Sitara Rajbhandari

My Journey from Housewife To Woman Entrepreneur

Sitara Rajbhandari

I am very exultant today to write about myself as a woman entrepreneur. I am very exuberant to be able to present myself as an entrepreneur even though nobody in my parent’s family or my husband’s family was in business.

My Family

I belong to an orthodox Newar family. During my younger days, i.e. around 30 years before, girls in these families were given good education but were not allowed to work. The reason for this being that the boy’s family to whom the girl would be wedded may not like the working woman. After completing the education, they were married. The same was my fate. After studying up to Bachelor level I got married.

My husband is very liberal and have progressive mind. I am very lucky to have him. First fifteen yeas of my married life was spent in household chore and raising my children. In the mean time, I started having allergic reaction, chest pain due to tension from time to time. My husband thought that it might be because I had to stay home alone after he and the children left for the office and the school. He suggested why don’t I go out and do some work and see whether that improves my health or not.

The Opportunity

During those days, with nothing to do during the daytime, I used to read newspaper daily. One day I noticed the advertisement from the Nepal Bankers Association and Small Business Promotion Project (SBPP) inviting the unemployed graduates to participate in the training for “New Business Creation” course.

The project office of SBPP was near to my home. I could attend the training without hampering my daily chore. Thinking about utilizing my free time, I asked my husband about it. He immediately agreed with me and the very next day, he went and brought me the form. Then, he told me that I should go and submit the form myself.

After so many years spent as a housewife, doing nothing but the household chore and raising children, I felt myself more like an illiterate woman than an unemployed graduate. Hence, feeling very nervous and with a pounding heart, I went to submit the form. My nervousness increased even more when I saw that the participants would be selected only after an interview.

I was worried and asked my husband what to do. He encouraged me to go and give the interview. He said “Don’t worry that you may not be able to answer some of the questions. Nobody knows all the answer. It doesn’t matter whether you are selected or not.”

So I went and gave the interview. Since the program was co-organized by the Nepal Banker Association, there were many interviewers. I was so nervous during the interview

that I was not aware what questions were asked and what I answered. Since, there were very few woman participants, I was selected.

And this happened to be my stepping-stone to lead a life of an entrepreneur from that of a simple housewife.

The Beginning and the hard work

The training course was of one month. During this one month I learned a lot and I realized many changes within me. I became more confident. I was determined to become an entrepreneur.

After the training, I thought of starting the business of hand knitted sweaters. As a housewife I knew something about the hand knitting and used to think I had enough knowledge. So I purchased 5 kg of crystal wool and hired two knitters. I was in business. After starting the business, I realize that I knew next to nothing about the knitting quality. Then I took another training about knitting from the “Export Service Centre”.

I got my first shock, when I went to Thamel to show the samples. These sweaters were knitted with the patterns that I thought were beautiful but the shopkeepers said that those patterns were not in demand. He offered to purchase them at the price that was less than the cost of the wool. I was disheartened but was not discouraged. I just realized that I should learn more about marketing my products.

Slowly I started to sell my products in the local market. Occasionally I sold them to the exporters.

In the mean time, SBPP organized the small entrepreneur exhibition and I got the opportunity to exhibit the hand knitted sweaters. This was my first public participation as an entrepreneur. During this exhibition, the fellow participants told me about the organization of the women entrepreneur in Kupondol and advised me to become its member. The name of this organization was Women Entrepreneur Association of Nepal (WEAN).

The Road to Success

 I went to WEAN and became its member. Most of the members in it were very successful entrepreneurs. I learnt a lot from them and gained much from their experiences, which they shared freely. Suddenly, I did not feel alone in my struggle to establish myself as a successful entrepreneur. I had friends to discuss my problems and find the solutions.

WEAN organized meetings and workshops from time to time and I participated in them. Through WEAN, I also had a lot of opportunities to participate in various meetings, workshops, trainings and seminars organized by other National and International Organizations. These helped me in my personality development and to boost up my confidence. Among them, the “Workshop For Existing Women Entrepreneurs” organized and sponsored by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, The

Government of India and United Nations Development Fund for Women helped me the most.

In the mean time, I participated in the Marketing Management Training organized by SBPP. I also became the member of the WEAN Co-operative. This organization provides the income generating training and other related subject to the women and it also markets their (women entrepreneurs) quality products. The co-operative exposed my products to various outlets and increased my business.

I also became the Board member of WEAN Co-operative, Chairperson in Training Committee and in Knit –Wear Committee for some time.

After being involved in the knitting business for a long time, I felt the recession in this business and switched to business of processing high quality spices under the brand name of Spicy Home Spices. At present, I am marketing spices through WEAN Co-operative.

Spicy Home Spices

Venturing in any new business is a difficult task, especially in one with cutthroat competition with the presence of multi-million rupees factories. The market is floated with cheap, low quality spices. With the confidence of the need of the people for spices of high quality which is scarce in the market, I started Spices Home Spices with one worker and marketed them through Wean Co-operative. Then I have my lucky break. I met Ms. Haruyo ji from Nepali Bazaro Ltd. She examined and approved my sample. She also placed the order for spice to be exported to Japan.

