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A hub for women entrepreneurs

Sean Griffin, CEO and co-founder of StartUp Cup, talks to the Post about project implementation and future plans for WECREATE yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Sean Griffin, CEO and co-founder of StartUp Cup, talks to the Post about project implementation and future plans for WECREATE yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

A hub for women entrepreneurs

A centre to support female Cambodian entrepreneurs will soon be coming to the Kingdom.

The Women’s Entrepreneurial Center of Resources, Education, Access and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) is to launch this August in Phnom Penh.

A partnership between the US State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and the Lower Mekong Initiative’s StartUp Cup, the centre aims at supporting women entrepreneurs with resources and advice.

Post reporter Chan Muyhong sat with Sean Griffin, CEO and co-founder of StartUp Cup, to discuss the project.

What is WECREATE’s purpose?

For about the last year and a half, we have been working on implementing and building a community centre with a focus on women’s economic empowerment.

We provide a safe environment for women entrepreneurs.

It’s not just a community: it includes training, a co-working space, a workshop area, and networking with mentors.

The centre has a portfolio of entrepreneur programs, tools and events to support women entrepreneurs.

What we do is empower women entrepreneurs to either build businesses or take existing businesses to the next level, and you can’t increase the quality of entrepreneurs if you do not increase the quality of local mentors’ training skills.

We are also trying to enhance the legal system around entrepreneurship.

We’re working to see what happens when you put more female energy into the legal system: does it become more nurturing, more collaborative, more focused on the bigger picture?

What kind of needs does WECREATE want to fulfill in Cambodia?

Women are over 50 per cent of population, and they represent the single greatest potential for economic growth in Cambodia.

And our role is to train, produce and share the tools of building a business, so women are able to increase their success exponentially instead of just trying to make it on their own.

Women reinvest more of the money they make back to their own communities, which means we can help give Cambodia a stronger economic engine.

So, on a large scale, we are helping lots of women both advance their business portfolios and inspiring them to start businesses too.

What are the challenges that Cambodian female entrepreneurs face that you know of?

What we have seen so far is that there is a lack of technical understanding of how to design tasks to build a businesses.

There are women who are successful business managers who do not really understand the mechanics or the fundamentals of how you go about building a business.

That is a challenge for us now.

We are working in many other countries, so we are willing to take experiences we have from other places in the world and start applying them to Cambodia.

Some of the female entrepreneurs themselves are also aspiring, so they lack technical knowledge of exactly when it is necessary to build a successful business.

So [for them] we are starting from further back, which means it will take a little more time for us to build them up to become quality mentors.

What is WECREATE trying to achieve?

One of our main focuses is to create a solid foundation for the WECREATE centre, which means establishing a strong team, sustainability, and a clear understanding of how male energy can support and empower female entrepreneurship.

We are using economic empowerment to address some of the gender issues that women face here, and we are using entrepreneurship to create some kind of behavioural changes as well.

Ultimately, we are supporting the creation of new businesses run by women, scaling up enterprises, and creating jobs.

One of our goals is to open satellite WECREATE centres throughout the country to both train our Phnom Penh mentors and let them help others.

It is important that we have a hyperlocal presence to achieve better empowerment. What we are trying to do is develop the best possible quality mentors in Cambodia.

We have approximately 42 mentors so far, and we also have global connectivity with other mentors from the countries we are working in. By leveraging our own mentor network, they can connect with each other.

How would you compare the level of entrepreneurship in Cambodia to a neighbouring country like Thailand?

Thailand is much farther ahead, with very large mentor systems and women representing a large part of the big business.

Part of our goal is to shift the culture, for women entrepreneurs to be more valued so they can achieve economic freedom and have better choices for themselves and their children.

It doesn’t have to take a long time for Cambodia to get to Thailand’s level.

But it has to reach a collective kind of consciousness where enough people are changing their behaviours so that some kind of shift is actually created.

I don’t think we are there yet, but I do know that it is possible.

The programs and the entrepreneurs that we work with show that there is great potential here.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

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