Back in the fall of 2014, we quietly launched Kambujatrading.com as a way to sell Kampot peppercorns. The launch was prior to our eventual trip to Cambodia at the end of the year. As we returned, our peppercorn trading business evolved into something more special. Prior to our relaunch a few weeks ago, we've had friends and family ask us what Kambuja Trading Co. really was about. I've decided to answer some of the most frequent questions in a two part series to keep short (kind of) and sweet.
What is Kambuja Trading Co. and the meaning?
We’re a social business aimed at contributing to a movement in Cambodia that is responsibly creating a market for small business entrepreneurs and artisans, to earn fair wages and take creative control of their own career.
What inspired you to start Kambuja Trading Co.?
Leading up to Cambodia’s national elections in 2013, I started a personal blog to highlight the transgressions of the election process and current events. The social climate in Cambodia in many ways was still the same, but yet there was something brewing slowly in the background. Lack of social and civil rights, constant corruption and frequent labor disputes with the growing garment manufacturing industry were now topics of discussion in a more public forum. Organized rallies and protests were sprouting everywhere in the capital and it gave outsiders like myself a better perspective of the main issues plaguing Cambodia and how everyday citizens were feeling about them.
Though my blog consisted of stories and opinions around injustices that affected every day citizens, I was able to read about inspiring people that were involved in various positive aspects of trying to improve their lives and communities. These discoveries were about relentless social rights activists, protesting monks, social businesses and emerging artisans all trying to shape a better tomorrow for Cambodian citizens.
Instead of complaining about the issues that were plaguing my home country from a laptop in my comfortable living room in America, I wanted to lend support to the everyday people seeking to improve their lives.
My hope was to do something that was fun, rewarding and impactful. At the time, my father was helping me import the highly regarded Kampot peppercorns to America. I wanted to find people and businesses that would appreciate one of the few Cambodian known treasures. The thought of possibly evolving a simple importing project into a fair trading business soon came to mind. The only issue was that I had no idea what that really meant or how to do it, but I was going to find out one way or another.
How did Kambuja Trading Co. get started?
I reached out to a good friend and eventual co-founder, Jaymer Delapena and sold him on the idea of working with me. He had a lot of experience in consulting start ups and we’ve always talked about working together in some capacity to counter the monotony of our 9-to-5 jobs. I then convinced him to take a trip out to Cambodia with me at the end of 2013. The general purpose of the trip was to explore the possibilities of creating a fair trade importing business. We did some minor research on NGOs (Non-governmental organizations) to visit and off we went, with no real agenda but hopes of finding something creative to do that had purpose and impact.
Upon arriving in Cambodia, we attended my cousin's concert where we met an amazing group of residents who would lead us to a network of social businesses already doing great work in Cambodia. Through this serendipitous encounter, we embarked on a three week journey visiting town after town, discovering all of the good that was taking place around the country. We were truly inspired as we learned more about social businesses that helped local people become entrepreneurs and artisans in a sustainable way that would help their communities earn a fair wage while producing very unique products. These discoveries led us back home to define Kambuja Trading Co.’s main objective: to empower Cambodian entrepreneurs and artisans, by selling a curated selection of Cambodian-made, high quality, and direct-trade products in the US.