Surviving through Self-made WOMEN EMPOWERMENT to fight against COVID impact, to sustain business

Title: Surviving through Self-made WOMEN EMPOWERMENT to fight against COVID impact, to sustain business.

Standfirst or Key messages

The brain of the women is fully surrounded by receptor hormones that interacts with the brain and transmit and trigger to the feelings to bear anxiety and worry.  So just imagine the psychological impact of COVID to women entrepreneurs on now a day situation, and how they will cope on new normal? 



Ms. Thyda Thaung, Ms. Pen Minear and H.E. Ratha Chea, CWEA Members,and business owners.


Based on the report stated in “Exploring the Opportunities for Women-owned SMEs in Cambodia” published by IFC in partnership with Umbrella Facilities for Gender Equity and World Bank, they stated that 61% of the majority of businesses in Cambodia is owned by Women. So therefore the contribution is highly recognizable and cannot be ignored. Likewise, the report shows that 90 percent of the SMEs are managed by women are profitable and affirming that women are motivated and capable to establish and lead businesses.

While most SMEs, particularly those owned by women, are heavily reliant on informal sources and personal savings to expand their businesses, women seem to be more sensitive in terms and are more aware of risks, that proves that they are more fast to act for resiliency and much more keen of their expense obligations. This could also be attributed to the receptor hormones that too much stress may resort to a positive reaction and see the opportunities.

Story 1: Thaung Enterprise

A “Big Slap of Struggles” in Women Entrepreneurship facing an expensive ‘lessons’ and wondering how long to maintain existing and the best time to restart again…by Ms. Thaung Thyda, Managing Director of Thaung Enterprise, CWEA member.

Thaung Enterprise originated stemming from a family - owned business with over 30 years of experience, started in December 2017. Thaung Enterprise manages 50 hectares of salt farming land, that is located between the mountain and the sea and other farmer’s clusters. Thaung Enterprise is now transferred and managed by a Young Lady in the family who inherited the 30 years of business experience from her parents and great grandparents, carrying the passion to agribusiness and sustainable development.

Like any other entrepreneurs, they are also suffering on the impact of the pandemic. Business is not moving and get stuck. Their products cannot access to their distributor due to red zone, and during this time, people are prioritizing to buy food like rice, noodles, and dry meat. It is really scary to think of the current situation we are facing now, where we are living with hope and uncertainties.

Ms. Thyda Thaung, said this COVID and community lockdown, slap us so bad. They tried to secure the business, their farmers and workers and keep them to survive with a small fund to support them. But now, the enterprise is not sure how long they will survive too, while they struggle in monthly expenses with no regular monthly sales. One of the challenges also, is they are caught up with bank interest and other payments.  And on this situation, the bank loan budget is allotted to support the temporary situation created by the pandemic.

spite of the pandemic, I still believe from what ED Zachau said that, Entrepreneurship isn't about starting companies. Entrepreneurship is an approach to life.  It’s about starting new things from scratch, making the world better through innovation, and trying, sometimes failing, but then coming back and getting it right. You can be an entrepreneur in anything and the satisfaction that you get by touching the lives of others in a positive way, by creating something new that’s valuable to them and the satisfaction that you get knowing that you made the world better, through whatever you have done that’s new and different is the greatest satisfaction a human being can experience.      Our products have a lot of usage aside from the regular household needs. Other entrepreneurs are also using our products, especially those on Food processing, Retail trading, Pool & Resort, Industrial purpose, Cosmetic processing and many more. We are also in export business and expanding our business to support the small exporters. WE maintain our organic and high quality standard SALT safe to human, and environment, and run our business ethically.  We looking for local, regional and international partners to help us in this part for boosting sale and we are seeking support from every sector and influencers.” Ms. Thyda Thaung.

E-Innovation and e-technology will be playing an important role in the future.  This is a big opportunity for Women Entrepreneurs to get more balance in time and in life, where you can have your business electronically monitored and moving at a lesser cost in a manageable time.

