HELPING PEOPLE BLOSSOM…
In many migrant and refugee communities, many complex issues have already put these members at an immediate socioeconomic disadvantage. Issues may include geopolitical, war-torn conflict and stateless identity, domestic violence, unhealthy and neglectful relationships, gambling as well as barriers to the English-speaking world and the workplace—to name a few.
This not to mention women have often been raised to believe that their only chance in life is to stay-at-home with children and be homemakers. As a result, they were discouraged to access higher education. This only worsens when domestic neglect or abuse comes into the picture.
“These women need to be offered hope and opportunity to blossom….”
Angkor Flowers is a social enterprise employing women from migrant and refugee backgrounds with a low level of education and access to employable opportunities. In other words, they were raised in a cultural context of mere adherence to household duty, propriety and obedience – nothing beyond that. In order to give these women hope and help them blossom into more fulfilling and financially independent lives, founder and Managing Director Sophea Chea began Angkor flowers giving these women job, employment skills and training to boost confidence and personal development skills.
“Helping people blossom” is not just our tagline for building empowerment and self esteem, it is also to plant the seeds for a more prosperous future. We use flower arrangement and crafts products as tools of pleasure and creativity as well as financial sustainability.
We specialise in designing various floral, hampers and craft products and services for individuals, small businesses and corporations, government organisations. Therefore we are ideally positioned to cater to any occasion, event or environment.
In short, we brighten up your day just that little bit more.
Established in September 2014, starting from social inclusion of a group of 10 Cambodian women, this enterprise now has reshaped the face of commerce and creating opportunities for better social impact while building successful entrepreneurship skills. We now offer training programs to women from similar cultures including Thai and Burmese before we can take them on board with our growing business. With this ambition, we are looking to attract and offer further support to women from other cultures regardless of skin colour.
Therefore, our business plan aims to accommodate rich and diverse employment opportunities to disadvantaged women as many as we can. We plan to expand Angkor Flowers & Crafts into a one-stop floral and decorative product and service to all stakeholders including individuals, government and non-government agencies, other small-to-medium businesses and corporations.
“And now it is your call and you have the power to make a difference to these women’s lives….”
The story Behind the Name
Angkor Wat is one of the most heritage-listed wonders of the world. It is the largest Buddhist monument of Angkor groups in Cambodia and an engineering marvel. The King Suryavaman II built the sprawling palace in the 12th Century when Cambodia was then the empire of Southeast Asia, dedicated to Hindu. To acknowledge and admire our native country, we thus named our business “Angkor Flowers & Crafts”.
Meet the Founder – Sophea Chea
Having grown up in a family oriented by her father with a firm but fair fist, Sophea had always looked up to him, whom she considered to be a rock star. However, like other young girls at her age, she was initially discouraged to advance further into higher education even though her family could have afforded the fact. This was due to the prevailing cultural belief that “women were planned to be homemakers and to look after children at home”.
However, Sophea did not let any out-dated ways of thinking deter her from her lifelong goals: she broke through gendered prejudices to turn her dreams of a better future into a reality. She won her family’s approval and thus changed their perspective on her ability to gain acceptance into post-graduate studies in Business, MBA in Sydney. Her commitment to task alone in turn won her high results from those studies. Today she works as a social worker supporting the resettlement process of new immigrants.
With this combination of personal experience and professional skills, Sophea came to realise that there was a need to create opportunities for migrant women. Many of these women have grown up in a culture that believes thatRead more
Since establishing in 2014, Sophea has presented and led many benefits of her enterprise, none of which the least have offered untold hope and fruitful labour to disadvantaged women. “There were times when I stumbled and fell, and there were times when I thought I wanted to give up but my family and my peers has always held my head up high, showing the true importance of teamwork. So I keep moving forward,” Sophea enthused.
“The need of this project is becoming bigger and bigger all the time; now women from other Asian communities want to be involved and who’s to deny them that chance? At the same time, we require better business resources and outlays to accommodate our growing network of fantastic individuals who desire change.”
By end of 2014, Sophea had completed “Bankstown Change Maker Course” with the School of Social Entrepreneurs, thoroughly mentored by Co-creative Directors by William Uy Vu Le and Michael Turkic from “interCulture casting & management” (iCCAM), a boutique casting agency for all-inclusive artists. This has set apart her dream from the rest, making it more visible in term of structuring, branding and promoting the business. Katherine Blizard, from the Business Enterprise Centre at Southern Sydney has also kindly donated her time to improve Sophea’s entrepreneurship for the next phase of the enterprise.
In mid 2015, Sophea won the pitch competition with “Kick Starter Program” from Macquarie Group and through her work with her mentor Wesley Smith from the Macquarie group to tackle all aspects of the business plan for consideration, she has taken the title as the winner of the program at later of the year.She has been reward business and financial support from a business planning competition and small grants program.
“I am glad for all the support from individuals and organisations, including government agencies in ways that I can’t even measure. I know that I couldn’t have the capacity to do this alone. However, I can raise my voice to speak louder to all Australians on behalf of these many disadvantaged women who are simply escaping cruel, frustrating or unfortunate circumstances. It is up to how they voice their concerns and that they act accordingly and truthfully alongside their desires for change,” Sophea added.
