Nepal might not be the most progressive country when it comes to women’s issues, but the women of this country are not holding themselves back at all. For this issue of Friday, we decided to speak to four women entrepreneurs who have proved themselves in their respective fields, and who we hope will inspire another generation of women to take charge of their destiny and venture out on their own.
Oshima Banu, a model turned entrepreneur, has been involved in the fashion industry for a long time. She has been involved in the modeling industry since 2011, and it was in 2012 that she came across House of Fashion Nepal.
“Modeling was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I loved every single day I have lived as a fashion model. I was not sure about what to do, but I always knew that I would do something in the fashion industry itself. And I am here now with HOF,” she says.
Nepal being a patriarchal society, there are certainly challenges that a woman has to face, including in the world of business, and Oshima has definitely faced many such challenges. But she is determined to not let it bring her down. She believes you need to find motivation in those challenges and “believe in yourself and chase your dream.”
Oshima’s advice for younger women who want to venture out on their own is very simple. “Always believe in yourself, know and realize why you started something, and mark your goal. Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods,” she says.For Oshima, House of Fashion is her first stepping stone. “It is my baby, and taking it up to an international level is what I dream of. It is not hard for women to make it in any field.If a woman wants, she will do it all with love and care,” she says. Right now, she is taking all the constructive criticism on being a female entrepreneur. She hopes to be an example that taking risk can really be worth it.
Starting a business today might not be easy, but starting a business fourteen years ago in a field that had never been explored in Nepal was challenging on a new level. Lima Adhikari, the founder of Shape up Slimming Center, started the first weight loss center in Nepal at a time when most people did not even know that such a thing was possible.
The slimming center, that now has five branches in Kathmandu and Pokhara, and has satisfied more than 30,000 clients, was pretty difficult to get off the ground. “When I first started, people had many misconceptions about the slimming industry. They thought it would never work. The first year and a half, I used to leave one employee at the office and I and the rest would go to Blue Bird Mall or Bhatbhateni to give out flyers and talk to people,” she says.
Slowly, people started coming, and the business spread through word of mouth. Now, fourteen years later, it is a well-established business that is ever expanding. Nowadays, Lima’s greatest challenge is to constantly upgrade her business, and study what new technologies are being invented around the world and bring them to her clients in Nepal.
For Lima, starting a business was something she was always determined to do. “I have always wanted to start my own business. I did my MBA abroad, and when I came back, most of my friends were working at banks or in some other kind of job. But I always wanted something of my own,” she says. So, Lima, who studied in China and had seen the slimming business boom there, decided to bring it back to Nepal. And though it took some time, it eventually paid off.
Her biggest advice for young women who might be thinking of being an entrepreneur is to take risks. “I think more and more women should start their own business. Due to the facilities and technology, it is so much easier to start a business today. And I really want them to consider trying new things and taking a risk. Do your research, bring in new technology, and do something that has not been done in Nepal before. If I had started a boutique or a parlor when I returned to Nepal, I would not have been as successful as I am today. I took a risk, and it worked. So, take calculated risks and bring in new ideas to the table,” she advises.
Lima, despite her success, is not idle. She is working on plans to expand her business further to Biratnagar and Itahari. “And, who knows, I might start a completely new business too!”
For some people, starting their own venture is about following their own dreams and creating something for themselves. For some others, the reasons are even more personal. ShristiMalla, the owner of Moni Creations, lost her sister Prerna, also known as Moni, in 1992. Her desire to realize the unfulfilled dreams of her older sister is what inspired Shristi to start her own venture, Moni’s Creations.
Shristi describes it as a hobby turned into business. “By establishing Moni’s Creations, I was able to explore my creativity in a diverse range of crafts, from bead work and candle making to glass painting and trousseau packaging, and also become a pioneer in Nepal for stained glass and chocolate making. Gradually, I kept challenging myself as an artist, and ended up introducing certain crafts to Nepal,” she says.
She faced many challenges when starting her business, but they were not necessarily because she was a woman. “My biggest challenge was that, the market was not very receptive in the beginning to my field of work—the Western art of stained glass, and homemade chocolates as corporate gifts,” she says. However, she has worked very hard to overcome those challenges, and is now a successful entrepreneur and an inspiration to many.
Her biggest advice is to follow your dreams and make them your passion. “Don’t be afraid to create your own path, and take risks without fear, for when you reach the pinnacle of success, the view from up there is breathtaking,” she says. She has many more plans for Moni’s Creations. She envisions to continue innovating in the field of corporate gifting and home décor, and reach out to a larger market.
Binita Sotang is a certified expert at starting successful businesses. She has been an entrepreneur for more than a decade and has already had two successful businesses under her wing. She started her first venture, ISEEITFIRST, the club couture, at Durbar Marg in 2005. She kept up the business till 2012, when she had to close down for personal reasons. But, that was not the end of her entrepreneurial career. In 2014, she started Tulip, a fine dining establishment, at Naxal, which she later shifted to International Club at Sanepa.
For Binita, her inspiration for her ventures started with her own interests. She had quite a bit of knowledge about fashion and designing, which is why her first venture was in the shoe business. But, after she closed ISEEITFIRST, she decided to start her second venture with another one of her passions. “I am a foody, so starting a venture in food was a given. My family and friends always tell me that I am very good in bringing people together. So, combining all my interests together and pouring it into a fine dining restaurant seemed like the most obvious path to take,” she says.
Being a woman entrepreneur has been both a challenge and an opportunity for Binita. “It’s fifty/fifty. Some people, especially friends and family, really appreciate my efforts and are very supportive. On the other hand, there are still many people out there who do not want to hear from a woman. They make up their own stories about me, which then brings out the “Raikorish” in me! Personally, I believe my anger to be an asset, however, it is best kept away in public settings.”
Her advice to young entrepreneurs is not to take loans or rent a place, because then you will end up working for the banks and your landlord, rather than for yourself. Rather, find investors for you venture and go from there. Binita, although satisfied with her current venture, has even more plans for the future. She is thinking of starting her own designed furniture... may be at her own residence