At Srun Sokheng’s house, down an unpaved road in Kampong Cham, toilet rings are everywhere. Drying in the sun in neat rows of three, they take up much of the front lawn along with toilet pans and larger sewage rings. What at first may look like a toilet warehouse spread out on the lawn is actually the sign of a successful business, one 35-year old Sokheng is really proud of. But it was nearly a decade in the making.
For years Srun Sokheng worked at the garment factory and her husband worked as a construction labourer. When they met and married both made little money working for others. By the time they had their first child, things needed to change. “There was no one around to take care of our son. I was at the garment factory and my husband was out of town for work a lot. As a construction worker he never stayed in one place.”
They were determined to start their own business not only to have time together as a family but also to take charge of their incomes. They saved enough money to buy the starter kit to make pillars and toilets, which included a single ring mould. When they first started in 2008, it was just the two of them making and delivering toilets to customers with a cart strapped to their old motorcycle. They managed to sell a half dozen toilets a month.
Things are much different today. With the rising demand of toilets and WaterSHED’s support to bring in customers, their business has quadrupled and their capital has grown with it. They now own several moulds, a delivery truck and have hired workers to help them make enough toilets to meet demand.
And Sokheng, she doesn’t sit by the sidelines. “This work doesn’t discriminate against women,” says the mother of three. “Men can do it and so can I.” In fact, the business has become a family affair with her older children helping over the weekends by cleaning toilet pans before delivery and preparing lunch for their employees.
Their future looks bright as they plan to expand their business to include selling homeowners construction supplies and bricks. Sokheng is optimistic that both the business and her family will thrive. “Now we own our own business so we have freedom.”