Small Package Exporter Champions initiates mentorship program to increase SME exports from Cambodia

Gareth Johnson

15 Small and Medium Sizes Enterprises were matched with 12 mentors as part of the Small Package Exporter Champions (SPEC) program, initiated under the Workstream 2: e-Trade Portal Development and Promotion of the SeT4SME. 

Improving Small Package E-Trade for SMEs (SeT4SME) is a two-year project (2021-2023) of the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation that is being implemented by Swisscontact in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce.

The project is also in collaboration with the General Department of Customs and Excise, Cambodia Post, The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and Cambodian Women Entrepreneurs Association. 

SPEC was initially launched with eight companies in June 2022, with the remit of selecting businesses for mentorship, as well as helping these businesses export their goods to the global market. 

The end result according to EuroCham would be to help the 15 Cambodian companies achieve SPEC Gold Certification, improve their overall global distribution networks, as well as have a positive impact on the export sector as a whole.

Presentation of Sliver SPEC Certification 

At the event organized by Swisscontact, Khmer Enterprise, and EuroCham in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association the 15 companies were presented with the Silver SPEC Certificate Award.

The award denoted the companies have completed their training on E-Commerce Platforms for SMEs; Logistics Documentation “Need to Know”; and Product Design for Export Markets, as well as their selection to take part in the three month mentorship program. 

The companies selected represent a broad range of industries from agriculture, to social enterprises and clothing manufacturers. All with the common aim of wanting to export their goods to an international market, the main crux of the program.

SPEC - Small Package Exporter Champions
Dr. Chhieng Vanmunin, CEO, Khmer Enterprise.

This point was emphasized by His Excellency Dr. Chhieng Vanmunin, CEO, Khmer Enterprise who stated: “We want to help these 15 companies in their journey to exporting Cambodian goods to the world by working with our partners such as Cambodia Post and DHL in finding out where the bottlenecks and problems are and then helping companies find solutions to them”.

To read more about Khmer Enterprise export development grant click here.

His Excellency further added: “We aim to support you through offering tips that can support your companies to improve your export capability and performance while at the same time embrace digitalization which is a key driver for future growth in cross-border e-trade in Cambodia and around the world”.

Matching companies with mentors

Attendees were also not only introduced to their mentors but also to the timescale of the program, which will include six meetings with their mentors over three months, a November presentation of Gold SPEC certification for those that qualify, as well as a prize-giving ceremony in December.

This will involve three companies being selected from the 15, with the first prize netting the winners $1,500, the second $1,000, and the third $500. Mr. Rajiv Pradhan, Country Director, Swisscontact noted that while the prizes were not huge, the main impetus was in improving the export environment and should it be successful, expanding the SPEC program annually. 

Since launching the program in June the eight initial companies have grown to 15 and have undergone numerous training sessions to qualify for their Silver SPEC Certification. This was the first time that the companies were matched with the 12 selected mentors, meaning some were to mentor more than one business.

Much like those being coached the mentors were drawn from a wide range of backgrounds, including business owners, as well as experts in fields such as branding and marketing, with many of the mentors expressing their excitement at being able to help the budding entrepreneurs.

Ali Syed, Head of Marketing at Sabay Digital told Cambodia Investment Review: “By talking directly to people with skin in the game, I get to learn exactly what help they needed, in contrast to if I was just talking to an employee. I am also excited about helping with branding, my particular area of expertise”. 

The topics to be covered by the mentorship program include product development and packaging design; export rules and processes, documentation, certification, and guidance on related or applied tax regulations. 

It is also to focus on branding; digital marketing; use of cross-border e-commerce platforms for exports; supply chain management; and finding international buyers and markets.

The program is due to finish on December 3 when the third prize winners are due to be announced at a prize giving ceremony. 

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