SHE’s Covid-19 Response

SHE’s Covid-19 Response

We’re here to enable women-led MSME’s recover and rebuild from Covid-19

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the world, and Cambodia is set to enter a severe economic recession in 2020.

 In May 2020, 130,000+ garment workers had lost their jobs, and with around 25% of Cambodia’s economy dependent on tourism and travel, the economic impact is likely to be devastating.  Cambodia is an export-driven and tourism-reliant economy, and the 6.6 million+ tourists that visited last year and who will not be visiting in 2020 is destroying the economy, along with the halt in exports. The expected “economic shock” coming later in 2020 will significantly impact micro and small businesses and households.

61% of all businesses are led by women, with the majority being micro-sized and informal. SHE’s work is specifically focused on enabling women-led MSMEs to scale and enter the formal economy. This target market now needs support to survive, recover and rebuild after COVID-19 more than ever, and they will play a vital role in the economic resilience of Cambodia.

The number of people already in debt in Cambodia is massive, and hundreds of thousands of people are already defaulting on loans. The roll-on effect of people being unable to pay loans is likely to continue to impact individuals, families and businesses, and SHE directly focuses on this by providing financial literacy training – including understanding and managing debt – throughout all of our programs.

All of SHE’s programming has been modified to be delivered online during the immediate COVID-19 period between March – June (gradually moving back to in-person in June-July 2020), and we have realised a need for women to have increased Digital Literacy, as well as access to digital resources. During the initial Crisis Period, we focused on Crisis Management; now, we’re transitioning to improving longer-term digital literacy skills and business resilience, as well as setting up structures for MSMEs to be able to access digital tools now and in the future.

What we’re doing

We’re addressing the economic impact and recovery efforts of COVID-19 with our partners, to ensure women micro-small entrepreneurs in Cambodia have access to digital resources, training and support designed specifically for them, to give them the greatest chance of survival and success. We know that when businesses keep lights on, people remain employed, and women retain agency over financial decision-making; supporting women-led MSMEs is more important now than ever.

Sreypov’s story of resilience and recovery during COVID-19, and the impact of our SHE Digital Literacy Program for women entrepreneurs affected by COVID

Our Programs

Our programs are responsive to COVID; we’ve transitioned much of our work to improving online delivery, and as we move back to in-person programs, our curriculum has adapted to ensure women have access to the support they need.

Digital Resource Centre

We’re working with Khmer Enterprise (Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance), UN ESCAP and UNCDF to create innovative digital tools and resources for Cambodian MSMEs to access now and into the future.

Digital Literacy Training

We’re partnering with Youth Business International, supported by Google.org, as part of their global Rapid Response Recovery Programme, to support struggling women-led MSME’s to survive and adapt in the wake of COVID-19.

OUR IMPACT DURING COVID-19

Digital Skills to Enable Women Entrepreneurs to Recover and Rebuild from Covid-19

Digital Skills to Enable Women Entrepreneurs to Recover and Rebuild from Covid-19

How Digital Training for Women-Led MSMEs in Cambodia Is Enabling Businesses to Recover and Rebuild

COVID-19 has, like all countries around the world, hit Cambodia’s economy hard.  Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to be out of work, with the World Bank estimating that this could increase to 1.76 million jobs lost, whilst simultaneously creating a significant debt crisis; over 110 garment factories, one of Cambodia’s key export industries, have closed; the tourism industry has suffered significant losses, with international tourist numbers down over 76% in 2020; and micro, small, medium and large business owners alike are 11 months into the biggest economic crisis facing the country (and the world) in our generation.

As soon as the crisis began in March 2020, business owners who were doing fine in February suddenly started to see customer numbers drop within days. People cancelled travel plans. Expatriates started flying back to their home countries. Overseas businesses started cancelling their orders with factories. Business’ cash-flow forecasts dropped from months to weeks.

Governments and aid agencies alike jumped into action, juggling a massive healthcare crisis alongside an economic crisis. In many countries governments launched support systems, including financial support to enable businesses to keep operating, and importantly to keep people employed. In countries like Cambodia, government systems are not in place to the same extent to provide such support; and in a country where an estimated 90% of the private sector is informal (not registered), accessing formal financial support is not a possibility for many.

