Sunday, November 4, 2012—I arrived in Australia today for a business meeting with my new employer, a wonderful East Jordan, Michigan company called EJ. I flew in to Brisbane  from Cambodia, where I just spent a week working at my other job: a new social enterprise business called Red Dirt Road. I just realized that the transition from the business of silk fashion accessories made in a remote village by women with no electricity or running water… to the business of manufacturing and selling manhole covers and access ports…is surprisingly easy!

Both enterprises require the same business fundamentals: understand your customer’s needs, manufacture a good product, promote by appealing to what is meaningful to your targeted customers. Build a team of people who are passionate about what they are doing, reach for the sky with challenging but somehow achievable goals …and be sure to have fun along the way!

Tonight, during our EJ group dinner, I could detect the smell of the wood fire used for cooking in the village of Tramung Chrum coming from the green silk scarf I was wearing. I had packed the scarf in a suitcase with the many silk purses and other goods I am carrying home with me to sell in the U.S. for Red Dirt Road. Memories of a wonderful week in Cambodia are still fresh in my mind. Here are a few of those memories:

….meeting Sophal in person for the first time. Sophal is a recent university graduate in finance and banking, who I was fortunate enough to hire as a full-time employee of Red Dirt Road in September. Sophal manages the Cambodian side of the business, and we have been meeting weekly on Skype. She lives in Phnom Penh, speaks excellent English, and is highly self-motivated. What a blessing!

….traveling down the now-familiar Red Dirt Road leading to the village of Tramung Chrum.

…. the joy I felt when arriving in the village and reuniting with my friend and energetic colleague, Hab Saly, leader of the women sewers in the village.

….the thankfulness I continue to feel toward my friend, Lin Alessio from Interlochen, Michigan, who joined me on this trip. Lin served as photographer, art director, teacher and village entertainer. Tramung Chrum will never be the same!

….how pleased I felt on our first day in the village with the progress on designs and quality of the items produced in September and October for our holiday order. Sophal helped Saly to understand any quality concerns, and Saly quickly got her assistants busy fixing some minor issues.

….the fun we had getting Sophal and Saly to model the beautiful silk shawls made from handwoven  Cambodian silk. Perfect with a “little black dress” for holiday parties!

….Saly, poising with her parents and assistants, after I presented her with $560 in profits to share with her assistants. This represents more than 6 months salary for one woman working in the garment industry in Phnom Penh. The profits are in addition to the $4 per day the women receive for their labor (twice the garment industry rate). Look at that smile! It was an emotional moment for me.

….listening to the happy chatter of the women as they worked diligently on headbands, wallets and scarves. They are seated in the front area of Saly’s parent’s house,  home of the Red Dirt Road fashion accessories business.

It is late and I must get some sleep so I can be alert at my business meetings tomorrow here in Brisbane, Australia.  I can still smell the scent of the cooking fire on my scarf…..more about my visit to Cambodia later.

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