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Risky business: Are start-ups worth it?

Risky business: Are start-ups worth it?


To have a successful business, having a strong focus is key. Tim Vanny, 27, is the owner of a small restaurant in Phnom Penh and has just sold his place for a commission. He said he didn't have enough time or money; his mother and relatives helped out for a while, but eventually returned to their own business.

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“Capital is a challenging problem since we have to pay the staff and train them,” he said, adding that a good business demands a lot of study, and required a creative person who can work with the strengths and weaknesses of the business.

Some businesses owned by youths are a success because it was passed down to them from their parents. But, they can't choose what type of business they would like to venture into.

Taking over the family business means these lucky few rarely face loss or bankruptcy since the capital from the business is still turning over from the parents' job, the customers are already set up, and they have great teachers advising them on how to run a business their parents.

Having finished a Bachelor's degree, and with the financial assistance from her parents, Heng Muykheng, 22, has had her cafe in operation for nearly one year in Phnom Penh.

She told LIFT that doing business is akin to entering a totally different world, and a lot of hidden factors have to be taken into consideration.

“What we learn from school is not relevant at all to the application of business since we only learn the theory. It is difficult for me, as I am young, and we have to know a lot about society as well,” she said.

“Before opening [my business], I thought it would be easy but then I found a lot of difficulties such as dealing with clients, staff management and promotion conduct too.”

Gaining experience related to the business you wish to start in is, in most cases, vital for success. Roat Rina, 27, owner of clothes shop and restaurant Daum Kloem (the Ebony Tree), said that she did not learn how to cook or design clothes at school. Instead, she learnt it from the work that she did at working as a chef.

“In fact, I have never studied how to cook. I just picked it up from what they did in the restaurant. I practise and remember the tips and use my creative ideas,” she said.

“I am always friendly to my customers and find ways to make food delicious and make them feel like they are eating a home-cooked meal.”  

Chy Sila, former member of Junior Chamber International Cambodia and a successful owner of corporation TNC and Pizza World in Phnom Penh said that he noticed a copy-cat trend emerging of young people starting up businesses selling similar products to each other.

For instance, he said, that if a young person sees a business selling clothes, or opening a bar, they decide to copy the same idea.

“Starting the same type of business as others is a problem. Good businesses survive because they have [steady] clients and sell their products suitable price.”

He said that a good business should be something new and creative, and something that stand out from other businesses.  

“We have to spend a lot of time studying to get into the market, and then a sufficient amount of time spent on doing business. We're able to work with others and gain experience of how to do business and then we can manage it.”

He explained that studying is a guide to navigating business, but doubts that theory alone can lead to success.

“If people study [business], they can apply their knowledge to some areas of business, as business has many sectors,” he said.

“But, you can't learn business experience.”

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