Story 2:  White Garlic

“I had an emotional breakdown” “If COVID still stay, white garlic will have hard time to reopen.” ….. by Miss Pen Minear of White Garlic, CWEA Member.














My business model did not survive during the pandemic crisis BUT now, I have My Pandemic

Recovery Plans”.

This statement came from one of the Young Women Entrepreneur running a food catering business services.   “White Garlic” is a modern food service innovation, offering ASEAN food menu utilizing the modern food processing and "food office package" serving. “White Garlic” is following the high standard of presentation and preparation taken from the training from SWISS Contact under one of the senior expert from the western country.

The concept is new and was picking up with a very good start and getting known with safe food catering services mainly for office functions, organizational events, business inaugurations and other personal parties. The business model is “pre-packed food" servicers targeting companies, banks, embassies and organizations.

The pandemic crisis has totally affected the business model because of the new normal, when everyone is required to have a social distancing and events were discouraged, homebased work was encouraged, and worst is the lockdown. All existing clients are not allowing to organize event, and lunch boxes are not safe anymore. And due to the tremendous decline of orders, and with no sales, the existing expense cannot be anymore sustained.  So white garlic has then to close their kitchen business, until everything is back to normal.  Ms. Pen Minear, at a very young age, with no choice, is in full burden on the cash flow, on how to pay the bank loan and interest and the other operational expenses if no sales. With no choice, she sent the 23 staffs back to their own provinces.

After many sleepless night and bothered by the company payables, she went back to her own provinces and revive her interest on where she started. Minear was born in a house with an open restaurant in Battambang and she developed her skills and business interest since she was 10 years old then build her own career in Phnom Penh, called “White Garlic” and made its peak of success since 2016 then enlarge to catering service end of 2017 until the pandemic wakeup call dropped to her like a bomb that she almost loses everything. 

She re-build her self-esteem in Battambang, trying to improve herself every day, and recalled back to where she learned the basic and closest to her mom and memories of her grandmother.  There was also a story circulating around the provinces that her great grandmother used to be one of the chef in the palace. Since Minear’ s background is in food sector, she wanted to remain on this business field. Year 1985, her “family business restaurant” in Battambang is very popular with fish and Chicken Rice, then on year 1990 her mom’s restaurant became more popular to the very “Khmer traditional food” and upto now which is called “Korko soup” and “Toek Kroeng dish”.

Moving forwards, having a very reach historical background, Minear decided to do something using the strength of the family.   Still stay in food sector but diversify and improve the standards by improving into modern kitchen but on traditional background.  Keep the bestselling food and aim to serve the "BEST local Food on TOWN”, taking the recipe from great grandmother who was rumored to be the chef of the palace, while “White Garlic” is preferably serving the ASEAN menu, so there is a probability to combine the two and make a unique serving of two types of menus: (1) Authentic Khmer menus carrying the family’s famous recipes that people kept on craving (2) ASEAN menus for other families who may be looking for more modern recipes. “Pen Cheng “will be the name of the restaurant and taken from my father’s name. My mother chose my father’s name because he is very popular person in town and everyone knows him so well than my grandmother.


We are also diversifying to some food products and we had our first sampling experiment in chili flakes where our restaurant is also famous in serving.

  On the other side, with regards to my bank loans and overhead, I had closed my White Garlic Business in Phnom Penh, and negotiated with bank to allow me not to pay    anything but interest for 6 months from Jun 2020 to Jan 2021 until my own restaurant in Battambang will be opened.


Story 3: Khmum e-Shop

 Be a part of solution. "It's my dream to make Cambodia a better country by giving women-led businesses a path to join the formal economy." Ratha Chea CWEA member

This is a true story of a small-local Cambodian business owner named Vanchan, who uses the services of Khmum e-shop. She produces local tea and candle at home.   Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Vanchan has to shift her entire business model to Online. Vanchan’s business feeds many local Cambodian women who work with her to   produce the hand crafted products.

