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A true rags to riches story

A true rags to riches story

Meas Chandalin is the founder of First Quality for Second-Hand Men’s Shirts chain of shops. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Meas Chandalin’s career shows that a low educational background is no obstacle to prosperity. The 27-year-old mother of two is successfully running nine second-hand clothing shops in Phnom Penh, watching her business growing smoothly. Her greatest teacher, she says, is her mother.

While Chandalin’s peers went to school in the early morning, she had to help her parents with their second-hand clothing business. The eldest daughter among three siblings, she dropped out of in the ninth grade, going to the market instead.

“Because I learned little from school, I needed to be strong in learning about real business life,” Chandalin told the Post yesterday.

“I linked up suppliers with sellers on the market squares and observed how they sold second-hand clothes to customers. These were my daily lessons.”

In her early years, Chandalin was aware that second-hand chic unites people beyond their income. She met poor, middle-class and even wealthy people on Phnom Penh’s markets. High-quality and well-known brands can be found among used clothes.

“I wanted to offer a well-arranged place for middle-class people to do their shopping for used-clothing, I thought such a business would help me grow,” Chandalin said about her business plan when she established her first shop in 2007 at the tender age of 20, a business plan that differed from the hundreds of second-hand sellers in Cambodian markets and one that proved to be quite lucrative.

“I decided to establish a shop to sell used shirts for male clients at my mother’s house and invested about $20,000 in the first one,” she said.

Chandalin had the right idea at the right time. Her shop soon became a magnet for customers, and she was soon selling about 200 shirts a day.  

“Since then, I was more confident in doing business and dared to spend $1,000 monthly for renting a house where I planned to set up my a second branch - without hesitating,” said Chandalin.

She now owns nine shops of her chain First Quality for Second-Hand Men Shirts, a name chosen to attract customers. The latest one is currently under construction and will open before Khmer New Year next month.

There are 15 First Quality for Second-Hand Men Shirts in total, six owned by Chandalin’s relatives.

She spends about $30,000 in renovations and stock to establish a shop.   

The shop’s brand is now seen all over the city centre, especially along major streets in Phnom Penh, offering fashion labels from Hong Kong, Korea and Japan at $4 to $15.

So far, Meas Chandalin doesn’t see her bustling shops as threat to clothing vendors at local markets.

However, she said the success of her chain might well be a warning that people’s buying habits are changing. More and more would prefer a good atmosphere and quality, but affordable products.

“I plan to open more new shops, and I am confident that they will be a success,” she said.