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Business Insider: SHE platform lends a helping hand to female-run businesses

SHE Investments Managing Director Celia Boyd photographed last week in Phnom Penh.
SHE Investments Managing Director Celia Boyd photographed last week in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Business Insider: SHE platform lends a helping hand to female-run businesses

To help female entrepreneurs navigate the complex laws in the Kingdom and promote business registration and transparency, SHE Investments launched Ngeay Ngeay, an online business information platform, in late August. The platform, funded by USAID and local internet provider Ezecom, had 1,500 unique visitors in its first few weeks of operations. The Post’s Cheng Sokhorng sat down with Celia Boyd, managing director of SHE Investments to talk about how Ngeay Ngeay hopes to expand and what it aims to achieve.

What is SHE Investments and why did it decide to launch the Ngeay Ngeay platform?
SHE Investments is a social enterprise that delivers gender-focused and culturally tailored business development programmes for women in Cambodia. Our mission is to support female entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses and to create social and economic impact.

As part of SHE’s goal, we launched the Ngeay Ngeay Business Information Platform to provide female entrepreneurs with the information and tools they need to overcome the barriers to doing business while increasing their participation in the formal economy.

What are the main challenges for women in business?
Well, last year, one of the key questions our business training facilitators were asked by our programme participants was how to register a business. In Cambodia, 65 percent of businesses are owned by women, but only about 1 percent of these are formally registered. Plus, last year, the World Bank gave Cambodia a low ranking of 180 out of 189 countries in terms of the ease of starting a business. So, with a lack of access to information, they did not know how to properly register with the government.

What services does Ngeay Ngeay provide and what does it hope to accomplish?
Ngeay Ngeay is an open-source platform that offers free and relevant information that is crucial in formalising a business, and it is also in Khmer. It provides step-by-step guides with tips and tools for female entrepreneurs. The website includes business relevant articles, document templates and recommended service providers to help entrepreneurs register with the Ministry of Commerce and other relevant ministries. Additionally, it has an online forum function that allows people to discuss challenges and seek advice.

So far we have had a lot of people visiting the website, and we welcome recommendations from them on how to improve the service. We are continually updating our website design to make it easier to use with more available sources. Our next stage is to include video tutorials about business operations.

How will you gauge the success of the project?
The success of the project will depend on how many new female-owned businesses register with the Ministry of Commerce and how many users our website has.

What were the challenges in setting up Ngeay Ngeay?
It is the first business information platform created by SHE Investments, so we still need to expand the amount of information we have online and encourage more people to access it. It is also a challenge for those in rural Cambodia to understand the purpose of the platform. However, we believe that by promoting the platform through Facebook more people outside of Phnom Penh will start using it.

We also face challenges in collecting information in Cambodia and staying up-to-date with new laws and regulations. We also struggle with providing industry specific advice on how to register a business with the Ministry of Commerce and what steps need to be taken with the General Department of Taxation.

What are the benefits of business registration and how do you convey that message?
There are a lot of incentives in registering a business, but to convey that message we also need to create a critical mass of businesses that see those benefits and encourage others to register. We try to provide the information necessary for businesses to decide for themselves about when they are ready to register, how to manage their finances and how to comply with the tax laws.

By being a registered business it allows them to access new investment partners, control risk through the formal economy and give them access to the financial sector to expand operations.

But in order to increase business registration, this platform alone cannot make that happen. We need support from the government, financial institutions and all the market players to make a more transparent process for business registration.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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