Tussle and Triumph in conversation with Priya Dahal who is empowering rural women to generate livelihood through organic soap making. Priya hails from the picturesque Namchi village of Sikkim and is graduate in English Hons.
What are you working on?How is it helping the community?
I am working on community project ” My Beautiful Earth”. It’s all about bring rural women under one roof, train them in hand made soaps with local herbs/ fruits/ flowers, sell them and make monthly salary. We are self financed and Not in partnership with any organisation as of now.
It’s not just helping rural women take away monthly salary but bringing different walks of women together, sharing emotions and working hard to change our lifestyle.
We are all new to business with no mentors and every day it’s all about learning new things and facing challenges together
How did you come up with the idea?
It all started with my community project with rural women “My Beautiful Earth” . It is established in the year 2016. I saw women of my mother’s age working on construction site and their babies sleeping in dust.
I asked women how much they are paid and happy. To my surprise, I heard nothing great. I wanted to help them. I am certified soap artisan and have not been using my talents. This was the opportunity to change life.
I took permission from Mr Galyap Lepcha, Panchayat President of village. He helped me meet those women. We had meeting and I told them I shall train them in soap making. We will support each other and generate income.
We started on our own. I was so much in hurry to start the project that I had no time to visit bank for loan or any schemes. For me, more than business or start up, it was to keep my promise that I made with women who believed in me and had given up their daily wages work.
How did the women pick up the skill of soap making?
I started training women in soap making. To my surprise, they learned in the blink of an eye. I became business woman not by knowledge but out of emotions. I had zero knowledge about packaging, branding and selling.
I wrapped the soaps and with own handwriting wrote the composition of oils and benefits to skin.
What was the initial customer response?
Many ppl hesitated to purchase as they were not confident about handcrafted soaps coming from one rented room in tiny village at Poklok Denchung. Like a mountain I continued to survive even in hot situation.
My first client who is still unknown and unseen wrote to me and appreciated my soaps that she had picked from Namchi motsov exhibition. From there, it’s was just going forward.
I had promised my women that they would take salary and I pushed hard for sales. I focussed on packaging as recommended by my clients. We grew up from references not necessary sales targets. Everyone who used our soaps back home or tourists who took soaps as gift always placed orders.
Unlike other business organisation, I or my soap artisan have no mentors. We learned from our own experiences. Today, I get offers for partnership but I have not accepted any. Our accounts are very well maintained and it’s very transparent among all of us. No one is boss nor labour. We work together and when we have enough income, we bring in another woman. The vision is not to be rich or save money in bank but to build largest self help group.
In last one and half years we as team have grown up financially and emotionally. We have run the business together and also we share personal burden of each other.
We are more as sisters.
How are you generating revenue? How are people benefitting from it?
We are as of now self financed. It’s been approx one and half year women are taking salary. We work from 10 am to 4 pm every day except ok weekends. We generate our income via sell of soaps and always purchase raw materials.
We share income equally and when we make profit, we hire new rural women.
What are the challenges you are facing? How are you overcoming it?
Every day is a challenge. We are located in a remote village. Transporting raw materials is very expensive. Whenever we have to send a courier, we have to go 6 hours drive from hometown to Siliguri. Initially, people would to Siliguri that benefits of our soaps as we come from tiny villages. I became business woman not by ambition but by emotions. With zero knowledge but marketing, it was very tough to bring our products and also the fact there are so many soap manufacturing companies, it was very difficult to convince people.
We worked with honesty today all our clients are the references. Ppl loved our soaps so much that they introduced to their family and friends
How are your marketing your products and reaching out to customers?
As we are self-financed, we sell our products do self-financed provide home/ office delivery. We also have soap gift hampers as gifts. We sell online via Facebook. We are very new, one and half year in business, we’re learning every day to sell the new reality soap every daycare.
What will you advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs?
We at my beautiful earth strictly follow not to catch two soaps with both hands and shoot pics. We are with focus on production and growth. I focused advice from my experience is to advertise your products more than oneself, focus on good quality than quantity and work with honesty without greed. We must not always think about making money however to share happiness through our work for individuals, society and nation.
This is series of articles part of International Women’s Day. Did you read our other articles?