Many entrepreneurs meet with failure early on in their careers with businesses that don’t work out due to market forces or inexperienced decision making. Some of them call it quits after this disappointing experience, while others persevere and keep trying new ideas until they find success.

One business owner, Peng Sayon, the founder of MRN Co Ltd, failed in business twice previously, which he attributes to not meeting the needs of the customers in one instance and bad timing in the other.

“I became an employee for another firm when I was 18 or 19. Since then, I’ve joined the business sector as an owner. I started out with a real estate company, but it went bankrupt during the Covid-19 pandemic and I had to shut it down in 2020,” Sayon said.

After closing the real estate company, he started another business – a market that sold organic vegetables.

“I opened the vegetable market in [Phnom Penh’s] Sen Sok district. It was open for almost a year and then I closed down the business. It was because most Cambodian people like vegetables which are cheaply priced. When we opened as a natural market we used standardised and proper packaging and it turned out to be more expensive than people prefer,” he said.

After jumping from one sector to another, Sayon noticed that Cambodia has a lot of products imported from abroad even when it’s a product that Cambodians can make.

Sayon wanted to reduce the need for imports and higher prices, so he set up another company called MRN that produces prahok – a ubiquitous pungent-smelling fermented fish paste used in a wide variety of local dishes – and Khmer spices.

He added that his vision for this new business was that he wanted his brand to be known both domestically and abroad. He has been looking for export markets abroad with Cambodian communities living there to gain their support as fellow Khmer.

The two-year-old business also makes spices for meat, fish sauce, soy sauce and various soups.

The business manufactures Khmer products made by Khmer people using Cambodian raw materials and it provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities and contributes to helping orphans as well.

“The production is done according to the needs of the people in some provinces. I have not yet fully jumped into the market as we have been piloting products and changing our designs for them and modifying our quotas. For the things we’re selling currently, we can normally produce 1,000 to 2,000 bottles or more per day,” he said.

This time, Sayon’s business seems to be doing well and is generating a stable income. He said the key lessons learned from previous businesses are to give customers as many options as possible and keep product pricing competitive.