Lotus Silk

Utilizing digital skills trainings and support programs to grow exports
Jamaica Gayle
July 20, 2021

Lotus Silk launched with a single sewing machine and the mission to revive and promote Cambodia’s silk weaving traditions. Today, founder Vannary San works with communities and producers from across the countries to create silk, jewelry, scarves, accessories, apparel and decor items.

Every Lotus Silk product is sourced and created completely in-country to empower communities and provide sustainable income for the Cambodian population. The businesses’ two workshops Phnom Penh, host a full-time team of 10 tailors.

Sharing Traditions with the World

Since 2005, when the business was founded, San has made it her mission to ensure that the traditions and craft of Cambodia’s silk are not lost.

What started as a single sewing machine in San’s home, quickly grew in product and global reach. To show the world the quality of craftsmanship and materials that can be made in Cambodia, San started exporting many of her goods globally. Today, the businesses’ largest markets are South Korea, Canada, the United States and Germany.

San attributes digitally-enabled tools in helping her achieve her first global retail and wholesale customers. After building a website to showcase Lotus Silk, people from everywhere could see and learn about their products made from Cambodia silkworms, banana leaves and other local materials.

Trainings to Fast-Track Exporting

To help fast-track her international journey, San sought out the assistance of several training and trade promotion programs along the way. Early in her exporting days, to learn more about “marketing, planning, creating an export plan,” she participated in a program hosted by the International Trade Centre and Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce.

Since the pandemic, Lotus Silk has also worked remotely with the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries, an organization that helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from developing countries export their products to Europe.

San emphasized the importance of skills trainings and support for entrepreneurs in Cambodia. Through Lotus Silk, San also opened Silk House, Cambodia’s first interactive silk museum and a place for the community to access education, adventure, support and an opportunity for cooperation.

Going forward

In April of 2020, Lotus Silk faced one of its largest hurdles. During a normal year, Khmer New Year festivities would signify a rise in demand for silk products. Tourists and locals would buy woven silks to use in the New Year, but the pandemic put a stop to nearly all of last year’s orders.

The Lotus Silk founder shared that the fall in demand and loss of foreign tourists forced her business into a standstill. In the first few months, the team tried to sell the extra inventory directly to customers online with little success. To adapt to the needs of the consumers, San eventually reconstructed products like pillows or home decor into masks to meet the demand.

Before the pandemic, San was not only reviving Cambodia’s silk culture but also inspiring other women to join her. Today, she shows no signs of stopping as she uses her preservations and entrepreneurship to share her culture with the world while supporting her community back at home.

Vannary San