Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Business Insider: The group lending a hand to young entrepreneurs

Business Insider: The group lending a hand to young entrepreneurs

Kitty Ly, the vice president of the Phnom Penh branch of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia, talks about the challenges for young business owners.
Kitty Ly, the vice president of the Phnom Penh branch of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia, talks about the challenges for young business owners. Robin Spiess

Business Insider: The group lending a hand to young entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is a trendy word in Phnom Penh these days, and local business owners still face challenges when it comes to setting up their own companies. The Post’s Robin Spiess sat down with Kitty Ly, vice president of the Phnom Penh branch of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia, to discuss the challenges for local startups and the growing interest in entrepreneurship among young Cambodians.

When was the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia (YEAC) established and what is its mission?
YEAC was established in September 2009 by a group of young entrepreneurs from various sectors with the passion to create an association to help other entrepreneurs. The mission is to create a resilient community of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Cambodia.

Currently, our Phnom Penh branch has about 200 members. We also have branches in Siem Reap and Kampong Cham, the latter of which just launched last year. The reason we expanded to the provinces is because we know the entrepreneurs outside of Phnom Penh have very limited support options. If nothing else, it’s so useful to have an organisation like this to show business owners how to register their companies, how to file taxes and how to get a hold of the information they need to be successful.

What does YEAC offer its members?
From my point of view, I think YEAC plays an important role in helping its members and other young entrepreneurs. In order to join, applicants must be Cambodian, younger than 45 years old, and have to have an established and registered company in Cambodia.

When they join, they get training in capacity building, connections to international trade partners and the opportunity to raise their concerns to the government. For example, when it comes to increased taxes, we give business owners a voice so the government will hear.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for young entrepreneurs in Cambodia?
From my personal opinion as an entrepreneur, the biggest challenge to me is having access to resources and financing. First, we need to find where we can get information about what we need to do for our businesses – and if we have all the knowledge and experience we need, we still need to find financial support.

Currently there are some supportive institutions, like banks and microfinance institutions, that can help offer loans, but still I feel there are very limited options. Personally, I don’t get much support for my businesses from government organisations. In my opinion, there should be more organisations to support SMEs, which often struggle to find the funding to grow.

What trends have you seen in Cambodian entrepreneurship in the past decade, since YEAC was established?
Times are changing for entrepreneurs in Cambodia, definitely. It used to be that no one wanted to join a group like YEAC because they didn’t see the benefit, but now more and more businesses are signing up.

Cambodian entrepreneurs have started to have a voice at the international level right now, I think, because our entrepreneurs and leaders have been joining global meetings and summits to help establish a voice for our people.

Also right now, I think many young Cambodians are starting businesses. Some have a very unique idea and a well-defined business model, and they do quite well – but some just think of an idea and try to start a business immediately, and they can fall down easily. I believe that to be able to stand firm in the market, young startups need not only financial support, but also a creative idea so that they can compete with the other companies coming into the market.

College students in Cambodia seem to be embracing the entrepreneurial spirit. What advice would you give them?
College students are becoming more and more entrepreneurial. Many people have noticed this trend; college students have started to depend on establishing their own businesses rather than working for others because they have been inspired by other young entrepreneurs’ success stories in Cambodia.

There are a lot of social media platforms that share these successes, and more and more young people want to pursue this method of success. I am also seeing more women, in particular, who want to be their own bosses and are becoming entrepreneurs.

This is good and bad. It’s good because it’s nice to see that fire in young people, but I suggest to each of them that they work as an employee for some period of time before they become their own boss. They will learn a lot from being an employee, and that will help them eventually grow their own businesses.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MOST VIEWED

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.