FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Which shops were started first?
The shop in Hô Chí Minh City opened first in 2003, in Hà-Nội 2007, and in Phnom Penh in 2009. Today there are 6 shops: Hô Chí Minh City (1 shop), Hà-Nội (2 shops), Hoi An (1 shop), Phnom Penh (1 shop) and Siem Reap (1 shop).
Does Mekong+ mainly operate in Vietnam?
As with our retail stores, the social enterprise has workshops in both Cambodia and Vietnam. The work shops are based in the areas that our NGO Mekong Plus operates their community development initiatives.
Where does the money go ?
As a social entreprise, Mekong+ endeavors to compensate the artisans with a fair income. They are paid on a piece rate basis, so that experienced workers usually earn more than trainees. In most cases the income is substantial for the artisan and her family. Through this employment program, Mekong+ have created and maintained stable financial security for the women, independent of climate or market prices, diseases on crops or epidemics killing livestock. The majority of the artisans earn more than $100/month, thus approximately doubling their previous earnings.
While the women gain economic benefit, every dollar of profits gets re-invested into their villages. The profits are carefully managed by Mekong Plus (NGO) and its partners and invested in community development initiatives such as micro financing, education scholarships and environmental/agricultural programs. A few examples can be seen on the website: http://www.mekongplus.org/en/help/what-it-costs.html . There are numerous personal stories (http://www.mekongplus.org/en/publications/short-stories.html) as well as videos depicting all the activities (http://www.mekongplus.org/en/publications/videos.html).
The projects are strongly based on people's participation. The impact is huge, the costs are low, and the people can proudly say: "We did it ourselves". See a few impressive figures about the impact: http://www.mekongplus.org/en/mission/figures.html
How many sustainable jobs has Mekong+ created so far?
About 300 women are employed full time. We aim at increasing this number, depending on sales. When we have special orders this number can increase. Each person supports another 4 on average, thus indirectly over 1500 people.
How much do the women producing Mekong+ products earn?
During the training period they earn about $2/day; after 3-4 months they earn $80 or more. On average, the more experienced artisans can earn approximately $100US. This may sound little in comparison to wages in first world countries, however living costs in rural Vietnam and Cambodia are considerably lower.
Why do we not pay them more?
Our social enterprise aims at benefiting as many women as possible with sustainable employment and a stable income. With this in mind, we work at improving the lives of many people, rather than a select few.
Do you sell all products in all shops?
We do our best to stock all our stores with the full product ranges, but sometimes demand far exceeds supply.
Do you export ?
We have a few international business partners, who retail a select range of products like our bamboo bikes, and quilts and cushions.
We also have customers who support our social enterprise by organizing direct sales in their home countries. They buy a number of products from one of our shops, then invite their friends for a tea party or else, sell what they have, show the range of products on our websites, and order more.
How do you decide to train and employ more women?
Demand for our products determines when we employ more women. We prefer the women have time to rest, and we also want as many women as possible to be involved. But if the people do not have enough work, they may quit at any time, and their skills will not improve.
At present we have about 300 women at work, almost full time. Because we aim at the best quality and there are new designs the women need to be trained for.
Our challenge is to work in the context of the community development programs, in poor villages. We provide employment and the women must commit to keep their children at school, sanitation must be improved, diversification of income & sources of income must be a priority (raising chicken or pigs, vegetable gardens etc.)
Where are the workshops located ?
The social enterprise now employs about 300 women in communities northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Duc Linh and Tanh Linh, Ham Thuan Nam (Binh Thuan Province), and in the Mekong delta: Long My (Hau Giang province); and in Rumdoul (Svay Rieng province) in Cambodia.
Why and when did Mekong Creations and Mekong Quilts merge into Mekong+ ?
After many years trading as 2 separate social enterprises, Mekong Quilts and Mekong Creations, we have recently decided (mid 2015) to merge them together to create a unified brand, Mekong+. This enables us to operate as a single entity, reducing our need to differentiate between the 2.
Do you organize visits to the villages where your products are made?
Yes, from time to time we have people who come to visit the workshops; from school groups to clients. It is an opportunity to see how our employment program operates and how it is integrated with our other programs such as health, education, microcredit, agriculture, environment etc.
How to mount a city bike ?
Not difficult! See the guide
How to mount a bamboo hammock stand ?
Not difficult neither! See the guide