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Student-formed business shines with sustainable name, products

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The wheat cups have proven popular with their simple but attractive design and several colour options. SUPPLIED

Student-formed business shines with sustainable name, products

Kong Vong – which translates to “sustainable” in English – is an eco-friendly products business founded by two students, Sam Hengsopheavan and Hok Chanboramey, at the end of 2020.

Their goal is to assist with society’s incremental push towards sustainability in order to protect the environment. Their first product was a cotton-wool ball that’s a replacement for chemical fabric softeners when doing laundry, but lately they’ve been working on biodegradable materials that can act as a replacement for plastics.

Lately they’ve come up with 500 ml cups that come in colours like pink, blue and green and would be unremarkable otherwise except that they aren’t made of paper or plastic, they’re made from wheat.

“Back in the day, we had many chances to volunteer on different projects and we loved being involved in any kind of project that helps society. And one mutual passion for both of us is environmentalism. The more we volunteered, the more we found ourselves wanting to do something about the environment.

“We thought to ourselves that there must be something we can do to help solve the challenges that the environment faces. And from there Kong Vong was founded,” Hengsopheavan, a 22-year-old student in his senior year at Paragon International University studying IT management, tells The Post.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The 500ml glass is made of a material derived from wheat and comes in soft colours like baby pink, blue or green. SUPPLIED

Their first eco-product – the eco-friendly fabric softener – was a response to the problems caused by chemical fabric softeners. They contain chemicals that can irritate people’s skin, trigger asthma and they aren’t generally biodegradable or sustainable products.

They then turned their attention to the problem of plastic waste and the massive amounts of it accumulating in the environment globally.

“We did a lot of research on the matter, especially on the use of biodegradable materials to replace plastic. We found out that there are a bunch of biodegradable materials that can replace the usage of plastic. Wheat is one of them and that’s how it started,” says Hengsopheavan.

After doing their research and coming up with business proposals they searched the Kingdom for someone who could manufacture the products and came up empty. They had to look to other countries in the region to find businesses that could do what they required and they landed on Taiwan.

Ultimately, they want to be able to localise their products entirely to avoid the environmental impacts of shipping them from overseas, but it simply wasn’t possible at present due to technical limitations and lack of financial resources to overcome them.

“We are still processing it and thinking of what’s the best way for us to do things, but our plan is really to localise the product here and also to expand into more eco-products in our country,” he says.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Their first eco-product was a ball made of cotton wool that is used to replace fabric softeners. SUPPLIED

The wheat glasses are a good start. They are practically unbreakable, easy to clean, insulated to maintain both hot and cold temperatures for at least 90 minutes and it is, of course, eco-friendly and biodegradable if disposed of but it can actually be reused indefinitely.

“We want to motivate people to use more eco-friendly products but we also want to make sure that they love what they hold in their hands. So as you can see we designed the glass in the Terrazzo form so that it is minimalist yet attractive. This is important in order to attract customers who may not be interested in the environment at first, but their use of our products could spark their interest so that they change their minds and make better choices about their materials they use in their lives each day,” Hengsopheavan says.

According to Hengsopheavan, when their business started out they didn’t have much support but they now have customers who are attracted to their products because of their eco-friendly nature and because they are intrigued by the idea of pushing forward and innovating in the marketplace in order to change society.

Many of their customers are high school and university students or staff members, but some companies have made bulk purchases of the items as gifts to their employees.

“I’m happy we’ve gotten such a high level of support. My parents were concerned at first when they saw that we were more focused on doing this than on our studies, but now that they’ve seen the results and the positive reaction to it from others they are happy for us.

“If anyone out there is thinking about starting their own business, they should just do it. It’s okay to start out with nobody on board or believing in you. Do it anyways, because I believe if you’re passionate about something and you put your mind to it, sooner or later people will come around. You just need to take a leap of faith and believe in yourself,” he says.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The wheat glass is available from Kong Vong, a business co-founded by two students, Sam Hengsopheavan (right) and Hok Chanboramey. SUPPLIED

Hengsopheavan says that when he first became active in environmental causes his goal was to change all of his habits and eliminate the use of plastics from his life 100 per cent, but he soon discovered that this was virtually impossible. But it is possible to reduce your use of plastics considerably if you just stop using plastic bags, cups and plastic straws.

“When you buy a soda from someone and you plan on drinking it immediately, don’t let them hand it to you in a plastic bag or with a bunch of plastic straws. You don’t need a plastic straw to drink from a can. If you think the can is dirty, clean it off. Why are you so convinced the cans are always dirty, but the straws somehow never are? It’s crazy,” he says.

All products from Kong Vong range in price from $5-7. Currently, they only have one 500 ml glass design available, but they want to make more options for them so that all customers can afford them and to broaden their appeal.

“These are all minor acts but they add up to caring for the environment. Share these ideas with your friends and family and to those who are likeminded. Sustainability cannot be achieved overnight. Sustainability will be achieved progressively over time,” he says.

For more information on Kong Vong, they can be contacted via their Facebook page: @kongvongKV

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