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Coffee talk with Brown’s co-founder

20120922_09
Chang Bunleang, co-owner and operation manager at Brown Coffee and Bakery, stands outside a local branch. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Chang Bunleang, operation manager and one of the founders of Brown, was nominated by the US Embassy in Phnom Penh to participate in the International Leadership Program, a business event initiated by US President Barak Obama three years ago. The program is aimed at linking young entrepreneurs in small and medium-size enterprises from countries around the world with US businesspeople. Before departuring this week, the 27-year-old took the time to talk to the Post’s Rann Reuy about his business and nomination opportunity.

How long will you be in America and what does your schedule include?

The program lasts for three weeks as candidates from 30 countries, including some Southeast Asian nations, will be in attendance. There are meetings with big American businesspeople, which will offer the opportunity to learn from them about how they manage their businesses successfully and bring those lessons to my own business.

Participants in an international events like this are generally required to make a presention to others. What will you present to those in attendance?

A few days ago I received a number of tourism books about Cambodia. After reading them, I thought they were good. So I will bring some 10 books to advertise and present to other delegates. We can see that tourism in our country is strong. Tourism links to coffee shops as the entrance of foreigners will lead to the growth of coffee shops and restaurants.

What was it about you that you think helped you win a place in this event?

The US Embassy’s public affairs section officials saw my team is younger than other teams who applied for the International Visitor Leadership Program, which mainly focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises. They tend to grow fast. They saw my team as growing fast, creating a lot of jobs, and so they nominated me.

Talking about your business, when did you start it and how many people do you employ?

In an attempt to save on costs at first, in mid-2009 we had only eight people. Later, we extended and so far there are a total 150 staff members across four outlets, a central office and a bakery.

How much capital did you start with?

We started with about US$170,000. Now, with four sites we are looking to invest more so we can expand further. In the beginning though we received a loan from the bank as well. After three years, we have four outlets, which I think is a little bit fast. 

What interested you about coffee and baked goods enough to open such a shop, especially as such businesses already existed in Cambodia?

What we found was that there were no good-tasting coffee in Cambodia. I was trained in a coffee shop and drank lots coffee, so I know which tastes Cambodians prefer and those foreigners like. On the other hand, the decoration is not pushed to the limits, so we focused on the taste. Location was also a priority.

Are you worried about competitors coming into Cambodia? How do you compete with the large international chains?

We are not worried because in recent times, we have had a lot of competitors. Later this year or early next year, another international brand will enter the market. We look at important things such as quality and taste of the coffee, service, hygiene, and training to build our staff’s capacity.  We are not afraid of competition. We’re ready for it.

How many customers do you receive per day? How many are foriegners and how many are Cambodian?

Khmers and foreigners are equal in numbers and each outlet receives between 250,300 guests per day. We received about 1,000 per day combined and each guest spends around $3 or $3.50.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at reuy.rann@phnompenhpost.com

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