Home-Grown Greens Win SME Competitions

Three young entrepreneurs behind a business idea to get people to grow their own greens at home scooped first place and $3,000 at a national competition on Saturday aimed at fostering innovation and diversification in the economy.

Reth Monyneath, Ya Sak, and Chea Chetna’s Mini-Veggie Organic Garden beat nine other entries at the National SME [small and medium enterprises] Business Model Competition with their idea to sell pre-assembled compact structures priced at $25 to $90, complete with soil and seeds, so people can grow vegetables such as tomatoes or mushrooms at home.

The concept was born out of a desire to make Cambodian city-dwellers healthier and Phnom Penh greener, said Ms. Monyneath, who is a second year media student at Royal University of Phnom Penh.

“The concept is easy. My dad rarely eats vegetables because he always complains that the vegetables in the market are not fresh as most are transported from Thailand and Vietnam and are sprayed with chemicals.”

Fruit and vegetables are expensive in Cambodia, she said, because of a lack of sophisticated farming methods that produce low yields at high prices.

“So we thought, ‘Why don’t people plant vegetables themselves?’”

In March, the team, along with the second-place contestants, will go on to compete against university students from Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan province, China, in Vientiane’s McKinsey Mekong Challenge. If successful, they will then compete at the International Business Model Competition in the U.S.

The competition, which was divided into three different categories: general business, technology, and agriculture, aims to promote entrepreneurship among young Cambodians and launch new businesses and social ventures.

Other ideas pitched included creating furniture out of banana leaves and a magazine to help young jobseekers find employment.

“When investors come [to Cambodia] they can’t find an adequate, qualified workforce,” said Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron at the event on Saturday. He said he hoped such competitions would help equip young Cambodians with better technical and entrepreneurial skills, ultimately generating economic growth and job creation.

The competition was organized by Cambodia International Education Support Foundation, in partnership with Cambodian institutes and universities and the Waseda University in Japan.

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