Spean Candle Mr. Yuki Ono
– First of all, what brought you to Cambodia?
I did a bicycle trip around Thailand and Cambodia for 3 months in May last year, and I thought during the trip that I wanted to hire poor people. I wanted to give them a chance to change their lives. That was the first reason.
I had always been doing what I wanted to do for whole my life, and I was fulfilled with it, that’s why I wanted to do something for somebody else. Therefore, I’m here not for any profit for myself at all but just want to give a chance to even a single person here in Cambodia.
It didn’t need to be Cambodia to do it, but Cambodia was the easiest country to get a visa to stay in for a long period. Also, when I first visited Phnom Penh, it seemed to me that the city was invaded by foreign capital, and I didn’t think that the capital city of a country can be like that, that’s why I decided to do it in Cambodia.
– Why did you decide to open a souvenir shop?
I originally wanted to open a guesthouse that has a small souvenir shop in it, but I couldn’t find a reasonable property for it, so I decided to open only the souvenir shop. Also, I was planning to open my shop in the night market, but it didn’t go well, so I ended up starting it with a stall in a little space in front of my friend’s shop.
– What kind of products do you sell?
Mainly t-shirts and towels I design, but also I wanted to sell something which Cambodia doesn’t have, so I’ve started selling candles of bamboo works and dried flowers.
My shop’s name is “Spien Candle”. Spien means bridge in the Khmer language, so I named my shop hoping that it’d become a bridge to a bright future. Therefore, I started selling candles associated with the name of the shop.
– You’ll be doing this business in Cambodia only for a year, right?
Yes, because I will have to take over my family’s business after a year. Therefore, I have to make this business successful in a year somehow, which can make a Cambodian staff’s living, and I’m going to transfer the operations to him or her.
I’m planning to donate a part of the profits from sales to an orphanage, so it’d be great for me if I could hire an orphan from the orphanage and give the business to the person eventually, which could be a great opportunity to change his/ her life in a great way.
– It’s been 2 weeks since you opened your shop. Have you got any results so far?
To be honest, it’s been more difficult than I expected. People don’t even stop or take a look as if my shop doesn’t exist, so I’ve been doing trial and error. I like to do it to make things better, and I want to tell my future staff about it, but I haven’t been able to hire a Cambodian staff so far, which makes me frustrated.
– In the worst-case scenario, you could leave the country after a year without being able to do anything for the Cambodian people?
Yes. I want my future local staff to learn it from making products to how to solve problems, so I wonder if only a year could be enough for all of it, which makes me feel upset as time’s just passing by.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing what I wanted to do. I’ve run a bar and a guesthouse before and everything went well somehow, so I have confidence with no ground this time, too.
– Some might say that doing a business in Cambodia is not that easy.
I don’t think it’s easy to do it in Cambodia. However, my purpose is not to succeed in the business and become rich but is just to make someone’s living with the business, so I don’t think it’s very difficult.
I’m able to be here in Cambodia thanks to my acquaintances, friends, and family’s understanding and support, so I’ll try my best to respond to it.