About Us


How it all began...

In 2005, the Participatory Development and Training Center (PADETC - www.padetc.org), 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.


Preserve Traditions, Build Sustainably, Protect the Environment


Our Story

Saoban was started by PADETC, Lao NGO, as a fair trade social business that works with traditional handicraft artisans to preserve and promote Lao village crafts, create employment opportunities for villagers - mostly women - and reduce poverty. Saoban means ‘villager’ in the Lao language... [read more]

Our Difference

Saoban works exclusively with economically and socially marginalized producers in Laos by creating opportunities where rural families and communities can pursue a dignified and sustainable livelihood. Saoban is guided by the principles of fair trade, wherein we provide fair pay and safe working conditions for village artisans. An active member of Fair Trade Laos, we adhere to World Fair Trade Organization’s 10 Standards in our day-to-day work... [read more]

Our Artisans

Saoban works with hundreds of artisans across ten provinces in Laos. Many of our artisans lived through the American War and Secret War of the 1960s, and experienced firsthand the upheaval of the revolution in 1975... [read more]

Our Founder

The eldest son of a farming family from Ban Don Khio, Khammouane Province, Sombath Somphone knew about poverty, hunger, and insecurity first hand. In the 1960s, when Sombath was eight or nine years old, his family escaped the Indochina war between the revolutionary Pathet Lao and the Government forces and sought temporary refuge in Thailand... [read more]
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