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Young entrepreneurs and businesspeople in Cambodia

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Business seems to be valued over studying by a growing number of Cambodian youths. They say that doing business is more beneficial and they can be their own boss, unlike a job taken because it is relevant to a studied subject. Hence, we see some university graduates turning their attention to business instead. However, due to their young ages, they tend to encounter challenges.

Economic analyst Kang Chandararot said most young entrepreneurs run businesses which are supported by their parents and relatives, adding that they usually face problems because they lack industry knowledge and experience.

“It is good that there is financial backing from parents at the beginning but when there is competition from local and international rivals, they have to evolve to attract investors, which will be their challenge,” said Kang Chandararot.

“At the start when there is no strong competition, they should study the market and find ways to strengthen and expand their businesses so they can compete.”

Doing business frequently requires youths to problem-solve.  

Chang Bunleang, 26, is the owner of Phnom Penh-based Brown Coffee, and advises young entrepreneurs to be clear on the kind of business they want to do and to spend efficiently.

“Do not spend too much, especially compared to your competitors. Also, do a business which is your interest because if it is not, you will stop doing it in the future.”

Chang Bunleang has been running Brown Coffee for nearly two and a half years and gets financial backing from his family.  

To address the difficulties that youths have in business and to strengthen their business savvy, AIESEC holds a yearly business planning competition. Chan Pisey, AISEC’s national vice president for communications in Cambodia, said The 1000 Global Leaders Program is a competitive business program which reduces unemployment by developing and training university students and fresh graduates in business skills and knowledge.

“We train them to have an entrepreneurial perspective and a business mindset. They can apply what they have learned in the business plan they submit for competition,” she said.

The program has been running since 2010 and to date, has seen more than 500 participants, she added.

One obstacle for participants is their lack of self-confidence and fear of expressing themselves, said Chan Pisey. She advised youths who think that academic study is sufficient, to broaden their education by joining extra-curricular activities.

Former president of Junior Chamber International Cambodia and co-owner of TNC and Pizza World in Phnom Penh Chy Sila said there was a need for businesses to differentiate themselves in order to be successful, instead of jumping on the bandwagon.

“If we have one different business, there will not be much competition and we have more success,” he said.

He added that young entrepreneurs should focus their businesses, instead of selling many different goods.  

“Young businessmen have to try hard with their business, stay with it and do everything for it. They now have a lot of opportunities to learn about business from experts. Those who know how to speak English will be able to communicate well on behalf of their business.”

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