I started to work in her company full time. Tom took us on a tour of the US, driving from Virginia to Key West. He took us to visit Washington, DC; the White House; the Smithsonian; the flower market in New York City, and other places. During the trip, we discussed what I had to do to start the business in Thailand.

I returned to Thailand and started to work alone by the end of 2001. Tom (still in the US) started giving me instructions about what was needed. He was a very good coach. At the beginning I did everything by myself. The orchid exporter my sister had been using was unable to support our growth, so I started to test processing and packing and prepared the export paperwork by myself under Tom’s direction.

Soon, I did my first shipment alone. I began by leaving home at 6 AM, picking up 500 flowers from the orchid farm, bringing them to my home to process them with chemicals and flower food, sorting and bunching, putting them in plastic sleeves, packing them in boxes and shipping

cartons, making shipping labels, preparing the invoice & packing list, preparing documents for an Airway Bill, delivering the box to the Bangkok International Airport and remaining there until I was sure that my box would be loaded onto the next flight. I finished around midnight and I went back home.

After demonstrating that I knew every step of the process, Tom told me to hire workers and rent a building for our packing house. It took me 3 months to locate a suitable facility and set up the facility for our use. Then, Tom came to Thailand and trained me about company administration and helped me plan what I needed to do next. He and I developed our working processes in Thailand. After a few months, I hired more workers to handle our increasing orders. Soon, several of my family members started to work with our business. Our business grew very fast under Tom’s direction. After a few years, I returned to the US on an inter-company transfer visa to help with sales and administration there. I visited customers in many states with my sister and sometimes traveled across the US alone.

Tom laid out our business plan and he told me to open freight forwarder, tissue culture lab and farm companies in Thailand. I took classes in order to learn about those different types of businesses. Then I opened the companies and hired and trained people to work. He sent me to visit prospective customers in Japan, Singapore and the US.

Tom frequently encouraged our staff to peak performance by comparing our operation to the Olympics. He said “If you want to be number one like in the Olympics, you have to practice doing the very best every day,” and we did that. In less than a decade, we became the number one producer of Top Quality Cut Flower Orchids in the world. Top flower designers in America and Europe ordered our flowers for their most important projects – celebrity weddings, television programs and the White House.

After our children Robert and Ben were born, Tom gave me guidance on how to raise and train them. I trained our children when they were babies with the educational materials that he bought for me to use. His standards for education and behavior are very high.

Since arriving in the US in November 2019, I agreed with Tom to spend our time and money working to save our country. Yes, it’s MY country, too. I became a US Citizen in September 2023. Our decision has led him to work with the Republican Party and to run for elected office. We know that we must Save America and secure honest elections.

I like to compare government to a business: citizens are the customers (we pay tax money) who hire government people to work for us. If they don’t give us good products or services, we have to fire them.

I have known Tom for 24 years now and I know he is the RIGHT person to be the next Supervisor of Elections for Lake County. He is fully equipped with knowledge, education and management experience. He will treat citizens like you are paying him to work for you, NOT like he is your boss.

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