Business course

Sahak from Siem Reap trains young entrepreneurs in the secrets of success

Sahak is a platform that engages local entrepreneurs by developing entrepreneurship for quality businesses. It also collaborates with them to create innovative products and connect directly to the market.

The Sahak platform was created in 2020 under the auspices of three friends: Khut Sokhan, representative of Bookbridge in Cambodia, Paul Gill, founder of Sonas World, and Marion Moser, former volunteer of Bookbridge in Cambodia. All three are co-investors of the platform.

Co-founder Sokhan explained to the Post the purpose of creating Sahak. “We created Sahak to focus on creating an incubator for entrepreneurship. Many talented young people wanted to start businesses, but did not have the opportunity to access training. »

“We wanted to do something to support them, so we opened trainings that would take their business ideas and turn them into business plans based on their resources and skills,” he added.

Sahak has performed his program twice so far. The first had eight participants and the second four. Ten of the twelve had become entrepreneurs and started their own small businesses.

Sokhan said the first course lasted four months and was divided into five modules. The first module identified a personal goal. The second came up with a business idea and the third prepared a business model. The fourth focused on learning the basic skills required. Finally, the fifth module taught participants how to support and manage their business.

However, he said that after learning from the previous program, he realized it was possible to make it work more simply. Next time it will include the same five modules, but cover them all in just three months.

There are no formal requirements to participate, but he said they were looking for a certain type of entrepreneur.

“Before accepting someone into the program, we ask them how far they are willing to go. We want to identify people who are ready to fight for something they love. If we see that he or she has a good business idea and the ambition to realize it, we will welcome it,” he added.

Most Sahak participants are from the provinces of Siem Reap or Takeo, or Phnom Penh.

He said he limited the number of participants to just 10 or 12 because he wanted to make sure he had time to be as active as possible with each of them.

Sokhan added that he plans to host only one group per year, although Sahak has worked with people who could not join scheduled programs.

“Some of them have already started running their businesses, so we work alongside them separately. The full program was designed for people who wanted to start a new business, so we manage them as one group,” a- he declared.

Upon completion of the training, he said the participants were almost ready to launch their businesses. Their business plans would be almost fully formed. Naturally, Sahak would continue to accompany them, through general face-to-face meetings or occasional assistance on specific issues.

Sokhan explained that Sahak offered capital to young entrepreneurs because he wanted them to focus on the resources they already had.

Khut Sokhan (white shirt) speaks during the Entrepreneurs Future Innovators exhibition in Siem Reap on July 3. SAHAK

“For example, if he has $100, we tell him to start thinking about where he could start with that available capital. If they need a larger investment, we will advise them on how to raise capital. In the past, traditional entrepreneurs only used the resources they had,” he said.

He added that direct engagement of entrepreneurs with the market was also part of their program. In addition to training, they held showcases once a month to promote new startup brands. Sahak had also opened an eponymous store in Siem Reap which stocked products made by the young business owners.

“Entrepreneurs can sell their exciting new products here. We charge 20% to cover rent and staff salaries. Our goal is to hold larger regular events to expand what these entrepreneurs are doing,” he said.

“We recently partnered with three other organizations – PEPY Empowering Youth, Support Her Enterprise (SHE) and Enterprise Vision (EV),” he added.

Sahak does not ask for payment for his training, but asks successful entrepreneurs to “pay it forward” by paying for other young entrepreneurs to take the course in the future.

Sokhan said if they can’t afford it, it won’t be necessary.

Of the 10 participants who went on to operate businesses, he said several worked in health and wellness, primarily through food.

They produced tea, honey, dried fruits and soy sauce, for example.

The other big group was involved in the fashion industry. Their products included everything from cosmetics to bags, from clothing designs to jewelry made from recycled seashell husks.

Others had imagined educational toys and mathematical games.

Pich Kanha, the founder of Siem Reap Snacks and Sun Sopheak, the founder of Miss SEW Cambodia, are both members of the Sahak family of social entrepreneurs. They spoke with The Post about the benefits of teaming up with Sahak.

“We asked Sahak to stock our products in their store. When we met them, they saw that our products were different and that we had what they were looking for. We have become part of the family,” Kanha said.

“Since our partnership with Sahak, we have learned a lot and have been able to share our knowledge with other young entrepreneurs. We can also team up to showcase our products, rather than having to showcase them ourselves,” Sopheak added.

Sopheak has been in the tailoring business since 2014, but only started designing her unique take on outerwear in 2018. She said her goal is to create fashion that doesn’t follow fashion trends. short-lived fashion, but which is accessible to everyone, at any time, while remaining stylish. She also wanted to encourage women to have an independent income so that they would have time to take care of their children at home.

The 38-year-old said she designed her pieces almost to look like kimonos because she loves outerwear and thought it would be best to make them without having to select size or gender.

She added that they were popular with some foreigners who wore them after exercise.

“I first saw short sleeve jerseys in Thailand. The style was still popular a few years later, so I started making them in 2018. I wanted something I liked that would be easy to sew for my tailors and that would appeal to the market,” added Sopheak.

Kanha, 32, said his business, which makes roasted dry rice and fried dry rice, has been open for more than a year.

She said what makes her products special is that she makes them with natural fruits such as oranges or bananas to enhance and create new flavors, and seasons them with honey and salt.

Kanha makes dry and crispy round cakes. They are sometimes different shapes, and she has not yet found a way to give her products a standardized shape.

She said her mother was her inspiration, as she used to make rice cakes for her children.

“My mum roasted some dry rice and mixed it with sugar, peanuts and sesame seeds for us to eat. I thought we should try selling them because they are all natural and have good taste. I also want to conquer foreign markets, that’s why I added non-traditional flavors like fruit and honey,” she said.

The two businesswomen said that their products are not yet 100% recognized in the market, but they will continue to push.

“I want to ask everyone to support locally made products, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. Please try them – and offer feedback so we can adapt to compete with imported products,” Kanha said.

After seeing entrepreneurs run businesses on their own — and even create jobs for others — Sokha said he was very happy. That was Sahak’s goal, he said.

“I encourage those who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. If they don’t know where to start or need help, they shouldn’t be afraid to contact us. Sahak welcomes everyone,” he added.