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20 April, 2016 - 18:58 By Tony Quested

Enterprise blooms in the shadow of the killing fields

cambodia, footprint cafe

Hope is the new harvest envisioned by Cambridge entrepreneurs sowing the seeds of enterprise in a Cambodia still bearing the scars of the killing fields.

Scientist, entrepreneur and enterprise champion Darrin Disley has today injected $150,000 of his own money into Footprint Cafés – a social enterprise founded by Cambridge Judge Business School graduate Georgina Hemmingway to help the country fight back from arguably the greatest human tragedy of the modern era by enhancing literacy, enterprise and fair-trade to fashion sustainable, vibrant local communities.

Dr Disley, CEO at quoted personalised medicines business Horizon Discovery, has also become a trustee of the registered charity and is leading its drive for an initial $350k of launch funding.

He chose today to make the investment to mark being conferred with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion. Another Cambridge UK entrepreneur, former Queen’s Award winner and Judge Business School stalwart Professor Alan Barrell, who helped mentor the fledgling venture, is also a trustee.

Genocide by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge executioners in the 1970s – 2.2 million educated, cultured and enterprising citizens were killed out of a population of seven million – has left 50 per cent of Cambodians under the age of 21 and with a life expectancy of 64 years. Eighty per cent are living in rural areas where access to schooling is particularly difficult.

Footprint Cafés bids to leverage the country’s thriving travel & tourism trade; to raise more money to enable local communities to train future generations of home-grown entrepreneurs; and to transform Cambodian life and society through sustainable educational and enterprise projects.

Hemmingway wants Footprint Cafés to become the world’s first chain of sustainable tourist cafés that re-invest 100 per cent of net profits back into the local community via grants for long-term ventures for societal benefit.

The business model has already been a success in Siem Reap, Cambodia and the programme is currently being expanded to the country’s cultural city of Battambang.
Hemmingway’s vision, now supported by Dr Disley, is to scale the model across South-East Asia and then globally.

A life long traveller with a keen interest in international development and proven record of establishing a successful social enterprise, Footprint Cafes encompasses all of her passions and skills.

Before entering the world of social entrepreneurship Georgina worked in the political arena heading the parliamentary offices of two government ministers as well as coordinating the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Debt, Aid and Trade. Her work as a political consultant to Publish What You Fund saw the organisation secure $400,000 in grant funding.

Dr Disley says his commitment of $150,000 serves as a cornerstone investment of a fundraising campaign aimed at raising $1 million by the end of 2017 with a first close of $350,000 by the end of 2016.

The funds will enable the enterprise to become sustainable in the long term rolling out five cafés in 2016/17/18 and 15 by 2020. Each block of five profitable cafés will be able to self-fund an additional profitable café every year from the second year of operation.

He said: “Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. It represents a massive opportunity to connect and empower local communities. “At the moment that opportunity is being wasted with profits being drained off-shore to wealthy owners with education and skills development being limited to the immediate needs of the tourism industry.

“This leaves skills and jobs at the mercy of macroeconomic trends and geo-political events in the countries concerned and is not a model for sustainable community development.
“Footprint Cafés will connect the global to the local by harnessing the spending power of tourism as a force for local change and empower one amazing café at a time.” Why start in Cambodia? Georgie Hemmingway says: “Cambodia is experiencing unprecedented levels of tourism. Last year over four million people visited. Despite this tourist boom, poverty, early year malnourishment and lack of access to education are the norm for the majority of the young population.

“Nearly 40 per cent of children under five suffer from chronic malnourishment and there are many barriers to gaining a full education. In Siem Reap, a town that bustles with tourists in the evening, you will find groups of children begging on the street and even searching through restaurant bins to  find food.” Dr Disley added: “Years of civil war and the brutality of the Khmer Rouge brought the country to its knees.

Over the past decade young Khmers have started to rebuild their nation but it's a task made all the more difficult by the deliberate execution of educated people in the previous generation by Pol Pot's regime.

“Footprint  Cafés aims to establish itself in every corner of the world, becoming 'the brand' for tourists who care, giving them an authentic local experience combined with world class standards.”
How you can help?
Do you have any fiction or children’s books that you can spare? Would you be willing to organise a book drive at work or school? 
Footprint Cafés will send your donated books to Cambodia donating any children’s books to rural schools and selling all fiction books in their cafes as holiday reads for tourists. 
All money raised from book sales in the cafes will be given to the local community as grants for educational projects. Donors are encouraged to write messages in the books to the unknown buyer. 
Cafe customers will be encouraged to take pictures of themselves with the books they buy on their travels to post on Footprint Cafés’ social media.
• If you would like to donate books or to organise a book drive please email //info [at]">info [at]

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