Successful story behind Brown Coffee

One of Brown Coffee co-founders recently to Everjobs. Here’s a slightly edited interview:

What brought you back to Cambodia after studying in Australia?
Mr. Luck: Our goals had always been to eventually come back and contribute to Cambodia after we finish our education. Bring what we have studied abroad and apply it to local context.

What ignited the spark in you and your cousins to start a coffee chain in Phnom Penh? How did the idea come about?

Mr. Luck: Back then, it was really hard to find a good cup of coffee, a great common place to get together and chill out with friends. During our time spent abroad, we were exposed to various different coffee culture and thought that it’d be cool to have a place like this back home. Brown was born.

How many employees did Brown Coffee start with? How many employees does the company have at the moment?

Mr. Luck: Like many start-ups, we started with a few employees when we opened our first shop. We are glad that some those few employees are still with us now. To this day, Brown as a group has employed around 700 Cambodians.

Does Brown Coffee provide training programs to its employees? What are the most demanded skills for a coffee chain like yours?

Mr. Luck:: Yes we do. Staff training is one of the many things we take very seriously. From making coffee to customer service to English training course, we provide training on both soft and hard skills. All of these training programs are there to make sure our staff can provide great hospitality to our customers. It’s also skills that they can carry on with them throughout their lives.

How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?

Mr. Luck: It’s not easy. First thing we had to do was to truly believe in what we do first, next thing is to
make them believe in what we believe in. Most of our staff are young graduates or part time university students, the job that they have at Brown is their first job. So it’s both a challenge and reward to teach somebody who doesn’t have prior working experience.

How can good employees impact the success of your business?
Mr. Luck: Our employee is the core of our business. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Good employees are hard to come by. We believe it’s extremely important to have talented human resource working for us because at the end of the day they are the ones who are doing most of the work to drive the company forward.

Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? Is there any local or international
expansion plan for Brown Coffee?

Mr. Luck: In 10 years, if we work hard enough and are lucky enough, we hope to see our stores in
most of the major provinces in Cambodia and probably in some of the ASEAN countries.

What motivates you?
Mr. Luck: When we receive a thankful letter from our customers saying we are a part of their lives.
When our employees tell us their lives changed drastically for the better because the jobs and the skills we give them. That’s what motivates us the most.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Mr. Luck: Our greatest inspiration has been our parents. I think you can get the same answer from most Cambodians who parents went through the Pol Pot regime. They inspired us to work hard, to build anything from scratch and to not take anything for granted.

To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the key elements for
starting and running a successful business?

Mr. Luck: I can say we attribute our success to the fact that we started our business in the right time at the right place and most importantly with the right team. All this being said, it also takes a great deal of hard work, self-discipline, risk-taking, and doing things differently.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Mr. Luck: Flexibility, Team spirit, and Innovation are first 3 words come to my mind now but i’m sure
there’s no exact formula. Most importantly, to be successful at anything, one has to keep learning
and evolving as one grows.

How can your story inspire the Cambodian new generation?
Mr. Luck: We hope the new generation see the hard work that we put into making quality products.
We hope our success story sets a high bar for them to follow. We also hope they can see that the reason a national brand like Brown can compete with international brand is because we care about customer experience and standard quality.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Mr. Luck: The advice that we often give to students and our young employee is first to do great work, stop complaining. Second, to travel and get yourself exposed and last but not least to give back to society. If you want to show people you are nationalistic, don’t just wear the national flag, please devote your heart and soul to the work you are doing, however big or small the task is, do it with your heart. Eventually, the good outcome from your hard work will have impact on the country.

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