Early 2019, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), along with partners the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Visa Foundation, announced eight organizations selected to receive funds under the Advancing Women’s Empowerment Fund (AWEF).

AWEF seeks to address the significant gap in access to finance for women-led small and growing businesses (SGBs), currently estimated by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at nearly $320 billion in developing countries. Research from ANDE’s Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) finds that women-led businesses are less likely to apply to acceleration programs, and those that do receive this growth-oriented support are still less likely than their male counterparts to secure equity financing.

Photo credit: SHE Investments

In this blog, meet ANDE’s newest member SHE Investments, one of our AWEF grantees in Cambodia, and their innovative journey toward economic empowerment for women entrepreneurs. Over the last 5 years, SHE Investments has graduated over 300 women-led MSMEs from SHE incubator and accelerator programs in Cambodia, using a gender and culture lens – the first in the country.

Photo credit: SHE Investments

The SHE Investment Readiness Program is a pilot investment readiness program, designed to support women and their enterprises to develop business plans, improve business models, connect to mentors, and build a network of impact investors in the Southeast Asia region. Meet the 8 inspiring graduates of SHE accelerator.

Vichka Vantha is passionate about both the environment and women’s empowerment. She runs two businesses: Dai Khmer focuses on beauty products and handmade soaps, while the Refill Store is the first plastic-free retail store in Cambodia. Currently, Vichka is providing employment and training to women in underserved communities in Cambodia. Vichka is looking to expand a second Refill Store in Phnom Penh and export Dai Khmer products.

Photo credit: SHE Investments

Lundy is a founder of Cricket House. She established her startup in 2020, selling premium cricket power and cricket products. She is using an innovative business model to farm, process, and sell direct crickets and cricket powder in the market. Lundy has hopes of capitalizing on the sustainable protein movement. Currently, she is looking to expand production and establish Cricket House in the global market.

Photo credit: SHE Investments

Chenda cares deeply about the environment. She founded Khmer Scrap Recycle, a leading aluminium recycling business. She has been striving to be Cambodia’s first women-led aluminum processor. In the first year of her management, the number of staff has increased to 30. Chenda is looking to build the first Cambodian-owned aluminium processing plant that could lead to financial sustainability and environmental impact in Cambodia.

Veasna is a founder of BCS Computer, a local computer store that currently provides supplies to the government, enterprises, NGOs, and students in Cambodia. Through her experience in operations, Veasna was able to identify a gap in the market. She noticed that there is a need for training that could provide practical, high-quality, affordable repair skills including both software and hardware to customers. Veasna is looking to become an established wholesale provider and to create a vocational training course for repairing computers for those who need them.

Chanmoniroth is a founder of Ektes Women’s Health Clinic, a 24-hour high-quality women’s health service in Phnom Penh. Chanmoniroth is striving to provide service with quality and hygiene, ensuring quality health for women in her community. Chanmoniroth is looking to expand the operations in new locations with renovations so that more women can conveniently receive health care services.

Photo credit: SHE Investments

Sreylin Meng is a founder of Smart Farm Assistance, an app that allows farmers to control irrigation systems through mobile phones. She established her startup in 2020 and her app is operated in the Khmer language. The app has useful features including soil moisture level reading and weather forecasting which could save farmers’ cost and time. Sreylin is looking to conduct further research and development, expand the operations, and seek to gain traction in the market.

Monica is a founder of the We Can School, a mid-range primary school with a focus on quality of service and care for children. Monica established We Can School in 2012 in four locations. Due to the difficulty faced by the Covid-19 pandemic, her multiple schools were shut down. Nonetheless, she still has hope and chooses alternative solutions to deliver the educational curriculum online instead. Monica is looking to transform We Can School to be an International Standard School with quality delivery. 

Photo credit: SHE Investments

Thida is a founder and CEO of Solar Green Energy (SOGE), a company that imports and manufactures solar energy products, including solar panels, water pumps, street lights, and backup systems. Thida established SOGE in 2004. Currently, her main customers are farmers who don’t have access to the main grid. Through her leadership and management, the company’s revenues have increased every year. Thida is looking to expand her manufacturing capabilities and to begin B2B wholesale to other solar companies. 

If you are keen to learn more about the learnings from other Advancing Women’s Empowerment Fund (AWEF)’s grantees, ANDE will co-host a webinar “Building the Gender Lens Investing Ecosystem in Southeast Asia.” organized in collaboration with Gobi Partners and She Loves Tech (Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia Chapter). AWEF grantees will exclusively share their innovative approaches and success stories in addressing the significant gap in access to finance for women-led small and growing businesses (SGBs) in the region. We look forward to meeting you on August 26, 2021 at 14:00 – 15:30 (GMT+7). Register now.