Becoming a young leader and business operator is not easy, especially for those who come from modest backgrounds. But Heang Kong, co-founder and managing director of the start up construction company Green Home Cambodia, believes that anyone can reach their goals if they are willing to work hard and really strive to achieve them.
Coming from a low-income family in Kampong Speu, Mr Kong, 25, developed a strong desire to run his own business after hearing the tragic stories of workers who went to Thailand looking for jobs.
“On many social media platforms, I read tragic stories of Cambodian workers’ experiences in Thailand. Some were killed just because they didn’t have a work permit. Some were deported under brutal conditions, and many were forced to flee. It seemed so dehumanising to me,” he said.
“In Poi Pet I saw with my own eyes people who were in vans surrounded by steel bars. These stories saddened me. I decided I needed to do something to help,” he added.
Mr Kong decided to open a construction business that could employ people in their home country. Knowing what it’s like to be poor, he also wanted to be able to contribute part of the profits to the community.
Recalling his own past, he said, “My family was very poor when I graduated from high school. Wanting to help, I went to study Korean in the hopes of finding some money to support my family. Though I got a scholarship, I never thought I would be able to take advantage of it, due my family situation. But I didn’t give up, as fortunately I had many people to inspire and motivate me.”
After Mr Kong arrived in Phnom Penh, he went through many difficulties in a bid to earn money to survive.
“I worked as garment factory worker, a waiter in many places and had many other experiences. It was definitely tough, yet difficulties just make me even stronger,” Mr Kong said.
Thinking back on what allowed him to go from being a garment worker to being co-founder of Green Home Cambodia, Mr Kong responded that everyone has his or her own strengths. The problem is they don’t dare to use them. He believes that anyone can succeed if they strive to achieve their goals and dare to use their strengths and potential.
“Everyone is powerful, from the time they are born. To make them even stronger requires education to implement their internal strengths. Besides that, they have to face their fears. Overcoming our fears takes work. I used to be scared of doing things, yet I strive to conquer these fears day by day,” Mr Kong said.
After starting up a business in early 2017, Mr Kong said he faced many challenges as he lacked experience and capital.
“As I was just starting out in business, I focused on three main elements. First, I prioritised networks and communication. Secondly, I leveraged my personality, as I am honest and trusted. Third is knowledge and capacity,” Mr Kong said.
Mr Kong said Green Home Cambodia operates according to three main concepts, which allow it to stand out and be unique among the many construction businesses in the country.
“We are trying to apply three concepts. First, we provide a reasonable price. Second, we try to conserve the environment through our designs [which don’t use a lot of power]. Third, we try to educate workers not to contaminate the environment, and we punish them if they do so,” Mr Kong continued.
Mr Kong’s ultimate message to youth is that you are never too young to lead. Dare to fail, and don’t wait until you are old. Failures teach people good lessons and transform them to become even stronger, he said.