Unassuming at first glance, Project Y is a frozen yogurt shop located in Cambodia, situated next to the popular Siem Reap Night Market. The shop has 16 flavors, many of which include your classic tastes and a few stand outs for the more adventurous, like Burnt Caramel and Blood Orange. Open in the evening, seven days a week, Project Y becomes the must-have for passer byers hankering for a sweet treat.
Yet, it is what happens in the store’s off-hours that truly captures the meaning of Project Y. During the day when the shop is closed, Project Y converts the shop into a classroom for NGO students to use. Project Y Frozen Yogurt is an Education Social Enterprise set up by the Cambodia Rural School Trust (CRST) in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This store is owned by CRST and operated by the students of CRST – a not-for-profit NGO with the mission of breaking the poverty cycle through education. All profits of the store remain in the NGO to sponsor their students High School & University education, as well as fund community projects.
To understand better how Project Y came to be and what it has done for the community, we had the opportunity to speak with the founder, Aviv Palti.
Aviv and his team were inspired to establish the NGO after visiting Cambodia in 2008 to volunteer at an orphanage. At the orphanage the desire for a better education among the students was evident, Aviv seeing that “students here just needed the opportunity.”
Thus came the NGO, Cambodia Rural School Trust. The NGO, rooted by a need for better access to education among the rural community, has had a significant impact on the students’ lives. Aviv explains the cyclical effect of the NGO, “The students that we have, have not just taken the education for themselves, they’ve actually taken the education on for their families as well.”
Aviv goes on to say, “So when they come to study in the best high school in town, the best university in town, all of a sudden they get the best education from the best teachers and they can really fly. And as a result, that raises their confidence, they’re able to be a lot more contributing to society.”
That brings this back to the Frozen Yogurt Shop. The shop was structured in a way that allows students to run the entire operation by themselves, and teach them valuable business skills. The NGO provides the students with the mentoring they need to run the Sales Department, the Marketing Department, the Finance Department and so forth, making the shop completely run and managed by the students.
To help power the business, and more importantly, empower the students, Aviv states that “Revel allows us to really teach the finance team members what accountability is about as far as how we serve customers and taking the change.It allows us to teach the members of production to read how much of each of the yogurts we’ve sold, what toppings are popular, what’s the typical waste, average sales, and all the mechanics in the business.”
Aviv reflects on the disparity of income equality from his home town, Australia, and rural Cambodia. Where one dollar could sustain a person in Cambodia for three meals, one dollar can’t even buy a bottle of water in Australia. It’s this perspective that showed he and his team that they could bring a ton of value to this community.
That same frozen yogurt shop, nestled in Siem Ream, Cambodia, is much more, it is an engine for education. Project Y has lifted people out of poverty into full empowerment by focusing on education, because as Aviv puts it “education is what allows people to help themselves.”
If you are interested in making a donation to sponsor the students’ education and community projects, click here for sponsorship options!
Aviv and his students will be delivering a keynote at Revelry! 2017 in San Francisco on October 12th and 13th. Join the founder and members of the program as they speak to utilizing Revel to learn business best practices and how to empower young business entrepreneurs and leaders. Click here to register!