Latrine Business Owner Bun Phors: Succeeding Against the Odds

Mister Bun Phors, thirty years old and living with his parents, wife and three sons, was struggling to maintain his small latrine business. He had very little technical expertise, no sales strategy and his income barely covered the costs of production. In mid-2011, an iDE staff member approached Phors at his home in Prey Veng Province and asked whether Phors was interested in learning how to produce and sell the Easy Latrine. As Phors describes, “iDE came to my house and made a good relationship with me. As soon as we understood, my family and I were very pleased to welcome iDE and to begin training.” Phors learned the ins and outs of not only the technical side of production, but was also taught basic sales skills, time management, transportation methods and planning, stock maintenance, and the importance of promoting sanitation and hygiene.

Bun Phors and his wife

Before entering the latrine business, Phors spent much of the last decade in Thailand working on a fishing boat. Sometimes he would be years at a time away from his family, waiting until he had saved enough money to return to Cambodia. Phors falls quiet while telling the story of his past. When storms would hit, he saw his comrades tossed from the boat where they inevitably drowned. “No one should have to go to work there,” he states. He finally returned in 2010, when he began working as a mason before entering the latrine business. Phors was selling only two latrines per month, making less than $10 in profit and having to sell other concrete products, such as building posts, to make ends meet. He could barely support his family. One day his father suggested Phors contact iDE, having heard of other producers’ success in the neighboring province. Phors was hesitant, until one day an iDE staff member visited his home and offered training to improve his latrine business. Once he took the lessons he learned from the iDE training staff and employed them in his business, Phors was producing around 55 latrines per month, generating over $275 a month in profit. He began focusing his entire production on latrines. “I learned to put hope and trust into my business,” Phors claims, “iDE staff taught me about the importance of strengthening my capacity and so I bought a truck to help with transportation. Now I have many customers.” Phors hired additional labor to assist with his expanding business, and built a shelter to store his stock and materials.

Phors checks his records to give his sales numbers

In March of 2012, when Phors’ sales were high and his family flourishing, Phors was in a vehicle accident. While making a sharp turn late at night, Phors’ truck – that he used for delivering latrines – and another car collided. Although he was not badly injured, the truck was damaged and Phors and his family were very shook up by the incident. To make matters worse, the owner of the other car involved was demanding $1500 in damages. Several days later, a group of iDE staff members visited Phors and asked him about the accident. Phors recalls the memory fondly, saying, “Mr. Rethy, who trained me to be a good latrine business owner, counseled me and told me not to be disappointed. He described his own hardships and those of other families. He gave me many ideas. My family and I were very pleased and now we work even harder than before.”

Roadside model of the latrine advertising Phors’ business

Although iDE has since phased out of Phors’ district – meaning the training staff have completed local capacity building and are now working elsewhere – Phors remains determined to expand his business, no matter the challenges that may come his way. He claims that with future profits he will invest in expansion and continue promoting hygiene to the Cambodian people. “I am Bun Phors in Prey Veng Province and my family and I would like to thank iDE for helping me to develop and improve our business,” he concludes, “I wish iDE staff good health and success in their work.”

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Author: makingsanitationeasy

iDE is a non-profit International NGO with a unique market-based approach to poverty reduction. IDE helps to build profitable enterprises and value chains that deliver sustainable social and economic benefits to the rural poor, enabling them to increase their income and improve their quality of life. IDE works primarily in rural areas, where the majority of Cambodia poor live, and in three sectors that are critical for poverty alleviation - agriculture, water, and sanitation.

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