Fostering entrepreneurship in reproductive health

A partnership between MSI nternational Cambodia (MSIC) and a gender-focused social enterprise is supporting entrepreneurial women to achieve their business goals.  

Since it began in January 2019, the MSI Ladies Business Training Program – a partnership between MSIC and SHE Investments – has supported the training and coaching of 117 private health providers, known as MS Ladies, to help develop their businesses. By accessing this program MSI Ladies are better able to provide high-quality reproductive health services to women in their communities.   

The business training workshops covered goal setting, staff management, business expansion and customer service, and twenty MSI Ladies signed up for individual business coaching sessions.  

Several participants stated that after the training, they had a better understanding of the value of their business’s products and services, including how they should price the services and how customers might see the value in different products and services that they can offer. 

“My business revenue increased by 20 per cent because I improved my skills in attracting new customers and adding new services into my business,” said Mao Thida. 

Based on their prior experience supporting and training women entrepreneurs, SHE Investments identified recruiting, managing and retaining staff as high concerns for female business owners in Cambodia. Gender norms and family expectations were also noted by many participants during the training session as challenges to the running of their businesses. 

One participant said, “Even if female business owners have ambitious career goals, they are still expected to rear their children and fulfil household chores, which puts a lot of pressure on them as they have to juggle their professional and personal lives. “  

Due to family responsibilities, several MSI Ladies were unable to attend all the sessions, leaving gaps in their training. To help address this, there was flexibility for participants to attend make-up sessions during subsequent training sessions. Participants also had access to phone mentoring and coaching sessions, so they could choose a time that worked with their family responsibilities.  

The training sessions also revealed that it was very common for women to not pay themselves a salary from their business. However, by the end of the training, they committed to begin paying themselves, improving their financial management by separating business and family money, and implementing new financial management processes such as budgeting and tracking expenses.  

Khol Sreyneth, a participant in the program, said, “I feel much better in managing business budgeting and I have started to pay myself and my husband a salary.”  

A post-training survey showed that:  

  • 50% set their business goal and applied their action plans after their training 
  • 60% felt they had “improved their relationships” with customers, and were offering higher quality services 
  • 70% continue to track their household expenses 
  • 50% are now doing a monthly budget for their households 
  • 60% are doing basic bookkeeping for their business, tracking revenue and expenses 
  • 50% have separated household and business finances 
  • 50% reported an increase in their revenue 
  • Six MS Ladies have created 11 new jobs through developing other enterprises, using the knowledge and skills they gained from the training. 

This initiative is funded by the Australian Government through The Mekong Women’s Empowerment Program (Empower), which aims to advance women’s economic empowerment by increasing the clinical capacity, business skills and financial independence of entrepreneurial health providers in Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar.