Koky Saly is the Founder of BeeKeeper Parade, a business founded to inspire change. The social enterprise upcycles textile waste by re-creating it into beautiful backpacks and bags.
What made you take the leap into starting your own business?
BeeKeeper Parade was created to help me fund the education of children attending the five schools I had already built in Cambodia through a charity organisation I had set-up in 2007 called BabyTree Projects. Initially, it was called Boy & Bee. It was about a 10-year-old boy who thought he could change the world. But learnt that he couldn’t until he worked with his best friend the Bee (which was his sister’s role). It was about friendship, teamwork and an unwavering belief in yourself.
The name was changed to BeeKeeper after my sister passed away from cancer. She left me her car in her will, with instructions to sell it and use the proceeds to make sure that the business Boy & Bee would be created, and inspire change in the world. Coping with the loss of my sister and the grief and depression that came with it has been my greatest challenge.
That boy in the original project didn’t exist anymore. I had changed. In the last months of my sister’s life, I spent every day at the hospital helping take care of her. I felt like I was her carer and her keeper. Since she was the Bee in the original title and I now was her keeper, I changed the title to BeeKeeper.
Even though we are currently focused on products, BeeKeeper is not limited to anything but our imagination. We have created backpacks, but also an event called The Great Tuk Tuk Rally. I’m also in the middle of finalising my novel. All of these projects are meant to inspire change in the world.
How did you get your business started?
With my heart and soul. I made a promise to myself that I would make this project happen. And I intend to keep it.
What lessons have you learned so far on your business journey?
That the one voice you should listen to above anyone else, is your own.
How important for you has it been to have a mentor?
I haven’t had a mentor. I like problem solving and working things out for myself. It is a meaningful way of way exploring, learning and enjoying the challenges and triumphs of my journey so far. I wouldn’t discount a mentor, but it would have to be the right kind of person.
What are your top 3 tips for starting a business?
1. Learn to be a promise keeper. If you say you will do something, then do it. The greatest promise you can ever make in this life are the ones you make to yourself. Be brave to make promises to yourself and when all the challenges come rolling in, find a way to keep it.
2. Seek promise keepers and surround yourself with promise keepers. The ones that do what they say they will do will help you on your journey. Do not be afraid to cut out promise breakers. You don’t have time for them. Trust me.
3. Have the courage to listen to your own voice. After all, you are the only one in this project that has risked all, for your own dream. You have earnt the right to have your voice heard above anyone else. You are the only one in the middle of a storm. And fly or fall, let it be because of decisions you made, on your own terms, and nobody else’s.
"Have the courage to listen to your own voice. After all, you are the only one in this project that has risked all, for your own dream." - Koky Saly, Founder of BeeKeeper Parade
We also teamed up with Momentary filmmakers to tell Koky’s story. Watch it on YouTube!