Meet our women- How Has This Enterprise Changed Them?
- Leanghy – Has joined our program since 2014. She was born with an incredibly creative eye for design as well as basic sewing skills, which she learnt from her relative in her hometown in Cambodia. She is a quiet and shy person. With her limited English and speaking confidence, we struggle to hear her pipe up in the group. However she makes up for it with her sheer commitment to quality work and patience with her role.“I came to Australia in 2007 as an unemployed mother of two kids. Being a homemaker, regardless, means that I am financially dependent on welfare, which is not the choice that I would have made. I was wondering if there were any employable prospects for me, and then of course ANGKOR FLOWERS came along,” Leanghy mused. Read more“It has been an amazing experience for me to be an invaluable part of the Angkor Flowers team. I delight in every opportunity to learn new skills in floristry, customer services and the English language, attending several courses on the recommendation of the Angkor Flowers program to improve in those areas. Along the way, I have formed unbreakable friendships which has made me happy and fulfilled.” “The most important thing is that I remain employed to create beautiful flowers and crafts for Australia, while being flexible enough to look after my two young kids. Now I can make money by myself and take pride in what I do—what else should I expect? Before, I never believed that I could be a part of a community so far away from home but whose shared migrant experiences have brought me closer to these women—my women.”But it is also vital that more than ever, your continuing support will help many of us who have been in similar circumstances such as mine. This is so that the women of Angkor Flowers can enjoy a more colourful and brighter future,” Leanghy said.
- 2. Sokveoun – Came to Australia ten years ago. When she first arrived, she was faced with barriers in employment and language, since she spoke basic English and did not have a tertiary education. Since mid-July 2015 she joined Angkor Flowers training and now she is about to become one of the key assistants in the production for Angkor Flowers. Read more“I have always been jealous of my Australian friends who seem to have spare money to spend on their own things, for example, designer-brand handbags, a whole wardrobe full of nice stilettos… living a very comfortable lifestyle on a disposable income, because they are all in long-term, secure jobs. I wanted to do the same, but I couldn’t because I was not able to work. As a result, I became mentally ill for several years,” Sokveoun sadly told Angkor Flowers. “Since I joined Angkor Flowers, I have been much happier and less stressed out. I mean, I always liked flowers—now I get to turn it into an art for a living! For instance, I was able to make a beautiful buttonhole and box arrangement for my relative’s wedding. I can do it… This is my core belief and drive. I will even be happier when I join Angkor Flowers on the production component. This will not only significantly improve my mental illness, it also will allow me to be able to afford that Gucci handbag that I’ve always had my eye on…” Sokveoun added with a laugh.
- 3. Ana – Has joined our training in July 2015. Originally from Burma, she has been residing in Australia for the last ten years. Her time here has allowed her to be fluent in English; in fact to the point that she wants to be an interpreter. “Honestly speaking, being a florist wasn’t my choice originally, I was introduced to this course through one of my friends. Would you believe this? Since I have joined the course, I have felt a lot differently. While my husband does not support me in this pathway, it actually makes me feel good and lighter… And this gives me the distance I need from home where there has been some domestic tension. So I need space for myself and now with Angkor Flowers, I have found it,” Ana smiled.Read more“A simple flower by itself does not look attractive as the work that I bring into it—turning it into a beautiful corsage, or an arrangement of dazzling colours and aromatic smells. It is my work and I can do it… it makes me proud and happy, and nobody can take the feeling away from me,” Ana explains.
To date, Ana has attended a customer service course, organised a partnership between Angkor Flowers and MTC Fairfield in support of tailor –made courses for Western Sydney women. She is emboldened to make her own decisions, her way and will do anything to pursue her dream. This is totally her choice—made possible by the generosity and benefits of Angkor Flowers. For the Burmese export, she treats the enterprise as a stepping stone to something greater so that she can move on to an independent and positive future that she once thought impossible.
- 4. Phary – A mother of two, she has based herself in Australia for at least ten years. She graduated in floristry Padstow TAFE in Western Sydney. Phary has also joined the Angkor Flowers team as a leader and teacher of our women.“My two kids react differently. My older kid said it is good that I have a job with Angkor Flowers, so that we can spare some extra expenses. However, my younger kid, who is only 4 years old said I shouldn’t work for Angkor Flowers because she sees it as affecting my time with her. On one occasion, we had plans to go on a holiday but working overtime prevented me from going. Unfortunately, my kid still remembers what happened,” Phary winces. “But I think she will grow up to understand the extent of sacrifices that I have made. We still will have a bigger holiday in the near future to make up for it!” Phary laughs.Read more“For myself, I have learnt that the reason that I work is not about earning a dollar but also to build up my confidence and better quality of life. Furthermore, this has educated my kids to take note in what I am doing so whatever a parent does has the power to influence to many generations to come. Of course, family always comes first. To that end I have found Angkor Flowers to be able to provide for what I need in terms of being flexible,” Phary emphasised.
“Your support is meaningful for us. For yet many more migrant and refugee women, they are simply waiting for their turn to achieve the best start in life possible.”