Nothing could beat the ingenuity of a determined soul that has learnt to fly after falling and nobody can break the iceberg of belief that has learnt to dream. Witnessing millions of such stories leave a mark of inspiration in the midst. Nepal need not import millions of such tales from outside to kindle inspiration because Nepalese youth have created their stories that speak tales of inspiration. Their stories motivate everyone to think innovative and do something for the betterment of the country.
Richa Rajbhandari, the Managing Director and Ankita Joshi, the Creative Director of The Mint Studio are two such influential personas phasing a concept of creating a wider appreciable market for handmade Nepali products. Their foundation, ‘The Mint Studio’ is itself a peculiar name and this name intends to present a taste of Nepali flavour in its products. Striding its footsteps from 8 months in the entrepreneurial ambience, everything from Mint is Nepali and everything that’s Nepali is in need of a market. The Mint Studio is bringing a market to these handmade Nepali products.
The Story of the Beginning
After completing her undergraduate studies with majors in Economics, Sociology and Political Science in India, Richa came back to Nepal in 2014. Like any other graduate, she knew she had to instigate with something in her life. So, she initiated an internship in Sasto Deal. There she got acquainted with Ankita who was engaged in Anthropose Nepal.
Along with her sister, who was in a chaining company that skilled women in garment making, Richa started a brand that dealt with producing bedsheets. After her sister left for further studies, Richa who was left behind wanted to continue the brand.
Accordingly, Richa joined an NGO named White Lotus Crafts Pvt.Ltd. (WLC) which provided free garment making skills to the underprivileged women of rural Nepal. In order to work for the betterment of the NGO, along with Richa and Ankita, a team of four was formed. This team had ignited the commencement of ‘The Mint Studio’.
Ankita mentions, “At the end of the skill-oriented garment making training, the women trainees went overseas to work in factory outlets. Their ultimate option of going abroad to work was only because of compulsion and poverty. Instead of letting the swift skill of the country in vain, we thought of why not employ them here, why not invest their effort and quality in the country itself and why not let the market of Nepali clothes flourish.”
The Mint Studio
With a theme of ‘Nepali Lifestyle Inspired Brand’, The Mint Studio connects its products with the customers through an online platform. The studio has gained supportive responses in its social media sites from the audience. Some retail stores have been favouring them by showcasing the studio’s clothing. But they have their products sold mainly through the online platform.
Their lifestyle inspired products include clothing labels for men, women, and kids. “We have been producing sweatshirts, mufflers, hoodies, jackets for the winter. We are in process of bringing summer labels as well.”, mentions Ankita. Besides, the clothing line, they have commodities including home and living as well. Cushion covers, home appliance handle covers, vanity bags, upcycled pot holders, custom handmade frames, fairy lights, lightbulb drinking glasses fall on the variety of home and living products.
Poring over the tailoring machine, five women of the studio prepare the attires and commodities for the studio. These women have been producing the items from the garment making training they had received from WLC. They are among the few women who decided to stay back and invest their skill and labour to help bring a change in the Nepali clothing market.
Through the Safer Migration Project (SAMI) of WLC, they had facilitated 600 women with training. Amid this training, these women also got an opportunity to make produces for the studio. Previously, their studio was associated with WLC, they had been privileged with resources for a startup but after the termination of the training by WLC they had to face hurdles for running the enterprise. Turning down Mint Studio was not the option, but executing the plan was their responsibility.
They have been actively participating in ‘The Local Mini Market’, a fortnightly event organized by The Local Market Nepal and EVOKE Café&Bistro. With this event, they try to make a name for the studio as well as range their motive of creating a market for Nepali produces.Currently, from five members on board, three members including Richa and Ankita are working actively.
Many people don’t understand the value of Nepali products. Somehow, this has been impeding the growth of the studio. Richa shares that many Nepalese prefer adorning their attire from branded clothes rather than homemade Nepali attires.
Richa asserts, “People elsewhere always try to promote their homemade clothes, but in Nepal, the possibility is always rare. Even when we visit shopping malls, we find nothing but branded clothes. There is a meager presence of Nepali produce. I am not discouraging people to visit the shops of their desire, but the consciousness of promoting one’s local brand in Nepal has not developed yet.”
Ankita adds, “In comparison to work overseas and work in Nepal, people prefer the former one. We organized training in order to convince women to stay in the country, invest their skills here and flourish the production of Nepali commodities. But many women chose the work of overseas than working in Nepal. Few stayed back. The problem is convincing them.”
Nepal has handful industries that produce raw materials. Due to the lack of industries that produce a variety of raw materials, they have to import these basic commodities.
“When we pitched and presented our idea in NEXT Growth Conclave, we found no women pitching their notions in the event. This made us realize the male dominance in the entrepreneurial space of Nepal but we have never confined ourselves as women and let back our venture. Conventions and stereotypes hit us but that will never stop us from striding.” – Richa Rajbhandari, Managing Director, The Mint Studio
“We want to ascend our work, root ourselves as Nepali Lifestyle Brand and invite returning customers who would understand our brand value. Someday we vision that our products will expand their latitude internationally as well.” shares Richa. They expect that Mint Studio will have people flaunting their attires. The inspiring responses they have been receiving keeps them moving forward and gives them a reason to hold on to their mission. Soon, opening an outlet counts under a future aim. Both of these determined ladies reveal that they have learnt from their past mistakes and want to extend full-fledged training for women.
To the Aspiring Entrepreneurs
When ideas strike one’s mind, having second thoughts about them is never a good option. Just go for it! Entrepreneurship sets no age bar for anyone with an idea of doing something. Not only having a good idea but also implementing it is the core to successful entrepreneurship.
Presented By: Kabita Sen