“My goal is not only to make profit, but also to help young people,” real estate agent Teng Sopheak said.
At 27, the young entrepreneur has years of experience in the real estate industry and is now the owner of his own agency Agent-I Real Estate.
He is determined to lead a different kind of business than what you might expect amid Phnom Penh’s building and contruction boom.
“I really want to help provincial youths to find cheap and good places where to stay; I want to help the next generation to know more about real estate and train them to work in this field. The target of my company is all kind of customers – and that’s why we are different from other real estate companies.”
Born in a modest family in Kandal province, Sopheak’s father is a teacher and his mother a housewife; he has two older brothers.
After graduating with a diploma in 2002, a teenage Sopheak arrived in Phnom Penh to study two majors, English at the Phnom Penh International University and IT at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
Coming from the less resourced provinces, Sopheak says he struggled to learn English without any previous schooling in the language.
“I tried so hard to catch up for every lesson, because I’m from the provinces and my language was not good.”
On top of his intensive study schedule, the young student had arrived in the city alone and had only an old bicycle to travel from school and work.
In 2003, while still a student, he began volunteering for the Cambodia Red Cross and after one year was chosen to attend a youth camp in Malaysia.
After returning to Cambodia, he was offered to follow a three-week exchange program in Japan.
The experience led to a job at the Cambodia Red Cross in the project planning department as well as to other overseas training opportunities in Korea, Australia, Singapore and Thailand.
After four years, Sopheak decided to change tack and began a Masters in Rural Development and Project Management at Build Bright University.
“Even though my bachelor degree was not related to development, I really wanted to study Rural Development and Project Management. I also wanted to get into the real estate sector because I have a lot of activities in the society,” Sopheak says.
After learning more about the development and real estate sectors, he left his position at the Red Cross and started working at a real estate company as a sales manager. On the side, he freelanced as a consultant with a business partner.
But his Red Cross work eventually drew him back and in 2010 he found himself back at his old position, while keeping freelancing in his spare time. Although being very different, both careers, he insists, require integrity and a high level of personal commitment.
“Working in the real estate field means you have to observe, follow, and pay attention all the time because the market can change quickly. You also have to be prepared for risk.” he says.
“However, I believe that every type of work and job is difficult, nothing can be won without struggle and honesty.”
After years of working as a freelancer Sopheak opened with his partner Agent-I Real Estate.
“Before opening this company, I had spent two years planning it with my partner. We had to prepare for the financial and economic future… and we had to build a network, so that we could find good deals for our clients.” Sopheak said.
In the future, he wants to open a dormitory for poor young people and perhaps teach a course in real estate, to open doors to the next generation of Cambodian entrepreneurs, like himself.
Until this happens, the modest business owner is reluctant to rest on his laurels.
“Right now I could not say that I have achieved success because I still have many plans and work to do for the future,” he says.