The impact of COVID-19 on women’s businesses

 Sreypov is the founder and CEO of AGAPE Coffee. She grows coffee beans on her coffee farm in Koh Kong province, harvests and roasts her own beans, and sells the beans and coffee to low-income customers in Phnom Penh through her roadside coffee shops.

 “I started from nothing with this business. I did not even have the skills to make coffee. I had to learn everything from the start to operate my business.”

 In 2018, Sreypov applied to participate in the SHE Incubator Program, to enable her to learn business skills so she could manage and scale her coffee shops. After graduating from the incubator, she then quickly also applied for the Accelerator Program. After graduating from these programs, Sreypov increased her average monthly revenue by over 200%, created 18 new jobs, and donated basic living supplies to over 60 families living in poverty.

“…and then, during COVID-19, I lost all my customers.”

Sreypov of AGAPE Coffee, on the impact of COVID-19 on her business and how the SHW Digital Literacy Program has helped her to adapt to a digital market and retain 100% of her employees

 In March and April of 2020, just as we at SHE Investments were in the midst of crisis management ourselves, we were also scrambling to provide much-needed support to the hundreds of Cambodian women micro-small entrepreneurs in our network across the country. Many of the women we were speaking to, through phone calls and Zoom webinars, told us that their immediate priority and biggest concern was keeping their staff employed. Their second priority was adapting their business to the new situation, in which they could not reach their customers through their usual channels.

“I had to close down my shop but that would mean my employees would lose their jobs. Then, I came up with an idea to sell a new product, coffee drip bags, online.”

In April 2020, we were contacted by Youth Business International.  As part of their Rapid Response and Recovery Programme, sponsored by Google.org and working with partners across the region to quickly respond to the impact of COVID-19 on entrepreneurs globally, YBI contacted SHE to ask if we had any ideas on how to support entrepreneurs in Cambodia to recover and rebuild.

By this time, we had had two key realisations;

1.      The work we are doing to support women entrepreneurs is more important than ever. Women entrepreneurs make up 61% of business owners across the country; they are going to be crucial for Cambodia to recover from this economic crisis over the years to come.

2.     The digital literacy and skills of many of the women we were supporting were lower than we expected. When it comes to digital literacy, despite technology advancement in recent years, Cambodian women are being left behind.

With YBI and supported by Google.org, we worked fast. In June 2020 we launched the SHE Digital Literacy Program for women entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19.

We brought together an all-female team of industry experts in Cambodia to collaboratively design and deliver this project:

  • Sotheavy AT, digital communications expert & founder of Think Plastic

  • Sokneang NENG, SHE Graduate and founder of Kokopon

  • Lida LOEM, Co-Founder and Head of Learning & Development at SHE

  • Celia Boyd, Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHE

  • SHE Graduates and all-female media production team, 606 Digital

  • Keolydeth HUN, Communications Manager at SHE

  • Panhary SOEU, MEL Coordinator at SHE

  • Chanthy OEM, Project Assistant at SHE

We also partnered with KOOMPI, the first Cambodian made laptop company, who are making affordable computers designed for Cambodians. KOOMPI provided our first 40 participants with brand new laptops to enable them to learn new computer skills.

Thida, founder of Thida Wedding & Salon, on how the SHE Digital Literacy Program helped her to launch her own social media channels

Phase 1 saw over 75 female applications for this program (in November 2020 we’ve received over 90 applications for Phase 2, kicking off in January 2021). It seemed like women entrepreneurs definitely needed (and wanted) this training.

We quickly created a training program that would be delivered in 2 streams:

  • In-person training for 70 women, across 4 cohorts (as long as COVID allowed us to have in-person workshops)

  • Online training (using video tutorials and online learning materials) for over 300 women

606 Digital worked closely with the lead trainers (Sotheavy, Lida and Sokneang) to film video tutorials on their key training content. 

Anak, another Digital Literacy Program graduate, said:

“With social distancing, customers are staying (home) and most of the markets are closed. Therefore, digital marketing and online selling are skills to be learned. The program came in at the right time for business owners.”

“I learned about product photography, Facebook for business, and copywriting. I also learned how to make my business available on Google Maps and how to create a simple website for my products.”

