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24 April, 2019 - 14:01 By Tony Quested

Cambridge leaves ‘Footprint’ in Cambodia and sets sights on new chapter in Thailand

Footprint Cafes, a Cambridge social enterprise with big dreams to link mass global tourism to empowered local communities, has taken its next step by opening an enterprise hub above it’s first café in Siem Reap, Cambodia. 

The venture, which is backed by Cambridge entrepreneurs Dr Darrin Disley and Professor Alan Barrell, wants the new space to be a catalyst for collaboration between the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’ and Cambridge.

Dr Disley, said: “Footprint’s first café has been a great success. Within six months of opening it became financially self-sufficient, within 18 months it was delivering on all 3Ps of its triple bottom line model – People, Planet, Profit. 

“Last August, Footprint donated its profits as book grants to four local organisations focused on providing quality education to some of Siem Reap’s most vulnerable communities. 

“The café has inspired market wide change in environmental sustainability by helping to create ‘The Café Collective’ which promotes best practice amongst cafes in Siem Reap. It has also encouraged and supported its young local team to follow their dreams. For example, Footprint sponsors its team to take part in national competitions. 

“One of its first baristas, Piseth, is now the National Cambodian Barista Champion and has his own café in Phnom Penh. The enterprise hub is the next exciting step. I’m looking forward to seeing young local talent grow and succeed.”

Collaboration is already underway with Cambridge University’s Dr Belinda Bell, director of the Social Ventures programme, visiting the Kingdom to launch the hub’s first series on social innovation and enterprise this March. More visiting speakers are expected later in the year including Dr Disley and fellow Footprint trustee Professor Barrell. 

Footprint founder, Georgina Hemmingway, is hoping a regular programme of visiting MBA students to support community startups will soon be established – beginning with students from Cambridge Judge Business School. Hemmingway is an alumna of Judge Business School as well as Dr Bell’s Cambridge Social Ventures programme. 

Speaking about the new hub she said: “Cambridge is an incredible community. It has a breadth and depth of knowledge, skills and talent rarely seen in the world. It was that concentration of talent and experience that allowed Footprint to flourish when the idea was first pitched in Hot Numbers in Gwydir Street in 2016. 

“The Siem Reap community is also very special. It has a young, ambitious population who are thirsty for knowledge but often deprived of opportunity. They are keen to use enterprise as a tool to empower themselves and their community. 

“Seeing Cambridge come to Cambodia really is a dream come true. I have no doubt that continued collaboration between these two fantastic cities will have a very positive impact on both communities.”

Cambodia is a young country still rebuilding after the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime which saw up to two million people perish during the genocide of the late ’70s. 

Tourism is one of the leading sectors for the emerging economy with millions of tourists visiting Siem Reap each year to see the beautiful Angkor Wat and surrounding temples. 

Despite the boom in tourism, Siem Reap is still one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia. The spiral of poverty prevents many young Cambodians accessing basic education and skills. 

The new enterprise space will not only bring talent and knowledge to Siem Reap but also feed directly into Footprint’s triple bottom line business model of  ‘People, Planet, Profit’ by donating 100 per cent of profits as educational and entrepreneurial grants for the local community. 

Footprint cafeThe new enterprise hub is just the beginning of Footprint’s 2019 ambitions. A second café is planned on the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand, later this year. Footprint’s second café will follow its 3Ps mission with the wider mission of making Koh Phangan the first plastic free island in Thailand.

The second Footprint café in Thailand will also be a book café. In 2016 Footprint’s first café received over 8,000 books from Cambridge businesses, schools, individuals and University departments. 

Footprint is asking the Cambridge community to help get its second café off on the right foot once again with another book drive this May.

“The Cambridge community were fantastic for our first book drive,” added Alan Barrell. “We had dozens of businesses, university departments and groups organising collections for us. Those books were vital in making the first café a success, drawing in tourists and helping to generate grant money. It would be wonderful if we could do the same again.”

Footprint is asking for softback books for its second drive. If you can imagine yourself reading it on a beach, they want it. The books will be collected in May during National Story Sharing Month. If you would like to contribute to the drive please email: georgie [at] footprintcafes.org 

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