Late in May, the Cambodia Young Entrepreneur Award 2015 announced the top 12 candidates in the semi-finals in business. Among the potential winners was Sok Sopheap, a young woman from Koh Kong province who gained success from bird nest production.
Sok Sopheap, managing director of Hengkea Import Export Co, Ltd. followed her parent’s family business of ‘bird’s nest farming’, blending in new technology that she learned from fellow ASEAN business people in Thailand and Malaysia.
“In 2014, I spent some weeks in Thailand to study some techniques on how to make better quality bird nests and increase the volume of production in response to the market demand,” Sopheap said. “There I found some new methods and equipment that I brought to my homeland and developed my business of bird nest production lines.”
Some of the techniques for bird nest products were “how to harvest, select, clean and dry”, she said. However, the family still needed to increase the supply.
“By that time, my older brother went to Malaysia for many weeks to learn even more techniques to get more nests from the swallows at our farmhouse.”
Afterwards, the family blended the methods from the two other countries. By that time, their business had expanded from Koh Kong to Sihanouville, Kampot and Phnom Penh.
In December 2014, at the Southeast Asia Festival, Sopheap’s products were recognised and supported by customers with orders both locally and internationally.
“We are planning to expand our branch in Phnom Penh in the near future, and we are considering exporting our products overseas.”
Sopheap explained that her company has been exporting some amount of bird nest productions to China and Vietnam, where people believe that bird nests made out of swallow’s saliva, can be very beneficial to health.
When the quality of bird nests are high, they believe it can improve liver, lung, heart and kidney health, as well as create an appearance of youth, whiten skin, reduce stress and improve sleep. They regard bird’s nests as helpful for pregnant women and their babies.
“About 80 per cent of our export products were sent to China by Chinese business people and workers who are living in Cambodia,” she said. “Those people came directly to us to order and told me that our bird’s nest quality was very high.”
She added that the figures for exports to Vietnam have been increasing in recent months.
Currently, Sopheap’s business harvest about 30 kg of raw nests per month. The products are divided into two different categories: natural nests, which are unprocessed, costing about $600 to $800 per kg, and cleaned, processed nests, which cost about $1400 to $1700 per kg.
“Since last year, my company established new products, such as ‘Healthy Swallow Drink’, which is a delicious natural beverage made out of swallow saliva providing health benefits,” Sopheap said.