We’ve been following the SmartStart Young Innovator Programme Teams through Phase 1 where the initial 30 teams were narrowed down to only 15 teams after a 2-day Hackathon of workshops and pitching and Phase 2 where the 15 teams where further whittled down to the top 5 winners, who received 4,000 USD and a funded incubator program for their digital business idea from Smart Axiata. And finally, we have reached Phase 3 of the exciting programme!
Currently entering their 6-month incubation phase, we got the opportunity to get up close and personal with Prestige Gift, a service platform that helps people to prepare specifically-tailored premium gifts, especially for those who do not have time to get the gifts themselves or are not sure what to get. Furthermore, they help to give recommendations, pack the gifts and deliver them to their customers too. During SmartStart, Prestige also took it up a notch by upgrading their platform into an online shop for customers to have easier access to their services.
Prestige’s Co-Founder, Monineath, shares with us about her team’s journey and ideation through the first few phases of the SmartStart Programme, as well as future plans for her team’s innovation.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.
What inspired your team to come up with such an idea?
Monineath (M): From personal experience actually! I was at work back then and it was one of my friend’s birthdays, then I just thought that it would be quite tough for me to find a perfect gift after work and I felt that it would be great if there was a service that could help prepare gifts or something like that for the ones who are busy– and that’s how (Prestige) started!
What makes your innovation stand out from what is currently found in the market?
M: For me, what I’m doing right now is just to make my business into a more convenient platform where people can just log in and buy anything that they want; so they think of us first when it comes to buying gifts and it makes us a very unique service in Cambodia.
How has the response been like for those who engaged in Prestige’s services?
M: They really think it’s amazing and feel that it is very convenient. They have said, “Your service is more than what we expected!” because they can just call and tell us what they want and we’ll settle the rest.
The competition started with 30 teams and now you’re part of the top 5 winning teams, how has the experience been like so far?
M: Actually, before I joined SmartStart, I joined 3 other competitions previously– BMC Cambodia Startup Accelerator and Competition where Prestige got first place and then after that, I joined the Mekong Challenge where we competed amongst the Mekong region, then Prestige got selected into the quarterfinals of this San Francisco-based competition. And I finally I joined SmartStart and it feels great honestly! I’ve learnt a lot more about entrepreneurship and got to recruit new members like IT guys, so I can learn from them too.
What are you currently working on in terms of your innovation, now that you are in the incubator phase of SmartStart?
M: Currently, we’re trying to improve the packaging so it looks more elegant and also, we are trying to recruit more team members. We started off with 2 members and now we have more members like tech guys, which helps us to come up with more ideas for our business. The incubator programme has also provided us with a lot of training, from finding shop projections, marketing strategies, how to build websites and even graphic design; so all of this is helping us to better our product.
Is the incubator phase any different from the first few phases?
M: Actually, I don’t feel like it is getting more difficult; it’s more of them training us more, which in turn helps us to gain a lot more knowledge and experience. Also, (the programme) helps us to find good mentors and partners to work with, which increases our network. So far, we’ve partnered with flower shops and retail shops; and for training, we get to work with companies like Codingate, so we can always turn to them for help.
I understand that your team is mostly comprised of University students and it may get difficult to cope sometimes, so what are the challenges you have faced during your time at SmartStart?
M: It’s kind of tough actually. For me, I’m working, as well as studying. My team members are also comprised of students, with some even on internships; but we still have to press on because we are part of this programme and there’s deadlines and everything for us!
What is the biggest takeaway from this SmartStart Programme as of now?
M: Team leading was definitely the most challenging for me because everyone can have different kinds of views and some members have even left the team– we were supposed to have 6 members in total, but 2 of them left so it was kind of tough. Also, sometimes when I gave them deadlines or tasks to do, they feel I am being too ‘strict’ and overly professional due to my work experience, and they seek something more fun because they are still young. But eventually, things got better because there was no more conflict and it’s more efficient.
Moving forward, in these 6 months, are there any other ways you are further planning to improve your innovation?
M: I want to partner with those tourist companies and create packages for tourists that include things like coupons for them to use.
What you are doing now is definitely something very inspiring to other young innovators, what are some words of encouragement you can give to them?
M: I actually am not a top student or very smart and I am honestly very afraid to stand up and tell others about my ideas and everything; and I believe that there are people out there who feel the same as me. They have the ambition, but they don’t know how to start or show it out; so I would like to tell these people to stand up no matter what because you have nothing to lose. Even when you lose, you can learn! So I encourage more people to join competitions like these and show people what they can really do.
What are your plans for after this programme?
M: In the next few years, hopefully when I have enough capital and investments, I hope to make the business into a more vivid reality where more people are aware of our services. And if possible, maybe even make a physical branch of Prestige in the ASEAN region because so far, I haven’t found any other service that’s similar to us!
During the interview, it was definitely very heartening seeing the extremely apparent drive and enthusiasm of a young innovator powering through her struggles as team leader and other commitments just to create a stunning service for Cambodians and we truly can’t wait to see how Monineath and her team will further improve their innovation during this incubation stage. Thus, we at Geeks in Cambodia want to extend our well wishes to Prestige Gift as they continue working hard for their innovation!
For more information on Prestige Gift or to engage in their services, you can visit their Facebook page here and if you want to keep up with the SmartStart teams, follow Impact Hub’s Facebook page to get more updates on what the teams are up to or check out Smart’s Facebook Page here. Also, don’t forget to stay tuned on Geeks in Cambodia for the weeks to come as we’ll be uploading more in-depth interviews with the other 4 winners of the SmartStart Programme!