Thyda Sek Suon’s, Co-founder at the restaurant l’Atelier Sushi, in Siem Reap, Cambodia, tells us her story. Inspired by French, Cambodian and Japanese influences, she started her own business, alone, before meeting a business partner. Together they took it to the next level.
What is “L'atelier Sushi”?
It is a sushi workshop. The kitchen is surrounded by glass, so people can see the team working inside, preparing sushi boxes for supermarkets, restaurants and hotels. We have a terrace for customers who want to eat on site, but the majority of the customers asks for take away or delivery.
How was your company born?
I was born in Siem Reap and moved to France when I was young. After working there as a lobbyist for an American company, I understood that I wanted to create something on my own, in Cambodia, my native country. I first launched The Rollin'crepe alone: two mobile carts selling French Galettes and Crepes in the street of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. It was working fairly well until a Japanese businessman from Australia, who used to live in Europe, approached me. We got along very quickly and after 4 months while he kept coming regularly to show his interest, I decided to share the business with him. My only condition was to move to Siem Reap, a city that attracts more than 2 millions tourists every year. My business partner believed straightaway that it was the right choice.
What are the advantages of this multicultural partnership?
As a French girl, novice in business, it was difficult for me to be proactive and understand the market. I was stuck on my first idea, selling crepes in the street. We did it, we got good revenues, but we faced the usual challenge of touristic cities: there are high and low seasons. Thanks to his experience, my partner asked me to convert one of my mobile carts to sell sushi rolls, like in the Australian streets. Then, at the end of the low season, we opened a shop. So, even when there were no tourist, we still got revenues thanks to the local population and expatriates.
My business partner acted like a business angel. He gave me lot's of advice and followed-up on everything we set for the company. For example, he designed the kitchen to make it efficient, he asked a friend of his - a Japanese Chef - to train our staff, worked on the business model, etc.
What is the biggest issue this partnership resolved?
I am not the business type ; I deal better with people than with numbers. I struggle with accounting. Fortunately, my business partner, who was a CPA, understands ratios, told me that a lot of businesses go bankrupt because the accounting was not done properly. He was very tough with me on that, asking me to work every day to provide figures. I can now see the benefit : it is now easier for me to deal with accounting, to supervise and understand the big picture.
If I had to give a piece of advice, it would be: Start a business that is like you. Don't forget your principles, your ethic. Showing the investor/partner who you are in business is a chance for you to work with people that know and respect you.