During the first order, spices packing style being new and unusual for Nepal, my whole family helped me by participating in packing and enjoyed it thoroughly. Also because of the time limit, we had to work till late in the night.

As the order increased and came regularly, I was able to provide work for more needy women from the rural and poor families. Today, there are ten women working in the factory.

Because of the regular order, my social status which was already established as a hard working and reliable entrepreneur is now supplemented with my financial independency. I do not have to worry about expenses any more and most of my business associates accept me as credit worthiness. I am also able to support my family when needed.

Workers in Spicy Home Spices

All the workers in Spicy Home Spices are women from poor and needy family with almost no income. Due to the regular order from Nepali Bazaro Ltd., Spicy Home Spices has been able to provide steady work to them. Salaries from the work not only help these women to support their family but also chase their dream.

The first worker of the factory Ms. Anita Maharjan, had lost her father at infant age. Her mother raised her by working as helper in the household chore and educated her. After completing SLC (class 10) she tried to support her mother but was unable to find work. She was compelled to work as a menial helper in the household chore like her mother.

The steady work provided from the factory not only helped her to support her mother (who do not have to do menial work any more) but also allowed her to pursue her dream for higher studies. She is studying in Intermediate level (class 12). She is also supporting two children from her village for schooling.

Another worker, Ms. Hira Shova is working to pay for the higher education. She goes to college in the morning and comes to work after the college.

Rest of the workers like Man Maya and others, are working to support their family. From the steady salary, they are able to look after their family and pay for some of the other activities like schooling their children and pursuing income generating activities. 

 

Finally

Today I am proud to present myself as Ms. Sitara Rajbhandari, The Woman Entrepreneur with my own identity and not just somebody’s daughter or wife. I believe every woman should have their own identity and it can be achieved if they are willing to work for it.

Membership:

  • Member of WEAN (Women Entrepreneur Association of Nepal)
  • Member of WEAN Co-operative
  • Member of Women Entrepreneur Development Division, FNCCI

 

Trainings & Workshops:

  • “Celebrating Mountain Women” a global conference in Bhutan, October 1-4, 2002 (ICIMOD)
  • Workshop On Entrepreneurial Management For Women Entrepreneurs In the Digital Age, Dec 2001 (WINNER)
  • Internet & E-commerce for Women Entrepreneurs, Dec 2000 (WINNER)
  • International Trade for Women Entrepreneurs, Nov 2000 (WINNER)
  • Productive Improvement Course, Nov 2000 (WEAN)
  • Book Keeping Course, Apr 2000 (WEAN)
  • Training Management Course, Jul 1999 (EDC/GTZ)
  • Business Management, Jul 1999 (SMEDP)
  • Conference on “Women in Decision Making in Co-operatives”, May 1997 (AWCF/ICA-ROAP, Philippines)
  • National Planning Workshop on Gender Integration in Co-operatives, Dec 1996 (ICA/NCF)
  • Costing, Pricing, Labeling, Packaging and Sample Course, Dec 1994 (WEAN)
  • Workshop For Existing Women Entrepreneurs, May 1994 (UNIDO/EDI, Ahmedabad, India)
  • Marketing Management Training, Feb 1993 (SBPP)
  • Sweater Knitting Training, Nov 1991 (Export Service Centre)
  • New Business Creation, Oct 1989 (NBA/SBPP)

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Success story

Shrijani Tuladhar started to work in the field of designing from the year 1983, working in customer service department in Namuna Silai. She got to learn a lot while working in Namuna Silai. She also got a chance to take professional training from Ms. Gyani Shova Tuladhar. Ms.Gyani  taught Shrijani  in details on cutting and designing as well as sewing clothes. She worked in Namuna Silai till 1985.

After that, she was offered to handle a new tailoring shop, "Veshvusha" (branch of Namuna) as co-proprieter by Ms. Gyani Shova Tuladhar. She then started her new journey on handling a boutique solely. She started designing clothes for the customers which was loved by the customers. As a 18 year old girl handling a new shop, she was praised by many people.

While working in Veshvusha, she took part in the fashion show organized by Namuna College of Fashion Technology as a designer. She was also offered to showcase my designs in a fashion showo in Turkey. She took part in the fashion show which took place in Hotel Hillton, Istanbul, organized by Planner Nepal. Her working period in Veshvusha lasted for 15 years.

Then she started her own business. she established her own tailoring shop," Shreejani Fashion Wear & Tailors" at Sukrapath,New-road. The store was established in the year 2000. She has been running the business for 16 years now and she has also faced many ups and downs running the business. Few years back, due to the lack of workers, she started providing training on sewing & cutting to the local women. she, along with two partners started a training center " Divya Silai Kendra". They got to train two groups of women. She also started providing personal training to few women from rural areas so that they could be independent and could contribute to their family income.

She got opportunities to design for various beauty pagents. She was also given chances to design outfits for movies and actors.

From working in a tailoring shop to establishing her own tailoring shop, she has worked very hard to get where she is now. She was highly motivated by people around her which made her want to work harder.

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