What are you cooking today?

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I step into a market in Cambodia. The atmosphere is dim with bulbs hanging listlessly from zinc rooftops, and Maret is sitting on a wooden platform surrounded by raw meat that she is chopping on a circular wooden block.

She says, quietly: “I quit school to support my parents who live in the countryside. They told me to start a business. I was terrified. I thought I would have no customers.”

I asked Maret: why did you choose to sell meat? “It’s easier to sell than clothes—  people don’t always need new clothes, but they do eat everyday.”

What’s your secret? How do you get people to buy from you? “I realised that people buy meat from me when I ask them what they are planning to cook, and for whom? Because I can recommend pieces which are good for soup, stir-fry, or grilling.”

As she is telling me this, I realise she is articulating the theory of customer segmentation, Jobs-to-be-done, and value proposition. Don’t sell a bed, sell a good night’s sleep. Don’t sell a hammer, sell the painting on the wall.

Maret might not have attended Harvard Business School, but she could school us about business. She understands business in the most effortless and intuitive way.

When there is leftover meat, she takes it home, and brings it back the next day. (There is no fridge at the market.) After the second day, she drops the price steeply and people buy this meat to feed their dogs. The rent for her stall is USD $1.50 a day.

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While Maret and all her sisters quit school to support the family, her brothers were allowed to continue going to school, reflecting a pattern of unequal education across the nation. The literacy rate for males is 86.5%, contrasting with 75% for females.


Shopkeeper Stories is a photo-documentary of small business owners and their trades around the world, sharing their insights, stories and views. You can see all the posts on Instagram and Facebook @ShopkeeperStories


 

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