Stella: a space for young people to create

Two young Australia Awards scholarship recipients from different education backgrounds co-founded Stella, a social enterprise, with one common goal: to empower Lao youth to reach their potential and realise their dreams

It started when a number of young people in their final years of high school or fresh out of university approached Mr Khouanfa Siriphone (Jeng) and Ms Souphaphone Danmany (Lou) to teach them communications and other soft skills on weekends. Jeng and Lou quickly discovered that young Lao people felt they were not ready for their future and wanted to be better equip themselves with professional and social soft-skills.

Inspired by these young people and their dedication to better themselves, Jeng and Lou gave up their jobs in 2015 to set up Stella. The idea was to turn an empty space into a co-working space where young creatives, dreamers, and entrepreneurs could come together to foster their ideas and build meaningful connections.

“We started off with two old laptops and a red sofa in a 2.5m x 4m room that were borrowed to us in-kind. Now we have 14 people in our team with two spaces including four-stories flat where we can do more of soft skills development for high-schoolers. It wasn’t easy, but the quote I chanted a lot while planning to start Stella was: jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.” – Jeng

Stella is partnering with many private and international organisations including Australian businesses and Australian funded programs including Vientiane College, Pass It Back, and Elevations Laos. Stella offers a wide range of services encompassing innovative program design, creative monitoring and evaluation, business incubation, volunteer matching, and small grant scheme for youth. To date, the impact on the community is impressive with more than 1200 youths trained, 34 youth initiatives supported, and more than 200 volunteers were matched.

Laos is known for its rich resources, particularly its young population, who are the backbone of the country. Australian alumni, from café owners who create jobs for young Lao people to social enterprises like Stella that are training a quality workforce, are contributing to the sustainable economic development for Laos. The skills transfer between Australian alumni and Australian businesses makes us confident that we will be have many more inspiring stories in the years to come