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One Family - Two Business Mindsets

Some people think business is just to earn money. Others want to help society as well – a question of age and generation? LIFT explores the differences in business mindsets within two generations of one family.

Khim Serei Sophorn has been selling motorbikes in Phnom Penh for almost 14 years now. The form and scale of the business have never changed. Does it mean Sophorn has no business ambition? She says she does: “I do business to support my family, especially my children’s education.”

Being a mother and a businesswoman, Sophorn takes on the high responsibility to have all her four children well educated. Providing for her children is Sophorn’s biggest concern and she has no interest to compete with the other motorbike sellers. The best she can do in the current form of the business is enough to fulfill her main objective. “I know that there are more [motorbike] sellers, but I don’t care,” Sophorn says.

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Marketing and advertising are widely unknown techniques to Sophorn except for doing business in the so-called right place. “I have to make sure that the location of my business is good which means people can come and buy my products easily,” she explains.

When asked about the techniques she sustains and develops the business with, Sophorn says: “I just sell bikes as usual, and try hard because my children are growing up and they need to study at good schools. I support my children’s dream, and they can choose to do what they want in the future.”

Oung Ping Ann, 20, is Sophorn’s son and he has benefited greatly from his mother’s dedication towards his education. Having received a good education he has a different mind and passion for business than his mother.

Thanks to attending various business workshops in Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore, Ping Ann grew fond of an idea which he calls “social enterprise”.

“Social enterprise means you define the problem in society first, and then you create a business that can solve the problem and you can earn profit at the same time,” Ping Ann explains, adding that “solving problems is always the first priority in social enterprises.”

Realising that many Cambodian farmers fail to farm efficiently, Ping Ann and his team members created a social enterprise project called ‘Community Supported Rice Production’. “Basically, we provide free training, free consulting services and we provide low interest loans to them, and they become our contracted customers.”

There are risks which Ping Ann’s mother would not take. He is aware of them and wants to try anyway. “It’s very difficult to change farmers’ mindset and our team lacks financial support.”

For now Ping Ann doesn’t approach investors. He first tries to win some international business plan competitions to get things started with trophy money and support funds.

It seems that the young generation is more flexible and open to new business ideas – and more willing to take risks.

Risks, with potential gains and losses Ping Ann can afford to take because his parents did not have to while providing for his education.

“My parents do it their own way. I respect that a lot!” Ping Ann says.

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