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What do you do?

September 19, 2010

A simple question that crosses continents and cultures. Posed by friends and family who don’t understand why I would move to Cambodia. Asked by local expatriates who are likely to be involved in an NGO, social business or hospitality & tourism. Shouted from a tuk tuk or politely asked by a local at a restaurant. Wherever you are, I’ve found that people want to know what you do.

[Sidebar: It’s a bit unfortunate that who we are is completely defined by what we do during our first interactions with each other. Granted that in Cambodia, many of us are extremely passionate about the work we do but it isn’t the sum of who we are.]

This is the moment when I feel like I should be dropping a rehearsed and impressive sounding elevator pitch. But, I don’t have one. Instead I say something that combines the following phrases: social business + weaving in Takeo province + exporting to U.S.A. + fashion & home products.

Not particularly clear, right? Certainly not passionate enough to rally someone to my cause. During my boss’ visit in July, we sat down and started talking about what this company means to us. What do we each think it is and could be? What values are most important to us? From that we started to formulate our vision and mission.

So, go ahead. Ask me again. Leigh, what do you do?

I run a social business that is a collaboration between East and West. Khmers and Westerners work together to design fabrics that honor the integrity of Khmer weaving while also appealing to western sensibilities.  We transform traditional Cambodian Ikat designs into modern, globally resonating fabrics, which are used to create a line of fashion and home décor accessories.

So, this is what I do and why I had to move across the globe to do it.

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