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Entrepreneur promotes STEM learning using toys

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Em Chanrithykol (far right) and his team. Photo supplied

Entrepreneur promotes STEM learning using toys

From 3D printed connectors, personalised children’s books and other educational toys, a local enterprise, DoyDoy, has been working to improve its toy collection and extra fun curriculum in preparation for the reopening of schools.

It’s toys, also called DoyDoy, are the brainchild of Em Chanrithykol who built his business on the concept of producing low-cost STEM learning and innovation tools.

Since its inception in 2016, DoyDoy toys have gained popularity among parents for their creativity and the fact that they are safe for children to play with and learn.

However, it wasn’t easy for Chanrithykol to start a toy business in the Kingdom where imported children’s playtime kits are abundant.

He says as a high school student, he noticed his friends selling things online to earn some extra money, and he too wanted to embark on a side business but decided he would do better by using his creativity.

In 2015, when he was in his sophomore at the Institute of Foreign Languages, Chanrithykol came across a marketing page on the website that talked about the concept of “Think Global Act Local”.

The programme was funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and taught Cambodians about entrepreneurship and design topics such as 3D printing, electronics and robotics.

The course sparked Chanrithykol’s interest to become an entrepreneur even more and gave him an idea of how to start a low-cost STEM learning and innovation tool for children.

“I believed that to create an object, we need to have a factory to produce it. But after I attended the programme, I learnt about 3D printing and all that we can produce with it,” he says.

Without any formal education in business or family background as entrepreneurs, Chanrithykol sought out advice from local and foreign mentors to start his business.

The challenge didn’t end there as he struggled to find business partners because they considered him as an excitable young entrepreneur who was unlikely to have a long-term commitment to the business.

“I decided to work with people from foreign countries because they were more willing to work with young people while some businessmen in Cambodia had preconceived notions of start-ups that made it difficult for me to work with them,” he says.

Chanrithykol did some volunteer work and part-time jobs to enrich his experience and earn some extra money to reach his business goals.

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The Goes to space story book can be personalised with the child’s name and photograph, making him or her a lead character in the story. Photo supplied

He started without family support and used only his pocket money which made it difficult to turn a profit during the early stages of his venture.

In 2016, the first DoyDoy model toy rolled out despite Chanrithykol not even having a proper office or structure to run his business.

“From there, I learnt about making my products using 3D printing. I tried selling my products to people even though it didn’t have a name at the time,” he says.

His toy products turned out to be popular and the 24-year-old entrepreneur was able to recruit professional staff and start a proper office last year.

“After graduating, I started devoting my time to the business. I hired staff and am fortunate to have major school partners for my afterschool programme on weekends, and another programme we run on weekdays,” he says.

Chanrithykol says his toys are unique in that they are soft and flexible as they are made from silicon.

“Parents need not fear as their children will be safe with the toys. Even if children put them in their mouth, they will not be harmed in any way,” says Chanrithykol.

For now, they have six types of toy connector models, including the rocket, helicopter, Angkor Wat, tank, aircraft and bus.

Chanrithykol says he didn’t place any instructions in his product packaging like other similar toys. Rather, he placed another model toy inside of it.

He says children can start at any point they want as long as they complete building the toy model, which is how they learn. The ultimate idea is for the children to be independent and build the models on their own.

As his toys became well received by parents, teachers and others, Chanrithykol garnered 10 partners to work with and make purchasing his products easier for customers. Online purchases are also available at https://doydoyplay.com/

Patrons keep coming back and have told Chanrithykol that their children are getting smarter at home and even becoming more independent.

“One parent who joined our afterschool programme said her daughter has early-stage autism and dare not participate in activities, play with others or make eye contact with people.

“The first day she arrived for the afterschool programme, she hid under the table. We spent three hours just coaxing her to come out and play. From then on, every weekend she was excited to join in our activities.

“At home, her mother said her daughter showed remarkable changes and started to recognise sunflowers and wanted to plant them at home.”

Chanrithykol also sells a space journey storybook which can be personalised with the name and photo of its owner, making him or her a lead character in the story. “Parents regularly order it as birthday gifts,” he says.

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DoyDoy is a toy brand with a purpose of promoting STEM learning among children. Photo supplied

The book, called Goes to space encourages children to dream big. In the story, a child wants to be an astronaut – an almost impossible dream. “But if he does his best, he can make it. The idea is not to be discouraged,” Chanrithykol says.

The book comes in two languages – English and Khmer – and Dudu, one of the characters in the book will be made into a soft toy to be launched by January next year.

Chanrithykol says Dudu will also be made as a building block, so while children hug the soft Dudu doll, they can also build a model of it at the same time.

“Dudu is like parents who help guide children to pursue their dreams. So in this special set of toys, the parents can have something more fun to spend time with their children instead of just buying them a mobile phone or iPad to keep them occupied,” he says.

DoyDoy product prices range from $10 to $60 depending on the size. They target children from three to 12 years old. In future, Chanrithykol wants to expand the range to attract teenagers from 15 to 18 years old as well.

While business is good, Chanrithykol is also aiming for bigger and better things to come. For instance, he wants to expand his curriculum and programmes.

“I need more trainers who are skilled in early childhood education. I also want to expand on our afterschool programmes as these are very popular,” he says.

For now, his afterschool programme and his showroom, located at the Raintree building in the capital, have been put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, he hopes to restart the educational activities as soon as possible.

Chanrithykol’s message to Cambodian youths is to always pursue knowledge and have a plan. “We might not be able to have everything before we launch a business idea, but knowledge and planning are critical. The rest can be learnt as we journey along.

“Take one day at the time. Whether you fail or succeed, you should not have regrets because the most important thing is to try your best,” he says.

For more information, DoyDoy can be contacted via [email protected] and Facebook @Doydoycompany.


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