In the spotlight: ...

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In the spotlight: Emerging Markets Entrepreneurs

Incubator offers Cambodian women a springboard and a stage

Cambodian women are increasingly challenging the traditional concept of "chebap srey" (literally "women rules," a set of limits on their role in Khmer society) by starting their own businesses. Emerging Markets Entrepreneurs (EME) has developed a two-pronged approach to help them overcome difficulties both cultural and financial.

Ms. Keo Mom, the CEO of LyLy Foods – a leading fortified rice cracker company that distributes products across Cambodia, recently delivered a presentation to the monthly EME Entrepreneur Networking Night, hosted by Emerging Markets Entrepreneurs (EME), a Cambodian incubator in infoDev's network.

Ms. Keo Mom, a featured speaker at a recent EME Networking Event.

 “As an entrepreneur, it’s frustrating when you get left out of business deals because the networking and meetings happen at karaoke bars or other places that used to be exclusively for men,” Ms. Mom told a crowd of Phnom Penh business people.

Ms Mom noted that the prejudice can extend even to official business settings. “The bank officer was skeptical that I was planning a good investment,” she said of an early request for financing. “It was clear he didn’t think I could handle the money because I was a woman. They insisted on conducting extra due diligence for my company.”

With little access to education, many Cambodian girls remain illiterate--Ms. Mon herself only received formal schooling through 9th grade. The disadvantages compound in adulthood, as women are officially barred from some high-level government offices and have much dimmer job outlooks in general.

As part of its mission to support the entrepreneurial environment in Cambodia, EME has hosted talks by prominent female members of the business community at its popular EME Monthly Networking Events. Speakers have included Ms. Keo Mom of LyLy Foods and Ms. Sok Channda, Founder and CEO of Cambodian internet service provider MekongNet. These talks serve as an important platform for Phnom Penh entrepreneurs – both men and women – to network and share experiences and best practices.

Ms. Sok Channda, CEO of MekongNet (right) and Mr. Om Seng Bora, Founder of CEO School for Professionals, answer questions at a recent EME Networking Night.

In addition, EME is one of the sponsors of the Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association (CWEA), whose goal is to provide a representative platform to bring women's issues to the attention of government, media, and the entrepreneurial community.

“EME is dedicated to improving the entrepreneurial environment in Cambodia, particularly for women, and that is why we’re proud to stand here as partners today,” said EME board member Gordon Peters in a speech at CWEA’s launching ceremony last March.  “New small and medium enterprises are crucial forces to move the Cambodian economy forward; women represent 52% of the population here, and we would face a huge economic loss if we don’t enable their businesses to grow and compete.”

Emerging Markets Entrepreneurs (EME) has been operating in Cambodia since May 2011, identifying and incubating potentially high-impact businesses in Phnom Penh and throughout Cambodia. At present, EME has 7 offsite client firms, most of which were founded by women entrepreneurs.


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