Woman Behind the Success of the Award-Winning Urban Village & Factory Phnom Penh

“Being physically smaller doesn’t mean that we are weaker intellectually”, said Catherine Chan, Founder and Executive Director of Urban Village & Factory Phnom Penh and the Director of Goldfame Group.

Catherine Chan is a woman executive currently managing multi-million-dollar businesses in both the real estate and garment industries in Cambodia. She is the Founder & Executive Director of Urban Village & Factory Phnom Penh and the Director of the Goldfame Group. Though born in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, Catherine holds both Hong Kong and Cambodian citizenship, and more importantly, always proudly considers herself as Khmer.

What she achieved has inspired a lot of other Cambodian women not to be afraid of building their own kingdoms just like her in the real estate sector, which once was believed to be a male-dominated business.

Though being the heir of the renowned Goldfame Group’s owner, her work life is not a bed of roses. To achieve her success today, she has faced and overcome a lot of challenges.

“In 2010, after I was certified as a Chartered Accountant in Hong Kong, I told my friends that I was going to Cambodia, they were all so shocked and asked me why I was going to a country that is so much different from Hong Kong. I was a blank paper in the garment business from the start. Despite my education being higher than the other colleagues, I started as a junior merchandiser. I knew my ultimate goal is to manage the whole company in the end. I must see every part of the business,” said Catherine.

“I am a true believer in hard work and dedication. I always started early and was the last one to leave the office. It paid off. A few years later, I became the commercial director of the company handling clientele-related issues and the design department in Spain,” she added.

Catherine did not stop despite her success in the garment business. Starting with the observation of her and her husband, Mr Ben Li, that their employees were complaining about the difficulty of finding decent homes in Cambodia back then, they are now the owner of the famous Urban Village, the largest Hong Kong-invested condo development in Cambodia and Factory Phnom Penh, the biggest creative hub in Southeast Asia.

“We heard from our staff that they also want a home. This was one of the key reasons why we started in real estate. I also saw that there is a lot of room for improvement for the condo development in the city, that was why we embarked on building the iconic landmark, Urban Village & Factory Phnom Penh,” said Catherine.

Under her management with her husband and her team, Urban Village condominium is the only project in Cambodia that has been awarded “The Best Condo Development” for two consecutive years in 2019 and 2020. The project is also Cambodia’s first project winning “Best Condo Development in Asia Award” in 2019 and “Best Co-working Space in Asia Award” in 2020 at the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards’ grand finals. A source of pride for Cambodia, to date, Urban village has won a total of 16 awards.

When asked about her strategies behind the success in both industries, Catherine said there is no shortcut to success, and only hard work will pay off with the excellent prize.

“No pain, no gain and there is no shortcut toward success. Many people gave up when they faced challenges or didn’t have a clear goal before they started. Many people doubted I could lead a multi-million company in male-dominated industries because I am a woman. Frankly, I do not see myself as a brilliant person, but I believe hard work pays off. People work 8 hours a day. I work 12 to 18 hours. Time is valuable. The success of Urban Village is a great example of hard work,” she said.

Urban Village has become the best-selling and most famous condo development in Cambodia due to its high standards compared to others. All of her projects are managed by third-party consultants to make sure that they meet the international quality and standards. Those consultants include Cole Atelier, Oliver Ho & Associates, Meinhardt Group, and Colors.

“Deep down, we know that Cambodia has a lot of potential and it is definitely one of the best countries in the region to invest in real estate, however, some foreign investors do not entirely trust or are willing to invest in Cambodia because some developers focus on one-off profit and leave the country which has badly ruined the country’s market,” said Catherine.

“However, we are different. Our strategy is creating a win-win scenario. For instance, our buyers in Urban Village get their homes in a good place at a value price. Our tenants at Factory Phnom Penh, they have good businesses due to the quality of our community,” she added.

Besides her success in Cambodia, in November 2020, Catherine was also officially awarded the “Golden Bauhinia Women Entrepreneurs Award 2020.”

Given these outstanding achievements, Catherine proudly encourages all other women in the real estate sector and other businesses to believe in themselves, be strong, and follow their dreams.

“Never stop learning and keep working hard. Do not be diminished just because you are a woman. Be confident that you have the ability. Just set a goal and put huge effort to achieve it,” she advised.

***This article was originally published on Construction & Property News.