I arrived in Cambodia with my right-hand executive Deidre Lee, both of us eager to make a contribution. A country that had spent decades under the rule of Communist tyranny had rebirthed itself since the 1990s into a dynamic, growing, vibrant entrepreneurial society. The countryside was beautiful. The people were warm and friendly. The service was outstanding. Cambodia seems like the place to be.
Deidre and I had been brought over by the State Department, to put on a series of ten presentations to young entrepreneurs, primarily of high school and college age, and local business men and women. I wanted to make a good impression, so I spent dozens of hours planning to distill my key lessons on business planning, marketing, finance, the economics of the unit, and tactics and strategy. I created simple and clear presentations that were culturally sensitive to Cambodia.
My first day was magnificent. That morning, we were hosted by Phnom Penh International University and spent time with members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce (JCI)--undergraduate and graduate students and aspiring entrepreneurs. We discussed numerous business ideas and they threw out many ways to make money: entertainment, training, schools, cafes, etc. William, the current local President of JCI, treated us to a traditional Cambodia lunch at an upscale restaurant. We were joined by other JCI members and they gave me tips on the most relevant information to present to the next group of young entrepreneurs.
Later that afternoon, I met with the elite Young Entrepreneur Association of Cambodia (YEAC). We spent three hours together, talking about raising capital, partnering with US corporations, and talent development. I went through the basics of valuation and how small companies can raise funds through angel investors and venture capitalists. I spent time listening to their business ideas and their economics of one unit. Their businesses ranged from pesticides to real estate, from imports to hotels, from workspaces to call centers, and restaurants. I was extremely impressed with the quality of these young entrepreneurs and their integrity, intensity and desire to elevate their communities. They were right there, working to solve the youth unemployment problem that is rampant around the world.
Cambodia is a wonderful country, in the beginning of a complete renaissance. The rest of the week promises to be even more spectacular, as I meet with local students and Fulbright Scholars.
The author with the impressive Young Entrepreneur Association of Cambodia (YEAC).