Dried Radish Lim Enterprise hopes its local delicacy will eventually turn into a popular export
We don't currently have the resources to export our products abroad, but that's our long-term goal.
Kandal province - Vouch Lim, a young Kandal businesswoman, credits her family with steering her towards an unlikely career that has nonetheless given her independence and a steady income.
"My parents told me that making dried radishes was an easy way to make money and to create a life for myself," she said, adding that she would benefit from the more than 15 years that she had studied the trade under her parents' guidance.
The 25-year-old took that advice and founded a small business, Dried Radish Lim Enterprise, in 2008, after being married a year. Her aim was to target local demand by supplying small community markets.
She invested about US$8,000 to establish the business in Prek Kouy commune, Kandal province, about 20 kilometres from the Vietnamese border.
After a year in the trade, Vouch Lim says business is good, but that it requires a great deal of energy and planning.
"If you are lazy or careless with your business, you will lose clients, and in order to succeed, you have to be able to find new markets for your product," she said.
One obstacle, she notes, is technical innovation. "We are still trying to learn how to improve the shelf life of our products," Vouch Lim said, adding that she has made some progress but continues to research the subject.
The business began small and remains so, with only five employees covering purchasing, production, research and sales, she said.
Staff earn between 100,000 riels and 150,000 riels (about $24 to $36) per month, depending on experience.
But Vouch Lim's plans include expanding her factory and adding employees in order to better serve her clients and expand distribution of her products.
The factory currently requires three to four tonnes of raw radishes to satisfy her clients, Vouch Lim said.
They are sourced principally from Cambodian farmers in Takeo and Kampong Cham provinces at a cost of between 1,400 and 1,500 riels per kilogram.
Her factory produces both sweet and salty varieties of dried radish, and the company sells between 2,500 and 3,000 kilograms each day on average, bringing in anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 per month in net profits.
Clients of Dried Radish Lim Enterprise come from as far afield as Phnom Penh, Prey Veng, Preah Sihanouk and Siem Reap provinces.
"Dried radish is a favourite among Cambodians. Many people buy them because they are a healthy thing to eat.
"Others buy them as gifts for friends or family, and foreigners often purchase them to take to their home countries," Vouch Lim said.
It is the foreign market, she said, that the company hopes to target over the next few years as she attempts to expand operations.
Despite the popularity of dried radishes, there has not been enough demand in the local market to support the company's aspirations.
"We don't currently have the resources to export our products abroad, but that's our long-term goal," she said.