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Project Y’s frozen yoghurt comes in a variety of flavours. Sam Walker

Starting with dessert: New shop trains managers of the future

Frozen Yogurt social business lets students run the show

Siem Reap’s newest food outlet, Project Y Frozen Yogurt, which launched last Sunday, is a social enterprise with a difference.

It’s not just providing hospitality training for 13 university students. It’s completely managed and operated by the students themselves to give them hands-on experience in all facets of business.

The shop is an initiative of the NGO Cambodia Rural School Trust (CRST), which sponsors students from poor rural families to attend school and university in Siem Reap.

“The vision was to create a self-funded [social enterprise] that is managed by our students, for our students and for society,” CRST founder and director Aviv Palti said.

“A [social enterprise] that would provide opportunity and hope to students who were from poor rural families, but who were bright and committed to learning and to breaking their poverty cycle through their education.”

Palti, an Australian businessman, is passionate about empowering students with the expertise to “create jobs not get jobs”. All profits from Project Y will go back into the NGO to support the education of more rural students.

Project Y general manager Sreng Sokh, 22, said he was excited and nervous about his new role but expected to learn a lot from the project.

“I learn a lot of theory from the school, and here is the place that I can practice my theory,” said Sokh, who is in his second year of Business Administration at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.

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Project Y’s workers learn management skills. Sam Walker

The project was conceived last year and the business plan put into place in December.

Sokh said some of the challenges in setting up Project Y were his lack of experience and confusion over technical terms. Most of the time, he was working out of his comfort zone.

“Our biggest challenge was finding an affordable and well-located store – rents in Siem Reap are going through the roof,” he said.

Nak Shen, 23, who has been CRST manager for about two years, said the team who runs CRST selected the managers and staff to run Project Y.

Each student will rotate through the different roles of the business during their university studies.

Shen’s role in Project Y is a supportive one, and he helps Sokh with any problems.

“I would like to get 60 students more in the next three years to come to study at the high school and the university and to benefit from this project,” Shen said.

Sokh’s sister Sompeas is the Project Y marketing manager.

“It is new experience for me, so I am a bit nervous,” she said. “There are many departments. I have to know everything about those departments so when I finish my degree at university, I’m full of experience.”

Project Y Frozen Yoghurt is located in Siem Reap’s Night Market street.

Sam Walker

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