Building a Café from Scratch

Sen Phearum has achieved his goal of owning his own café.
  • Phoung Vantha
  • August 3, 2020 7:15 AM

PHNOM PENH--Early in the morning, with a table full of customers sipping coffee, Sen Phearum reflected on how his business has grown in the last two years. As the owner of Café Cheangmai, Phearum has seen a steady increase in the number of customers, even as the number of coffee stands has also increased over the years. Phnom Penh is very much still developing its coffee culture and it’s one that Phearum is keen to tap into.  

Coffee wasn’t what Phearum had initially had in mind after he graduated from high school in Bati District, Takeo Province in 2008. He had just moved to Phnom Penh to continue his studies in management, but by the time he reached his second year, it became apparent he needed a job to support himself.

“My first job was in marketing, but I didn’t receive a salary, just a daily rate of around $6 per day,” he said. “At that time he also gives up his school as that job required me to go to the province offend.”

It was mid-2009 when he decided to resign from his marketing job and, after asking friend for advice, found a new job in 2011. By this point Phearum was enrolled at the Vanda Institute, studying accounting and so he needed a job that was flexible around his studies—this is how he got into coffee.    

“I got a job to work in a café with no experience and it felt like I had started a new life,” he recalled. “For the first three months, I was just cleaning tables and floors, but before long I was taking orders and making coffee,” he said. 

In his second year of working at the café, he became more engrossed with coffee and his love with the coffee industry grew—he knew he had to learn about all things related to coffee. 

Sen Phearum has achieved his goal of owning his own café.

“The coffee business not only taught me about how to make a coffee, but many things; stock control, coffee age, management, but my accountancy class also helped me to understand how to control the stock and management in a coffee shop,” he said.  

In 2017, after more than seven years, he decided to stop working with the café and focused on starting his career as a freelance coffee adviser, aiming to help new start-ups in the coffee business.

“I planned to run my own café too, but I didn’t have the money at the time,” he said.

After one year as a freelancer adviser, he became confident with the coffee business. “I started run my business in 2019, my workplace gave me salary and knowledge, with nearly two years, my customers are increasing day by day.” 

“I quite sure that my coffee taste will satisfy customers, I want to build my own brand,” he said. “It is unlike what people say, people think running a coffee business is easy because it is just like selling boiling water.”

For Phearum, his seven years of experience and his love for coffee have helped him to follow his dreams of running his own business.


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