Restore One began education, micro finance initiatives and infrastructure development projects in Kampong Thom Province, Cambodia, in early 2014. With guidance from the Global Development Group (GDG), the NGO became an official charity in Australia; and an official Cambodian charity pursuant to the Ministry of Interior.
Restore One has built one primary school and other various housing developments and provides traineeships in handicrafts, sewing and hospitality skills. They offer start-up capital, credit pools and business guidance to Cambodian women in conditions of poverty, servitude and domestic violence to stand on their own feet with small business, ending present and future poverty cycles.
While the NGO currently relies heavily on its Australian donors, in the future they hope to survive on burgers sold through their café located near Phsar Toul Tom Poung. Through the initiative of Mrs. Tanya Lawrence and Mr. Greg Allen, the NGO’s founders and directors, Restore One set its sights on Phnom Penh’s ever expanding food scene. The Restore One Café opened in March, 2014, serving what has been widely heralded as the best burgers in Phnom Penh.
A tax exempt income is only one advantage of combining a social enterprise with a business enterprise, says Restore One’s Manager, Mr. Sokhun Prok: “While the burger café is a business, it is simultaneously a living marketing tool for our NGO in central Phnom Penh.” The café tells the story of the problems in Kampong Thom and how Restore One seeks to alleviate them. It also offers the perfect place to retail products made by the microbusiness enterprises. Its hospitality traineeships create employment opportunities at the Café; it hosts groups of traveling donors, and provides a springboard for the NGO volunteer program.
Mr. Prok believes that “the continuing emergence of social/business enterprises around Phnom Penh suggests consumers, especially expats and tourists, are happy to spend on food and drinks which support a good cause.”
Through its volunteer program, the café has also been able to harness substantial experience in hospitality, management and marketing from overseas, and this has led to largely successful business startup. The NGO mimics this model in the provinces, utilizing volunteers with professional backgrounds in construction, sanitation management, education and health care, among many other skills.
However, Mr. Prok suggests that in any venture such as this, there is always a need for local knowledge. Cambodian bureaucracy can be puzzling for a manager who is not familiar with the unwritten realities of processes such as import levies, business taxes and registering entities in the Kingdom: “While a non-profit charity such as Restore One is officially exempt from all tax in Cambodia, in reality this may not be the case.” A local manager can sidestep so-called “free-taxes”, guarantee local prices for business purchases and ensure crucial workmanship standards are upheld when most needed, for instance electrical and water maintenance.
In the future, Restore One intends to develop agriculture projects in the province to supply all inputs for the café and provide a valuable teaching tool for its students. By creating such a holistically sustainable social/business model, the NGO hopes to stand on its own feet economically and minimize its reliance on Australian and other foreign donors.