As part of a social enterprise, our social businesses support the reintegration of children and youth so they become actively involved in the development of their society. This way, our social businesses are serving Friends’ social mission. The social businesses enable us to achieve a high social profit (positive impact for our beneficiaries) and good financial profit (stable incomes for the beneficiaries and for the organization). This reduces our donor-dependency and increases our sustainability.

Vocational Training for Youth

Where futures are in action: Learning, doing, and growing in a real business environment.

We start with a need: youths from marginalized communities often drop out of school at an early age. They do not always have the skills and support to find a decent job and become independent adults. We assess market opportunities, and identify where job opportunities lie and are aligned to the youth interests. If existing training alternatives are not sufficient, a VT business is often a great solution. We build a vocational training business model, which combines training and business, and allows the students to learn in a real work environment, while helping us be connected and responsive to the market. The money generating from the activities can be used to sustain the project and be reinvested in other social programs.

Our training businesses have attained various levels of development and maturity. Some of them are still in a rather early stage, thus not yet making profits; others are run as highly profitable units. The Vocational training businesses range across sectors; from hospitality, to beauty, mechanic, electricity, and others.

Our most successful training businesses are our training restaurants. Aiming at reaching financial sustainability within the first two years of operation, they are training dozens of young people every year to work in the dramatically growing hospitality sector in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Ethiopia.


The cooking class teaches our students the basic skills in cooking, service and hygiene before they move on to our training restaurants to complete their hospitality education.



Cutting hair, putting make-up on, doing manicure… All the skills you need to do yourself up are taught to our students in our Beauty class and Barber workshop.



Cutting hair, doing make up, performing nail services, expressing creativity through nail art design … Students learn a wide range of skills to apply in the beauty sector.



The motorbike repair workshop teaches our students how to service and repair various types of motorbikes.



Fixing electrical devices, performing air con maintenance, renovating and extending electrical networks – students gain the technical skills to become successful electricians, with a strong focus on safety.



The sewing workshop trains young students to make clothing and handicrafts with all kind of fabrics and materials.



At our welding workshop, students can learn how to fix iron gates and balconies, express their creativity by making decorative welding and furniture and prepare themselves for skilled jobs in construction.

Training & Employment for Parents

Friends’ Income Generating Businesses contract the parents of the children we work with and provide them work and income, so they are able to support their families.

From Home-Based Production…

Friends trains these parents to make handcrafted products using locally-sourced materials such as tire, newspaper, and end-of-roll fabric left over from large factories.

… To our Shops…

Friends ‘n’ Stuff then buys the products from the parents, which generates money to keep their children in school.

… And beyond.

Friends then helps them find independent employment or provides assistance in setting up the parents’ own micro-enterprise, where they can apply the market-linked skills from their training.

Our businesses at a glance

TREE Restaurants

We’re a global alliance of vocational training restaurants for marginalized youth. All restaurants are operated as social businesses with the ultimate goal of building futures for students through on-the-job training and teaching the skills necessary to find a job in the hospitality industry. TREE restaurants serve up creative and local cuisine, fresh juices and cocktails!

Friends 'N' Stuff Shops

Friends ‘n’ Stuff is a lifestyle brand inspired by Southeast Asia that transforms everyday materials to earn money and empower families. After pioneering upcycled fashion in Cambodia, we then expanded to Thailand and Laos. By reinvesting all profit into our social programs, Friends ‘n’ Stuff doesn’t just break the cycle of poverty – we fight to end it.

And more!

Similar to the training restaurant model, our range of vocational training businesses cover various industries, from beauty, to electricity, moto-mechanic, sewing, hairdressing and welding. We put a strong emphasis on high quality work and a great customer experience, allowing our students become successful professionals!

Reach further

As a recognized leader in Social Entrepreneurship and Social Business, Friends actively takes part and contributes to sharing and shaping the future development of social business models with other players in the communities around the world.

Sharing of our Social Business models

As true social entrepreneurs we are constantly on the look out for promising new stuff! After a social business idea has been tested successfully, we work hard at improving it and making it profitable. Once a social business is running smoothly, we strive to develop it into a franchise-like model which can be adapted to and replicated in other partners’ environments.

The TREE Alliance is a great example of our sharing practices. TREE is a global alliance of training restaurants offering its partners in the NGO world access to established high quality standards of practice in the field of social enterprise and extensive support in implementing those. TREE restaurants are based upon the highly successful Friends-International model of social business which provides not only positive beneficiary impact but also customer satisfaction and enhanced sustainability for the organization.

Promoting Social Business

As a leading social enterprise, Friends-International is dedicated to promoting the social business model and to support students, organizations and individuals to develop their ideas and make them reality.

Academics and conferences

On a local level we collaborate with universities and other educational institutions to further promote knowledge and initiatives around social entrepreneurship.

Friends practitioners regularly lead and contribute to lectures and workshops with local and international students linking their classroom activity with practical social business reality. We co-organize and participate in national and international conferences to share and further develop our social business models.


Got an idea or want to partner with us?

At Friends, we’re always curious to explore new ventures! If you would like to share and discuss a social business idea, please get in touch with us.

Get in touch