Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. In Pursat, Cambodia’s western province, Pheap, a 19 year old teenager from a large family, was struggling to survive and study. After receiving a government scholarship for outstanding students, Pheap travelled to the city of Battambang. This was the first time he had left home, his family. The city surprised him; the fancy life was a world away from his village where he had spent his life tending to water buffaloes and fishing. He never imagined living in the city yet here he was, believing the city offered competitive jobs, filled with endless opportunities.
During his studies, Pheap lived in a city pagoda (Wat) due to financial constraints. Despite setbacks, his time at the Wat allowed him to observe other Cambodians, many of whom were caught in cycles of poverty stemming from Cambodia’s difficult historical and political conditions. It was during this time that Pheap developed deep compassion for his people; he realised that in order to overcome these challenges, he—as a young Cambodian—needed to improve the economic conditions of his country. No longer thinking of simply surviving, Pheap now began to think of more viable ways to live and work. He began formulating business ideas that would simultaneously incorporate his love of people, of Cambodia, and of its history, eventually developing a business plan that would be based within Cambodia’s tourism sector. Though discouraged by many because of capital limitations, Pheap strived to develop his new business idea: A locally-run bicycle tour company in Battambang.
From Bud to Flower
For 6 months, Pheap worked on his business research plan. After completing his first draft, he submitted it to his foreign professors for advice. He received their feedback and soon after, was given 2 significant incentives: A desktop computer and a bicycle. Pheap’s new acquisitions made him incredibly happy, confident, and more determined than ever to establish his bicycle tour company. With his desktop computer, he taught himself computer graphics and web design, skills that would enable him to finally bring his tour company to fruition.
While thinking about a name for his company, the word “butterfly” recurred numerous times in Pheap’s thoughts. The butterfly, he reflected, was a creature admired by many for its beauty, yet its life cycle—beginning from a caterpillar larva to its metamorphosis of cocoon to butterfly—was one steeped in struggle, growth, change. This process of transformation resonated strongly with Pheap; it very much reflected his own challenges as a struggling student, but simultaneously reminded him of his personal development and growth as a now-confident local business owner. Thus, in 2012, “Butterfly Tour” was born!
Today, Butterfly Tour has expanded beyond the borders of Battambang, offering bicycle tours in the cities of Siem Reap and Kampot. The company now has a fleet of 50 bicycles and is jointly owned by Pheap and 11 young Cambodians, many of whom come from poor backgrounds, but who all strive to better themselves, eager to improve the socio-economic conditions of their beloved country. Indeed, many butterflies have now taken flight!