Creating Ripples For Cambodia’s Women Entrepreneurs: SHE Conference 2018

One of the booths at the startup market.

One of the booths at the startup market.

This year’s annual SHE Conference once again proved to be the largest annual gathering of female entrepreneurs in Cambodia, with over 200 attendees and some 20 unique startups turning up to celebrate innovation and women businesses.

Organised by SHE Investments, a social enterprise supporting women entrepreneurs, this year’s SHE Conference was the 5th and the biggest so far, and focused on the theme of creating a Ripple Effect by Investing in Women.

The event, fully in Khmer and with low-priced tickets, is intended to encourage as many Cambodian women to attend as possible.

Dalen Kong, 25, a recent agricultural graduate, hopes to improve the lives of Cambodian farmers through her startup, EcoNature, one of a number of small enterprises and SHE programme graduates exhibiting their products outside of the conference.

Dalen Kong posing with a model of her net house and hydroponics.

Dalen Kong posing with a model of her net house and hydroponics.

Dalen explained that her ground up project aims to develop useful and specific products for Cambodian farmers such as nethouses and hydroponics, and in the process lower the amount of pesticides used by farmers, and the effects of monsoons and drought on crop yields.

One of the guest speakers, Pech Somaly, the Chief Operations Officer at Cambodian cashless wallet startup Pi Pay, emphasised the importance of investing in women, and the ripple effect that such support can have.

“A few more women in important, visible positions in Cambodia, and our girls and women will have even more motivation to study and work hard in order to achieve the same for themselves.”

She noted that 63% of the company’s senior management are women, which must be one of the better ratios in Cambodia we think!

Celia Boyd, Managing Director of SHE Investments, observes that over the past few years there has been more support for women entrepreneurs in Cambodia, with networks like CWBA and CWBF forming to support them.

“Organisations like coworking spaces which are specifically tailored to Cambodians are appearing more and more… there are many more programmes and systems of support, there’s also information platforms that are coming out about how to start a business,” she explained.

She has seen an improvement in Cambodia’s startup ecosystem since the conference began, with more opportunities for entrepreneurs to showcase their products, and financial institutions increasingly offering more financial products suited for small businesses.

“We are getting more and more people involved every year, last year we had 150, this year 200, we have many more businesses wanting to showcase their products. One thing SHE strives to do is that we have all female speakers, all Cambodian female speakers, showcasing and promoting women not just in business but also in leadership.”

In this evolving landscape one thing is for sure, is that SHE is here to stay, and we at Geeks in Cambodia look forward to seeing how the country’s women-led SME sector continues to grow and develop with support from Cambodian businesses and the country’s public sector.