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Connexus : Issue 38
www.abacus.org.au 64 Connexus On a typical work day, Cambodian v illager Phat Mun gets up at 4 am to prepare her grocer y store for business. She serves her customers all day and shuts up shop at 9 pm. Her days are long and she works hard, but her life and prospects have greatly improved since she joined a credit union and started to benefit from CUFA’s Village Entrepreneur Initiative (VEI). Just over three years ago, Mun became a member of Brachak Credit Union, at Brachak commune in Kampong Chhnang prov ince, north of the capital Phnom Penh, where she lives with her three children and her husband, who ow ns a bike repair business. At that time Mun operated a small makeshift store. She would travel 13 kilometres to market twice a week on public transport, along a bumpy red- dust road that turned to mud when it rained. Her biggest problem was that she could afford to buy very little stock to cater to her customers’ needs. Then two years ago Mun was able to expand her stock with funding she received from her new partnership with an Australian VEI Community Investor. Her profits increased and she gradually expanded her business w ith further help from VEI including advice and quarterly business training. Recognising the potential to generate more income by diversifying sales, she decided to sell porridge, noodles and coffee in the morning and traditional Cambodian cake in the afternoon. Profits increased again, enabling her to buy a motorbike for Little by little “...she decided to sell porridge, noodles and coffee in the morning and traditional Cambodian cake in the afternoon.” Making life better, one slice of cake at a time. By Phearun Pove travelling to market, sav ing her time and money. Thankfully, the road has also been upgraded. With her grow ing business and credit union membership, Mun is now able to save the equivalent of about $2.50 a month – a significant amount by Cambodian standards. A sustainability assessment of Mun’s business in June this year found that she had reached the point where she was able to graduate from the VEI program and run the business on her own. That made her very happy, and thankful for the Community Investor’s generosity. She hopes the investor will find another v illage entrepreneur who is waiting for support, enabling them to improve their business too. In the two years since VEI Community Investors began providing support to Cambodian credit union members, eight village entrepreneurs have achieved business sustainability. Their businesses have grown to become profitable and stable enough to support their families’ needs, and some have started up a second small enterprise for added security. VEI Community Investors are partnering with hard-working, enterprising entrepreneurs in Cambodia and Timor Leste. If you are interested in becoming an investor, visit www.ve.org. au for more information. – Phearun Pove is the VEI Project Co-ordinator in Cambodia COMMUNITY Phat Mun has built a thriving business in her Cambodian village with the help of the Village Entrepreneur Initiative.