A perfect example of fair trade, Shop With a Story gives us a taste of handmade Nepali products like candles, coffee, buttons, sukuls (straw mats), paper pencils, flowers, natural colour dyed scarves, shawls using variety of products like pashmina, raw silk and bamboo, etc. Located inside Babarmahal Revisited, it promotes local producers. The venture is based on a social entrepreneurship model initiated by Change Fusion Nepal, an organisation working for social empowerment since 2008.
Some of the notable producers are The Candlestick Women, Soap Nuts Jewellary, Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes, Friend Handicrafts, Women’s Dreams Beauty & Multi-Service, Dekani Crafts, Alpine Coffee Estate, Stupa Incense, MathurubhumiChulo, among others. Price ranges from Rs. 50 Rs to 7000.
Ten producers offer their products out of which six are women, says Luna Shrestha Thakur, Co-Founder of Change Fusion. The collective producers store was founded in January 2015. It replaced the room used by Change Fusion and the entire assets were managed by the producers themselves. According to Thakur, the business is doing well but has been affected by the earthquake and blockade.
Empowering producers has been my goal, Thakur explains. Lack of good education, technical knowledge and marketing skills was compelling these producers to deal with middle man to sell their products, a process in which they were losing their identity. We started this store to give an identity to their product and to give them a chance to determine the right price for their products, Thakur elaborates.
Entrepreneurs manage the area expenses by themselves. Maximum profit goes to them whereas the salary of the sales assistant is calculated on the basis of sales. We keep five percent of their profit to help them stay within a system, the market and towards networking. says Thakur. We have a turnover of around one lakh rupees a month,she adds.
Our goal is to make small entrepreneurs confident by pushing their limits, she says. Though given lot of workshops and trainings, it is quite challenging to change the mindset and the method of working they have been following since years, she states. Thakur uses innovative methods of management training to inculcate professionalism among the producers which include encouraging responsibility, saving for emergencies and unforeseen expenses, and penalty when they are careless. We work on building the three C’s (confidence, communications and connections) of the social entrepreneurs. In the regular workshop, they learn about professionalism, thinking from a customers point of view, pricing, packaging, marketing, etc. They also had the opportunity to visit Thailand this September. A person who had never left their village went to Bangkok which helped them to explore and develop their personality, she says.
The previous Bangkok visit opened a new door for them. The team is now going to showcase their products in the Nepal Festival in Bangkok being organised on the occasion of the earthquake anniversary from April 22 to 26.
According to Nirjara Shrestha, Co-founder of Friend Handicrafts, Shop with a Story has increased their networking and also provided them with international exposure. Similarly, Sudha Basnet, Founder of Womens Dreams Beauty & Multi-Service and also found a lot of changes in herself after joining the platform. We have been getting a lot of support and our products are gaining recognition, says Basnet.
Thakur is also exploring the online market, The best thing to do is to go online, we get lot of requests from people living abroad saying, we could not come to Nepal, but atleast we can buy your products, but how? However, it is a big step setting the whole system. We will take time to go for it.
She concludes saying, We want to reach out to more producers so that we can empower them. We want to help them bring out the best products possible. Many of our producers lost their home to the earthquake, their machinery. Despite this, we want them to not lose hope but to move ahead despite the challenges.