Over the months I spent in Laos and more so afterwards, I discovered that many people are running businesses in addition to their daytime job. I regularly get requests to like a Lao Facebook friend’s business Page and I’m intrigued by the various commercial endeavours my former students and colleagues are engaged in.
I already knew that Ms. K runs English classes from a little schoolroom that she and her boyfriend constructed next to her family home in a Vientiane village. It appears from her Facebook posts that French and Mandarin are taught at her school as well. Ms K is also very entrepreneurial. We were in a supermarket once where bottles of pop were on sale at two for the price of one. She stocked up her cart while explaining that she could re-sell each bottle for X amount to thirsty students at break-time and make a tidy profit. Two days ago, a photo popped up in Facebook and I see that Ms K is now promoting a makeup line. She’s young because I sometimes wonder where she finds the energy!
Then there’s Ms. N with her baked goods which she started preparing for sale during the Lao lockdown in April. She texted me for some English input and we ran through various words and phrases she could use to help create some successful branding for her products. A few days later, a photo popped up in our Messenger chat and there were Ms. N’s grains cookies packaged and labelled with the wording we’d discussed earlier, “Yum by Nidda, always healthy and homemade”.
Apparently, it’s her sister’s side business that provides the packaging to keep it in the family.
A former student cultivates marigolds which he sells on to the craftspeople who make intricate temple offerings. Another deals in bags of every type for the retail market. If I want to buy baby furniture and toys I know where to go. Ms. P has blouses and handbags while Ms K has sinhs…I spend a lot of time perusing their catalogues.
My favourite side business belongs to Mr. B who facilitated my writing classes when our teaching went online in June. After finishing up at the Institute of Foreign Affairs each day he returns to his duck farm where he puts in an additional 3 hours of work despite employing a manager for his 1100 ducks and 300 ducklings. When I asked him how he was able to balance a demanding daytime job and his business, he stressed the importance of good time management.
I just texted Ms. N to confirm a couple of details we’d talked about this past spring and she mentioned that it’s tiring juggling her day job with her baking business. She’s also a mother of two young girls. That’s three jobs.