Koky Saly’s business upcycles textile waste by turning it into eye-catching backpacks and bags, and proceeds go towards funding education for children in Cambodia.
BeeKeeper Parade was established to help fund the education of children across five schools Koky and his sister, Sophia, had built in Cambodia through a charity organisation they’d set up in 2007 called BabyTree Projects.
“Education has always been something that I've highly valued, so I thought if more kids in Cambodia can have access to quality education then that would allow them to lift themselves out of poverty.”
“I decided that the only thing that I really felt that I was going to make a difference with was to literally get into Cambodia and help rebuild the country. So, I started a charity in 2006. We actually raised close to half a million dollars in the eight-year span.”
Initially, his more recent BeeKeeper Parade business was named Boy & Bee, Koky tells us, but the tragic passing of his sister inspired a name change and drove Koky to make BeeKeeper Parade what it is today.
“It was about a 10-year-old boy who thought he could change the world. But learnt that he couldn't, until he worked with his best friend, the Bee – my sister. It was about friendship, teamwork and an unwavering belief in yourself.
“The name was changed to BeeKeeper after my sister passed away from cancer. She left me her car in her will, with instructions to sell it and use the proceeds to make sure that the business, Boy & Bee would be created and inspire change in the world.
“In the last months of my sister's life, I spent every day at the hospital helping take care of her. I felt like I was her carer and her keeper. Since she was the Bee in the original title and I was now her keeper, I changed the title to BeeKeeper.”
Koky’s story is an inspiring one, and by working to overcome the challenges of grief and depression after the loss of his sister, he has been taking BeeKeeper and himself from strength to strength.
“With my heart and soul, I made a promise to myself that I would make this BeeKeeper project happen. And I intend to keep it,” he says.
“We have created backpacks, but also an event called The Great Tuk Tuk Rally. I'm also in the middle of finalising my novel. All of these projects are meant to inspire change in the world.”
Back in 2004 Koky graduated from RMIT’s Bachelor of Media and Communication and then, a few years after, took up the Master of International Development, which he graduated from in 2014. His experiences are just part of what has helped him keep his vision for BeeKeeper moving along.
“I think there's a lot of good things about RMIT. It’s lessons learnt not within the classroom but outside of the classroom.”
So, does he have any specific advice for those seeking to bring about change in the world through their own enterprising efforts?
“The power to change the world sits inside every single person’s heart. Have the audacity to use your imagination and command it with your heart because that’s where all the answers are."
Find out more about what all the buzz is about at www.beekeeperparade.com.
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