“Every second of running a business, we face challenges. But we just handle it and keep going. We cannot run away from mistakes and unexpected problems, but after they come up again, we can avoid them and improve ourselves.” said Chang Bunleang, co-owner of Brown Café and Bakery.
Bunleang, 26, is one of the café’s four managing partners, all of who have different majors. After finishing his Masters Degree in International Communication in Australia, he joined the café business in 2009.
“After I returned to the country, I applied for some jobs but they didn’t seem like a good fit. Then, I asked myself why do I need to work for another person? Why I not create work for others instead?” Bunleang said.
So Bunleang and his colleagues came up with the idea of running a coffee business on their own, since he had also learned to make coffee while pursuing his degree abroad.
“At first is was a challenge to run our business since my team was quite young and had little business experience. Plus, our product was not very popular among Cambodians yet,” Bunleang said. “People did not fully believe in us- even my parents and the landlord of the house we rented to open up the first shop, because we needed to remodel the inside of that house to turn it into a café shop.
Nevertheless, after having a clear and detailed plan, we got them to believe in us,”
Bunleang stressed that in order to keep a business afloat, we must think about capital, service, and location. Obviously, new Brown staff is required to undergo training for at least a month before starting their jobs. He added that customers demand high quality, so his staff has to satisfy them.
These days, Brown has three branches, with a fourth branch opening soon. While some Brown costumers might wonder why the second and third branches were opened almost next to each other, Bunleang explained that “from our observation, this (residential) area still needs more café shops, even though there are plenty of cafés. We have costumers in both branches during operating hours.”
Bunleang has a very tight schedule. He needs to manage the shop, and also come up with creative ideas to update his business. He has also been invited to give talks and share experiences with other young entrepreneurs in some universities and on TV shows. For instance, he shared his experiences at Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011: Startup Cambodia in Phnom Penh, about the topic “Youth Self-Employment and Sustainability.”
As a manager, he always gives his staff, most of who are university students, a good work environment. “We teach them to work in multiple positions. We rotate turns for the staff so that they can learn every single task,” he said, adding that, “For example, if this time they are a service provider, the next time that person will be a cashier, and so on.”
Nowadays, Bunleang is cooperating with some companies in Thailand, where he said he is struggling to earn the trust of the fellow businessmen.
He dreams of growing coffee in Cambodia in the future, so that products do not need to be imported from abroad.
As a final comment to young people, Bunleang said they should think of starting their own businesses.
“If you plan to start a business, don’t be afraid. Just try your best, and especially be creative.”