A microenterprise which started in 2015 with just 10 women producing hand-made Khmer silk has now grown into a full-fledged business with over 200 employees.
Located in Koh Dach commune in Reusey Keo District, Phnom Penh, the women weave for the local market but have an eye on exports as well, thanks to the founder of Keiy Tambanh Khmer Handicraft (KTK), Sopheap Chen.
Sopheap who used to be a social worker and has since transformed the humble cottage industry into a thriving business, says: “We want to reduce the migration of women to neighbouring countries by giving them job opportunities within Cambodia.
“This way, we are confident of promoting our women’s economic status as they too can earn a decent income and gain respect within their families and society. This will also help reduce the incidents of domestic violence which some of them face,” Sopheap told The Post.
Her investment in the social enterprise paid off handsomely within just four years, and today, the enterprise produces around 500-700 sets a month, with the women working from their homes.
Having tasted the initial success, Sopheap has ambitious plans to expand KTK’s workforce to 500 by next year.
“We still have limited capacity to produce handmade silk. And this makes it difficult to expand the volume of production which is why we need to more than double our workforce.
“We are also working very hard to compete with the imitation products manufactured in various factories. These end up in wholesale markets at very low prices compared to handmade silk,” she says.
Sopheap says that KTK produces two types of silk material – pure silk and another which is a 50 per cent silk and cotton mix that is used to produce Phamuong, the Khmer traditional outfit.
“We produce all types of Soeung Khmer (traditional Khmer clothings) which are made from cotton, and krama Khmer made from a mixture of silk and cotton.
“We also produce Khmer shirts for men, jackets, and many women’s outfits by collaborating with tailors as business partners. My first goal is to promote Soeung Khmer throughout the Kingdom and in international markets,” she says.
KTK sources much of its products from Takeo and Siem Reap provinces, especially from community-based groups.
However, as the supply of Khmer silk and cotton thread is insufficient for KTK’s requirements, the company purchases imports from China, Vietnam and Thailand to supplement its needs.
Silk can be used to produce an assortment of products such as ties, jackets, bags, and small accessories for the home, hotels and boutiques, among others, says Sopheap.
And while KTK has taken part in numerous exhibitions with a view to explore new markets, for now its participation in such events is just to set the groundwork for future exports.
“We hope to start exporting our products in five years or so, once we have achieved sufficient volumes,” Sopheap says.
With her track record of achievements thus far, there is little to doubt that Sopheap and the enterprise she has started from scratch will achieve the success they have set their eyes on.