There are many Online platforms for Vanchan to work with, but Vanchan chose the one that is more friendly user as she is not technically literate with the e-marketing   technologies.  She needs an online platform that can walk her through on how to use the platform, with All-in-one system that will allow her to manage her inventory and   print receipt right from her own smartphone. And this is what Khmum is doing.  Not just a e-store but building the capacity of the entrepreneurs to cope with the sudden   push of industry 4.0 to survive. With Khmum Team support on Vanchan store setup, the process took less than an hour to get her store Go-Live because with Khmum   web upload engine, hundreds of items can be uploaded at one time. Vanchan’s business survives the COVID-19 outbreak because she has access to a larger pool of   customers and has strong storyline behind her business model. Vanchan since then, received multiples of training sessions on Khmum platform without any cost.   Khmum sales report & analytical data support helps her plan out the production of products very efficiently.

Khmum e-Shop was built to represent a marketplace that guaranteed locally-made and produced products. We value products that promotes job creation for the people   of Cambodia. Khmum e-shop is also working with Cambodian women entrepreneur’s association’s (CWEA) members. And moving forward to serve the need, we are   aware that the women entrepreneurs need Access to Finance with no collateral. Therefore, we had signed an MoU with CWEA in September 9, 2020 and with AMK   microfinance institute on March 19, 2021, to build bank’s dashboard that enable credit scoring and loan application prep to clear the pathways to finance for our vendors.

Furthermore, to increase our engagements, and to enhance my capacity to serve, I had participated in the Entrepreneurship Development Through E-Commerce   Promotion Program sponsored by Mekong Institute and KOICA, and received TA support from Global Urban Village through RISE program via Swiss Contact.

 Now, during lockdown in Phnom Penh, our front line service providers have serve the people of Cambodia, as we try to get the necessary permits to cross on different   communes to continue support servicing the people and make them mobile through service providers like us.

Impact of COVID-19 on business

COVID 19 has been affecting the world economy, as well as Cambodia. Cambodia was expected to fully implement Industry 4.0 in the next 2-3 years according to the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2019-2023 which aim for economic diversification by leveraging technologies to promote capacity building of domestic SMEs in order that they are able to join regional and global value chains, but because of COVID 19, we were forced to learn how to walk before we can crawl.

According to MEF, we can see from the graph that Cambodia has been growing steadily in the past 5 years with a GDP average of around 7%. In 2020 our GDP down at -3.1%. And we are hoping with the role out of the vaccination the economy will slowly return to the positive side.

As we know that COVID 19 has been affecting the local e-Commerce platforms as well, even though there are more demands for online shopping and delivery. But, some local startup e-Commerce platforms still need more Access to Finance. Due to COVID, we see many initiatives from Government regarding the Law Enforcement such as e-commerce Law, Consumer Protection Law. As well as UNDP partner with the Ministry of Commerce to pilot the project Go4eCAM, which aims at providing the necessary conditions for SMEs to grow digitally and to gain access to much-needed finance. Women run 65% of business in Cambodia, and of those businesses, 96% are micro-sized and participate in the informal economy. These women face many barriers such as of lack of education, digital literacy, technology, access to finance, legal and regulatory challenges.

COVID-19 made many local businesses shut down. Our solution is making All in One e-commerce platform. Khmum makes it easy to take orders and sell from your own free store which enable women entrepreneurs to expand their market reach by increasing their sales via e-Commerce marketplace platforms as well as build their financial statements that can be used as collateral to borrow loan in the future.


We know that Brick & Mortar stores is very expensive to run and very inefficient. Only a few prospect customers would visit the physical stores vs. online stores that have bigger scope of visitors and customers. Most of our local vendors is lacking of financial and digital literacy which making on boarding process more expensive. So the COVID pandemic open a better opportunity for women to continue running business at a lesser overhead cost, and better manageable time.


2019. Exploring the Opportunities for Women-owned SMEs in Cambodia” published by IFC in partnership with Umbrella Facilities for Gender Equity and World Bank