In 2005, the Participatory Development and Training Center (PADETC), a Lao non-governmental organization working in rural and youth development, recognized the potential of marketing Lao handcrafts to create employment for rural women and alleviate poverty.
Under the leadership of PADETC’s former Director Sombath Somphone, the organization began working with small groups of weavers in a village of Vientiane Province by providing technical guidance for product improvement, small start-up loans, and advice for marketing and business development. Soon, other artisan groups approached PADETC for start-up capital and help with marketing and business development. As the artisan groups and PADETC’s collaboration evolved, it became evident that long-term success for the project required the establishment of a separate entity.
In this gradual, organic process, and guided by Mr. Sombath, Saoban was born. Today, Saoban is a thriving social enterprise committed to working with Lao artisans to preserve their traditions and build sustainable small-scale, environmentally and socially-responsible businesses and income generation opportunities.