Business Profile – Thung Thun
When WaterSHED began to build the market for toilets, the NGO needed to grow demand in lockstep with supply. We partnered with dozens of local construction businesses to produce toilets. But in Cambodia’s rural business environment, the construction businesses that produced toilets lacked capacity to market and sell the product. We needed to consider another mechanism for promoting toilets.
We wanted to avoid establishing our own sales force, thus, embedding ourselves in the market as a service delivery provider. We wanted to stay true to our Hands-Off philosophy. Instead of hiring a sales team, we hired a team of “Facilitation Specialists” whose role was to act as advisors in the market. As Facilitation Specialists, they trained and built the capacity of independent sales agents to effectively promote toilets at sales events or through door-to-door sales; they advised local government and village leaders on strategies for community development in areas such as sanitation; and they advised local construction companies on best practices for a profitable business. These Facilitation Specialists were essentially the brokers between the different actors in the toilet economy.
Thung Thun was one of these Facilitation Specialists. In the position, he gained marketing, business development, and leadership skills. He also became familiar with the nascent toilet market and saw opportunities for his own venture. “I have always wanted to run my own business and dreamed of operating it in every province [in Cambodia].”
In 2017, he followed his dream and founded Develop My Village (DMV) – a toilet business in Cambodia’s Thbong Khmum privonce that brokers sales for local construction businesses.
Today, Thun employs seven employees to help him promote toilets. His company also connects customers with micro-finance institutions (MFI) and ensures partner construction businesses produce a quality toilet, deliver it, and install it without delay. His team averages 40 to 60 toilet sales per month across the province.
But getting to this point has not been easy for Thun. “I needed to build trust with customers who did not know me,” said Thun. “I also needed to build relationships with micro-finance institutions. Both of these things took time.”
Thun is now looking to expand to neighboring Kratie province. He has started discussions with micro-finance institutions and local authorities in the province. “Running my own business is different from working for an organization,” Thun explains. “There are more opportunities to earn more money but only with a good strategy and a lot of determination.”