Surviving from day to day

Conversations with men and women running small businesses in Siem Reap (Cambodia). Why did they go into business? How did they choose their trade? What helps them to survive? A tale of education, rural-urban migration, and personal aspiration.

Man selling fresh juice at the Night Market in Siem Reap (Cambodia) - ShopkeeperStories.com

Fresh juice from the street. Just call out your favourite fruits, and he’ll whip it up on the spot!

Vegetable vendor in a market in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ny has experimented with selling many different things such as fish sauce, fruits, and vegetables. She finds it hard to sell vegetables because there is typically leftover and they do not stay fresh for long. There is no fridge at the market.

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Street food fresh from the fire!

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A lady chills on a platform surrounded by plastic buckets of iced seafood. The Mekong River is the largest supplier of protein for the region.

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What will you cook with prawns, cockles, eggs and tomatoes? Get this bundle from one stall.

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“I quit school to support my parents, they live in the countryside. They told me to go to the city to start a business. I was terrified! I thought I would have no customers.”

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Sokun started selling rice at the market when her mom fell sick. She dropped out of school with her four sisters to earn money, while their brother stayed in school and eventually became a teacher.

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Srey left the countryside to join her brother and his family (wife and son), so that she can send cash to her parents. All four of them live in one small room room tucked discreetly into the alley.

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During the rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, the majority of artists and musicians were murdered. Those who survived had to go into hiding. “My name is Art.”

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Food vendor cooking Lot Cha in a large wok. Markets are  a space where news gets transferred, hence bringing the community into the loop of current affairs.

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“Will you join me for lunch?” The generosity of people was apparent along the street.

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Choosing between a factory, market, home, or prostitution. Women migrants to Phnom Penh work as garment workers (32.2%), micro-business owners (23.4%), domestic workers (11.1%), and service/entertainment workers (10.3%).

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During the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, all businesses came screeching to a halt. Ny was forced to go to the countryside to labour in the fields.

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Her market speciality is prahok—  a spicy fish that is fermented for as long as a year. This quintessential Cambodian cuisine is shaped by necessity: the preserved fish provides a reliable source of protein during dry seasons.

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Thyda has 3 tricks for a flourishing market business. Beautiful & eye-catching presentation. Exceptional quality products. Personalised service.

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Chamroeun hawks her goods from 6:00pm to 11:00pm every night, then wakes up early each morning to teach Khmer Literature to children at a rural village.

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Cardboard boxes padding the counters of the market to soak up the xstains.

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“I love Facebook.”

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Elegance at the Night market in Siem Reap.


Shopkeeper Stories is a photographic documentary of small business owners and their trades around the world, sharing their tips and insights. You can connect with the community on Instagram and Facebook @ShopkeeperStories


 

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