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Our3Q – Phare Circus, Cambodia

Dara – owner of Phare, the Cambodian Circus that is a social enterprise which collaborates with the Phare Ponleu Selpak school for socially and economically disadvantaged children to support it financially and to offer job positions to graduated artists. It’s becoming one of the most famous circuses in the world and one of the biggest attractions in Cambodia.


Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?

The fact that we have proven that this social enterprise is working. We are making net operating profit this year, after paying all taxes, after paying very good salary to artists, fair salary to employees – and hopefully very good salary to employees later. This is what we achieved in the three years we have been in operation. The fact that we are able to gain confidence from the community, that we are here to stay. When we opened everybody wondered when we are going to leave, because we may not be successful, because we had nothing. The circus was outdoor, without tent. And our two operating partners were very afraid to put us in their program, because they were not sure we would survive. And now we gained confidence in the community, from stakeholders, from business partners and our artists. The fact that young artists from our school now know that they will have a stable job. Without this social enterprise it was not so obvious. It gives them the motivation to do more and try to be professional artists. And the fact that we are able to make the investors confident that we are on the good path and putting more money in loan and equity to buy a new land. This are the highlight of what we achieved. There is much more.


Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?

At the first place it was about finance, to get it off the ground. The most challenging part was to convince investors to take risk with us, to join us in this journey to sustainability. It is not easy because social impact investors are looking for double return. The financial return plus the social impact which makes it double work for entrepreneur to prove both sides. It is different from a for-profit organization which talks only about money and finances. At the growth stage the most challenging part is leadership, getting everybody to be together always. Understand the vision, the mission, believe in them and work together as a team to achieve common goals. I believe this is challenging in any organization, not only social enterprises. But for us, the people working here should have it very clear, should fully understand what we are trying to achieve and love what we are doing. They are not here for the salary alone, which they can find in any big company in Cambodia, but for a lot more. It’s not always easy to get everyone fully understand everything. That’s why we try to have a very good employee orientation program as well as an internal communication platform.


Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?

A great team, which we have now, which also helps us to attract and retain amazing talents who are here mainly to achieve a bigger impact. And we need all the artists and everyone to fully understand where we are from, why we are here, what we are trying to achieve.


Would you like to add somehing more?

It is full of pride, full of hope and stress to be a CEO in this amazing organization that is in my opinion innovative and pioneering the world of social enterprises in Cambodia. Our goals as social enterprise are as follow: First, providing good job to young artists from Cambodia, helping them to develop themselves, rise their lives and those of their families out of poverty. Indeed, many of them come from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Second, financially support the big social inclusion school, which was created more than 20 years ago for the purpose of youth development, for reconstructing Cambodia after the war using art therapy, working with young underprivileged Cambodians from the street. Third, reinsert the appreciation of art and culture to everyday life of Cambodians and make Cambodian art recognized nationally and around the world.


The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.


Siem Raep, Cambodia, 10th  December, 2015

ID: 023/100

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