I went on a tour here in Laos last week and became friends with the owner of the tour company. I have had dinner with him, his wife and some of his other friends a couple of times this week.
When he asked me what I do I said, I create websites. His company didn’t have a website, but he was keen to get one up. A company in Vietnam quoted him $500.
I offered to do it for free, as long as he provided all of the text. He has hundreds of pictures on CD-ROM so I thought it would be good to install Gallery2. I also wanted to make it easy for him to update it later, so I decided to install WordPress with a free template.
You can see the final result here. I think he was pretty happy with it. Over a few beers and shots of “la la” (fiery Laos rice wine) he told me about his life growing up in Laos.
His father didn’t have enough money to send him to college, so his father agreed to sell one of the families buffaloes as long as he paid back the money after he graduated and started working. He declined invitations to go out drinking with his friends to save money. When he told his friends why he had to save money, he earned the nickname “buffalo boy”.
After graduating, he worked in various guest houses and tour companies. He was also a national kayaking champion. He eventually started his own tour company, buying a truck and some kayaks from Thailand. At one point his house got burnt down and lost almost everything. He had to sleep outside, because it would bring bad luck to anyone’s house he stayed at. At some stage his wife left him.
He now rents a shop in Vangvieng ($1000 a year) and remarried to a beautiful lady, who is also a great cook. They have plans to take over the shop next door and open a restaurant.
I am not exactly sure what kind of point I am trying to make, but it is hard not to be touched by these kinds of stories. Entrepreneurs everywhere have their own difficulties to face and I suppose the important thing is to keep getting up when you get knocked down.