“As a business owner, the program helps me finding the ways to move forward in this situation.”

In October 2020, graduates of the Phase 1 Digital Literacy Program saw the following results:  

  • 55% increase in women who have their business listed on Google Maps

  • 54% increase in women who have their own business website

  • Full employee retention between July – October (and 63 employees re-hired or hired for the first time)

  • Revenue recovery (overall business revenue increased by over 200% between July – October, as entrepreneurs gradually recovered, and many began making sales online)

  • Participants who said they knew how to use basic Google applications (Drive, Maps, Gmail, etc.) increased from 35% to 94% of women

  • Women who use a cash-flow forecast to help them manage and plan ahead during the crisis increased from 58% to 81%

  • 98% of businesses continued trading throughout the program

  • 100% of graduates said that learning new digital skills helped their businesses to recover from COVID-19

  • 100% of graduates said they would recommend the program to other women

After graduating from the program, Sreypov of AGAPE Coffee said:

“It was all thanks to the Digital Literacy Program, where I learned to sell my products online and save my business.”  

“I learned about my target audience and how to increase my customer reach, and with this knowledge I was able to increase my sales dramatically.  This means that I also did not have to let go of my employees. I was able to save all of their jobs.”

What’s next for SHE Digital Literacy Programs in 2021?

From January 2021 we’re excited to be launching new programs, supporting new cohorts of women entrepreneurs both online and offline to learn digital skills through training and coaching.

 New topics will be introduced to enable even more skills development and support.

 And importantly, we’re excited to introduce new tools and methods to create an accessible digital literacy program for women entrepreneurs with disabilities, by adapting existing content and creating new tools to enable women with physical disabilities to be able to apply for and participate in lessons.

 Women are already running the majority of the private sector in Cambodia; investing in their capacity to digitalise their businesses is how we can contribute to the rebuilding of the economy from 2021.

“Many businesses like my own will be able to open up again with the help of this program.”

“It would be a very important and useful program for entrepreneurs if they could make it available nation-wide.”

–       Anak, SHE Digital Literacy Program Graduate 2020

Anak, founder of Villageworks, has used her new Digital Literacy Skills to recover and re-employ people with disabilities in rural provinces of Cambodia

SHE Coaching Success

SHE Coaching Success

Three essential reasons for how coaching will improve your business!

There is no doubt that professional coaching can be useful towards reaching professional and personal goals. Late April, in 2018, the SHE Investments team welcomed professional coaches from Australia and New Zealand for the SHE Coaches Tour. It was a very insightful week for our participants, who received coaching on their businesses through field visits, workshops and one on one sessions.  These sessions proved to be extremely beneficial and provided a wealth of information and actionable takeaways for SHE participants to not only improve their business operations but set realistic goals in their daily lives. From our positive experience with coaching, we wanted to share with you our top three reasons why we would recommend coaching for you and your business.

Coaching Success

1.  Coaching provides a safe space to speak on the various elements of our lives and businesses that can be challenging

Coaching is a non-judgement process that aims to empower coachees to discuss challenging topics experienced in our daily life/business.  Creating a safe and trusting space is crucial for this type of conversation to occur. Developing trust enables coaches and coachees to open up about our current situations and feelings and to start recognising how it is impacting our life. Speaking about our concerns or questions we may have about running our organisation starts the process to move forward by finding solutions to address these challenges.  

2. Coaching enables people to think about their issues from a new perspective

Have you ever found that your thoughts were clouded by your perspective on a situation? Coaching can allow you to see your problem or challenge from another viewpoint and therefore discover the reality of the situation. It is once this new perspective is determined, you will then be able to implement actionable strategies that are relevant to the outcomes that you would like to achieve.   

3. Coaching leaves us with actionable tasks that we can apply immediately

Finally, a productive coaching session will leave you with actionable steps to take forward into your work and life. An important aspect of this stage is to make sure you take time to develop strategies to help you achieve the desired outcome. More often this is an ongoing process determining whether your strategies being implemented are effective or if not, reassessing what may need to do to achieve your goals. A way to do this could be to create a behavioural action plan or maintain a journal to use as a reflection tool. Both these can be helpful in keeping you accountable during the process.  

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