Pushpa Sthapit and Rajan Chakradhar who are students of entrepreneurship course of King’s College always wanted to make a change in the society. They found their calling when they were working on a class project and went on to win the Yunus Social Business Challenge in 2018 with their idea. In this interview, Rajan Chakradhar shares their progress till date and their plans for 2020.
Tell us about your business idea.
The idea came up during the brainstorming session for a class project. Having some knowledge of stitching from Pushpa’s designer mother, she tried a DIY product to make a sling bag out of an unused Denim from her own wardrobe. Seeing the beautiful prototype, this triggered a new-found method of using what was already there to make things which can be used every day. We then started collecting clothes from friends and families to build some more prototypes and found that it can actually be done on a larger scale. The objective of this idea is simple; it is to upcycle, recycle or reuse unused fabrics, especially focusing our customers’ needs that would otherwise have been dumped in the landfill.
What social problem are you trying to solve with your business?
We are trying to solve the social problem of land pollution caused by dumping of unwanted clothes by converting them into new eco-friendly products. We want to encourage the habit of reusing and reducing the waste among the citizens of Nepal. We will do this by providing various discounts and offers to those who wish to donate their unwanted clothes to us.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
One major challenge is the taboo regarding the use of old clothes in our country. Some people refuse to accept the product because they are made up of old clothes. We aim to change this slowly by providing quality products from the used fabrics. This also challenges our creativity as we have to always come up with new designs and methods to utilize these fabrics.
What did you do after winning the Yunus Social Business Challenge 2018?
After winning the Yunus Social Business Challenge 2018, we registered our idea as a private company in the name of Upcycle Nepal Pvt. Ltd. Soon after, we hired two women from Sindhupalchok, who had taken some sewing training and trained them to cut and sew our products as well as work with upcycling fabrics. The funding has also helped us to purchase 2 new sewing machines to help us in our day-to-day operations in not only making products for our customers but also continue to try out new products and prototypes every day.
Can you tell us about your product portfolio?
We currently upcycle fabrics into various utility products. We make covers for electronics, such as laptops, iPad and tablets, to safeguard them from scratches and bumps when traveling. We also make customized camera bags according to the size and fit of the customer’s camera. Apart from these, we have added keyrings, cushion covers, aprons, tote bags, sling bags and side bags for everyday use. All of our products are made to order and are produced by upcycling fabrics that we collect.
What are your plans for 2020?
Our plan for 2020 expands our service and products to various areas in the capital for maximum efficiency and maximum reuse of fabrics from Kathmandu. We have the aim to train and employ at least 10 tailors to familiarize them to our products and help us in our goal to reduce the fabric waste that goes to the landfills. Along with this, we will continue to design and produce new products to serve the everyday needs of the people, to help keep the environment clean from such fabric wastes. Lastly, we want to set a goal to upcycle 1000 Denim jeans by the end of 2020.