Microbusiness - A Home Grown Brand

Microbusiness - A Home Grown Brand

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Children flourish in school because their moms and big sisters are making 500 sets of school uniforms for the NGOs and schools. We want to reach out to more girls and young women to take home with them a useful skill so they can hold their own. Making 1000 school uniforms is our goal!

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

For families from broken or abusive families, sending a child to school instead of on the streets to work is an impossible dream. The people have very little education, limited employable skills to earn sufficient income to support their families and there is a lack of suitable support from NGOs and the government. Many women and their children are infected with HIV, tuberculosis and other chronic illnesses. In addition, many underage girls have been cheated and sold into prostitution in night clubs or whorehouses. As a result of their exorbitant medical bills and the rent that they cannot afford to pay especially when older women sex workers could not get enough clients, they found themselves in a desperate situation to sell their children to traffickers.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Before they face further risk in HIV, losing their children or get into forced sex-labour on the streets, we have to reach out to the young women and girls early. We train the women in sewing. We sell around 500 sets of school uniforms to NGOs a year and are looking for more NGOs and private schools that will support us. This will mean more income for the women, a better life and sustainable livelihood. The women graduate will buy their own materials at the Ouressey Market in Phnom Penh and sew them. Riverkids will buy the school uniforms from them and sell them at par to our established NGO contacts. For our earlier group of women, we want to train them up for more skilled work. We wish to teach them to make and sew silk ornaments. The Singapore office has secured orders of at least 1000 ornaments every year end and this will raise about $10,000 in the last quarter yearly. We aim to make our own brand instead of buying them from other Cambodian NGOs to resell them.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We surveyed and had long thoughtful conversations with the families in our community to find out what works and what wouldn’t. We learned that for them to be able to keep their children safely in school year after year, have enough food on their table and escape poverty, they need new skills, safe jobs and decent incomes. We reach out to the young women and girls early. To help these women overcome the social stigma and integrate into our classes more easily, we arrange field trips to the zoo and water park. Volunteers join our social workers to organise ice-breaking games so like-minded women can meet to chat comfortably, provide one another with peer support and engage in mentally-wholesome activities. Through our social workers encouragement, they are motivated to join our training courses. Then, to enable the women with babies and toddlers to concentrate on learning and complete the year’s training, we help care for their children in our Baby Room in the day. During the training period, we provide foodbox (rice, packet-noodles and canned food) for their families and allowance for these participants. This is our income replacement plan that will ensure that the women graduate successfully instead of dropping out mid-way. At no charge, we loan the women staying further from our centre, donated bicycles so they can travel to work. Besides training the women in sewing using our own donated sewing machines, we conduct workshops such as Domestic Violence, HIV and trafficking prevention workshop, Business and Financial Management and industrial field trips

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We sell the school uniforms that the women make to NGOs like Who Will(www.who-will.org, New life (www.cambodianewlife.org), Sunshine Centre (www.sunshinecentrecambodia.org) and Asian Hope (http://www.asianhope.org/). Currently, we've not come across any NGO sewing school uniforms like us and at our quantity. What differentiates us from other NGOs is that we choose to work with the most difficult families in the slum - those at high risk of trafficking and abuse. This is because these are the under-served and we have the various units such as Social Work, Health & Nutrition and Education to make our outreach work. We have the critical success factors like foodbox, income replacement strategy, Daycare and bicycles to see them succeed.

Founding Story

It all started with a small group of women we were trying to help by generating their own income. We had orders from Australia’s Tractor Home. These are paper products that make earrings and broaches. These and some orders we receive from people in Cambodia are however, adhoc. One of our students in the Bright Girls program (a sheltered co-op workshop of teenage girls) is very talented and began teaching a few of the women how to sew. We learn that school uniforms are easier to sew and we’ve got donated sewing machines that we can make use of. So we started contacting some NGO schools to see if they’d like to support us. They did. We began to receive more sewing machines and they sewed more and more. With good feedback from our school clients and with no other NGOs doing what we are doing, we are determined to leverage on what we have, to provide opportunities to more women and training up our earlier batch to sew more complex products such as the delicate silk ornaments.
About You
Riverkids Project
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Riverkids Project

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
Age of Innovator

Over 34

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to financing, Access to talent, Access to supply chains, Access to economic opportunity, Policy change/advocacy.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

In March 2011 and 2012, we graduated 21 and 11 women in sewing respectively. They are able to make up to 40 pieces of school uniforms and standard baby clothes and dresses, earning between $100 and $135 a month on regular working hours.

The women have learned to be disciplined, are working in safe, favourable working conditions and are fairly treated. This is because we establish partnerships with potential employers and monitor their progress during apprenticeships.

With a safe job and decent income, a significant minority of our women are able to step out of their previous health hazardous jobs to support their families. With further support from our income generation programs such as small loans and business training, and positive changes from our social work programs, they have been both able and willing to take responsibility for some or all of their children’s education needs. This makes the women very independent and our programs sustainable.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

In the long term, women and children will be free from HIV infection because of the women’s safe jobs. The income sustains the family and their children can make great strides in school and meals. Through our workshops, their awareness of health, family and financial matters make them become better parents. Their children grow up making well informed decisions with education. They escape poverty, abuse and trafficking.

In 3 years’ time, we should have established a select group of highly skilled women in handicraft who can create our own home-grown brand of silk ornaments, increasing the potential funds raised by over $10,000 in the last quarter of the year where part of it can go back to support training and material purchase again.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Death of a family member. This can happen because of a traffic accident or illness, sending the family straight into a financial crisis. We help the family with funeral and enable them to access our microfinance emergency loan that will see them through this temporary crisis. We’ve seen families get back up on their feet quickly after the most difficult period with our counselling and financial assistance.

Some NGOs that we sell our made-to-measure school uniforms closed down. If this happens, we will source for more NGOs and private schools for our sale. In fact, we are constantly looking for more contacts in Cambodia. We also have alternative products such as the silk products that have stable orders solicited from the Singapore marketing office.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Identify at-risk women for skill training and conduct family, health, financial and business planning workshop to empower them.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Survey, interview and recruit girls and young women

Task 2

6 months intensive skills training

Task 3

Workshops and fields trips for participants, income replacement, food support and counselling.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Women will be able to sew without supervision, have a stable job and generate their own income.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Women can sew without supervision

Task 2

Women actively working to fulfill clothes and ornaments orders

Task 3

Women able to support their family and send their children to school

Tell us about your partnerships

We use the materials purchased to sew the school uniforms, baby clothes and dresses. Then, we sell them to NGOs such as Who Will (www.who-will.org/), Asian Hope (www.asianhope.org/), New life (www.cambodianewlife.org/) and Sunshine Centre (www.sunshinecentrecambodia.org/)

We sell around 500 sets of school uniforms to NGOs a year and are looking for more NGOs and private schools that will support us. This will mean more income for the women, a better life and sustainable livelihood.

The selling prices are at $4.00 for Small, $5.50 for Medium and $7.50 for Large uniforms.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list