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"My school became financially self-sustained."

Ravy Vang runs a school in rural Cambodia. Depending 100% on donations, Ravy faced the closing of the school when funds stopped in 2017. Together with the team of our 9th Capability Program, Ravy developed a business plan to make his school financially sustainable. Today, Salariin Kampuchea School serves 290 students a month and has been operating profitably since 2019.

Ravy (center, smiling) and his team managed to change their finance model from donation-based to fee-based.

Ravy, share with us 3 important facts that people should know about you.

  • It´s now 3 years that I´m running my social enterprise “Salariin Kampuchea”

  • I have a master’s degree in business administration

  • When I joined BOOKBRIDGE, I had 3 children. Now, I have 4 :).

Why did you decide to apply as social entrepreneur?

The main reason was that my social business, a local school, was lacking funds. Salariin Kampuchea School provided free classes to the children in the community of Siem Reap. In 2017, the founders of the school decided to close it for financial reasons.

Luckily I met Sokhan Khut from BOOKBRIDGE. He told us more about BOOKBRIDGE and their social entrepreneurship and leadership programs. I realized that we had the same goals: improving education in rural communities by applying an entrepreneurial approach and creating social impact by financially sustained business.

I was excited as I also realized that BOOKBRIDGE could present a solution for a problem I was facing: how to convert my NGO to a financially sustainable business by switching from free classes to paid classes. How to do this without offending my students and their families? How to involve them more to appreciate my services? I was very curious about BOOKBRIDGE’s answer to this question so I decided to apply for the program.

More than just a school: Ravy has introduced activity-based education methods to encourage sustainable learning. Here, 1st grade students participate in an oral hygiene campaign.

Which highlight or moment during the program do you remember?

During the program with BOOKBRIDGE my team and I developed a business plan for Salariin Kampuchea school to turn it into a financially sustainable social business.

During the program I remember two important moments: When the Cambodian and the European teams arrived in Siem Reap we made a task list of what we had to do for re-opening the school. We split up the tasks, decided when to do them and who would be responsible for it. I very much liked the fact that every team member was responsible for one part of the project. There wasn´t one person in charge of all but there was shared responsibility. Some took care of the finances, some painted the walls or smoothened the gathering area in front of the building, some created brochures and other marketing material, others prepared the speech.

During my speech at the opening ceremony to the parents, students, government and community officials, I was extremely nervous and tight. After it was over, I was so relieved and grateful. To celebrate this moment, we had a great party with both teams dancing together. This made me forget all the stress before. We felt like one big team.

That´s when I realized that we could achieve my goal of becoming financially sustainable. When I saw how we had successfully implemented our business plan I felt that we could reach this goal.

Ravy (center) with his team after the re-opening of the school.

Which impact did BOOKBRIDGE have on your professional and private life?

Before the program I worried a lot about our financial situation. I didn´t know how to raise funds for my school. In the course of the program I found a way to reach financial sustainability with the support of a strong team.

BOOKBRIDGE didn´t give me a possibility to receive funding from abroad. They showed me how to generate income with my business. But I also realized that I had to take risks in order to proceed. Previously, I didn´t know if I could ask for fees from my students.

Before I attended the program I was afraid of taking risks, f.e. applying for a bank credit. During the program I learnt that I didn´t have to rely on external money. Together with my team, I developed a plan to generate income from the students by showing them that my services were valuable and worth paying for.

This brought new value to the services I provide to my community. Now, students and parents appreciate the educational services and don´t take them for granted. Before, students would sometimes show up for classes, sometimes not. Paying for them makes them value the classes so that they attend regularly and are more successful. For poor students we have introduced scholarships as I wanted everybody to be able to join after the change.

With the help of the program and the team, I was able to do the shift from free classes to a fee system that sustains the school.

On World Clean Day, Ravy participated with his entire school.

From my BA I learnt to apply theory to practice. I not only had to develop a strategy but also to apply it in reality. Before the program I studied business but I never had ran a real business because we were funded and didn´t have an income-generating business plan.

The program and the team also taught me to put marketing and promotions in practices. I learnt how to communicate my services to the community and to generate customers.

I also learnt that I had to improve my teaching and my educational offerings in order to make parents pay. I had to invest in teacher trainings and curriculum optimizations to create acceptance for class fees. Today, I have 400 students which is a great success.

... and on your community?

My community now not only profits from the high-quality classes I´m offering. Showing them that good education is something worth paying for, they have also learnt to appreciate the value of good education. Education is valuable! was an important mental shift in my community.

Thank you Ravy for sharing your experience and your learnings with us. We are proud that you are part of our BOOKBRIDGE Family!


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