Around the corner from Russian Market, a humble-looking café has just opened its doors. “Mix Café Art Edition” is owned by a gifted young woman who is full of artistic and creative ideas, showcasing a fabulous interior designed to keep her customers in comfort.
Chea Masiya, 25, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Executive Leadership at Panhasastra University of Cambodia (PUC), dove headfirst into the coffee retail industry, applying her core values to marketing strategies by employing students, promoting education and illustrating Cambodians’ creativity to tourists.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in International Relations, she joined Action Act as a volunteer, working in a variety of different posts including sales, customer service, design — even working in a rice field — without worrying whether the positions were big or small.
These jobs were often far from home, however, and were not focused on a career goal. Ms Masiya decided to put her combined experience and the lessons she had learned into setting up her first small coffee stand in early 2017. This store served take-away items to coffee lovers.
At the end of 2017, she set up a second café offering a bit of everything – a sitting space, a fair price, and good quality. Nevertheless, she was criticised by friends for working in a field removed from what she had studied, and also faced a lack of clients in the beginning.
Ms Masiya said that to conquer all obstacles, “The biggest factors in my success were self-confidence and determination. Knowledge and experience were foremost in that, and teamwork was indispensable.” She said she hired three students who could work flexible hours to earn extra money to support their studies.
Her café is divided into three floors. The ground floor is for general ordering, the first floor is decorated with items made from recycled products in a very impressive, classical environment, and the second floor looks like a small library with nearly 100 books for reading and for sale. Most of the books are on self-motivation topics.
While Phnom Penh already has thousands of coffee shops, Ms Masiya said she is aiming for a particular target. “My shop is both classic and modern, suitable for tourism and academics. I use recycled Khmer products, which I promote to tourists, while providing a free space and the free use of a slide projector for students to assist them in their studies,” she added.
Strongly promoting education, her café welcomes all groups of students and hosts workshops with special offers. This month, approximately 50 students took part in the Project Inspire Workshop, which was open to the public.
She advised young people that watching movies is not only for entertainment but also to get the perspective of different characters. “We can keep an eye on other new ideas everywhere we go to refresh our thinking and generate creativity. And, when studying, we should focus on consequences rather than think that what we are doing is wrong.”