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Building trust in local Cambodian products

Saloth is an entrepreneur at heart. Growing up, and throughout her career, she became aware of the lack of opportunities available to Cambodian farmers. With BOOKBRIDGE support, Saloth aims to highlight the benefits of buying locally and make it possible for micro and small enterprises to generate a stable income. Having worked in the development sector, she is now pursuing a path in social entrepreneurship. Let's meet her.

It’s time for me to get my hands dirty and achieve my life goal” says Saloth.

Saloth was born in a town 20km from Siem Reap and moved to Siem Reap as a child after the Khmer Rouge regime ended. She comes from a family of farmers and is the first person in her family to go to university and earn a master’s degree. Saloth explains that she lived in underprivileged conditions growing up. Nevertheless, she strived for her financial independence.

She has fifteen years of business experience – her areas of expertise are marketing, sales, and business management. She advises micro, small and medium enterprises, agricultural cooperatives, farmer groups, and community-based ecotourism projects. Saloth has experience of working with development agencies, for example, conducting projects for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) [German Agency for International Cooperation].

"Saloth's vision complements our strategy, which aims to create an ecosystem of enterprises that support each other. This year, Phum Farm was established through a Capability Program and it could potentially become a supplier to Saloth's social enterprise. If Saloth succeeds, it opens doors to more passionate social entrepreneurs who want to have an impact in their communities through agriculture (SDG2),” says Sokhan Khut, Head of Sannipun NGO, our Country Partner in Cambodia

About Saloth

Saloth, share three things people should know about you.

  • I consider myself transparent, accountable, open minded and frank

  • I am the one who encourages others to be themselves

  • I like dancing, even without music!

Why did you decide to apply as a social entrepreneur for BOOKBRIDGE’s Capability Program?

My wish is to see real sustainable development in my community and my country. It’s time for me to get my hands dirty and achieve my life goal. For a long time now, I’ve been dreaming of establishing a social enterprise that promotes local products. I hope the program will help me further develop myself as a leader and social entrepreneur, and I’d like to develop my confidence with a clear direction. Working together with the Capability Program team will help me achieve my vision. We’ll put our assumptions to the test and come up with a suitable business plan to put into action. Moreover, I want to share my experience with other social entrepreneurs.

What is your vision?

I aim to highlight the benefits of buying locally and to enable micro and small enterprises to generate a stable income in the communities in Siem Reap city and Battambang province in Cambodia. I envision:

  1. changing consumption behaviors by running a restaurant that serves healthy food and drink sourced from farmers' associations and cooperatives;

  2. supporting local suppliers by buying their processed products and promoting them in the restaurant shop and an online shop; and

  3. enabling micro and small agribusinesses by offering them training in sales, marketing, and business management.

I believe that rural communities could grow sustainably only if their agricultural products are better linked to reliable sales channels and suited to customer demands, at the right time and in the appropriate amount. I see my social enterprise as a well that will water trees, which will grow and provide shade and fruit to others.

What challenges would you like to tackle in your community?

Lack of consumer trust in local food and drink

Most of the local markets and grocery suppliers sell vegetables and meat imported from Thailand and Vietnam. The consumers learned that these products are often treated with chemicals to keep them fresh. At the same time, they do not fully trust in the quality of locally grown produce, food and drink. There are few restaurants that encourage a shift in consumer behavior to favor locally grown products.

Absence of sales channels for Cambodian products

Micro and small producers can’t compete with suppliers from abroad. They haven’t gained enough credibility and capacity to enter big sales channels. When choosing, consumers prefer buying imported products, which are better positioned in the market.

Limited access to capacity-building

Micro and small enterprises as well as small cooperatives don’t have access to training because they’re not registered and don’t have access to business networks. There are offerings from NGOs, but these are mostly available in the city.

I know from my experience that the training does not necessarily meet the needs of the participants. Some of the concepts like business plans are difficult to understand, and one major issue is figuring out consumer needs.

You will start a six-month learning journey with a team of professionals and local counterparts. What do you expect to get out of the program for yourself and your community?

Personally, I hope that I will improve my social enterprise management, my communication, listening and negotiation skills, stress management and learn how to create sustainable growth. I want to build my personal brand and lead a diverse team effectively and positively. Finally, I expect to build skills to develop a strategic plan and partnerships.

My goal for my community is that the people reach their goals and grow.

Where do you see yourself and your social enterprise in one year?

I see this business growing, making a profit and diversifying its products. I hope that more micro and small enterprises and cooperatives will collaborate with me. And that we can maintain and develop trust. Furthermore, I would like to see more customers coming to us when they are looking for local healthy food and drink products. Finally, I hope my social enterprise will have a well-established management system to thrive as a high-performing team.

Are you passionate about social impact? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone like Saloth? Do you believe in leading others effectively? If you are a motivated professional, with solid spoken English and at least three years of work experience, join us for a unique learning journey in Mongolia or Cambodia here.


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