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Nepali businesswoman: Life gave her tomatoes, she became serial entrepreneur

Bishnu Karki Thapa says she comes from a happy family. She had supportive and encouraging parents, siblings and friends.

After tying the knot, however, life got difficult for her in her new home as it was gripped by financial problems. To deal with the situation, Thapa started farming tomatoes.

“When I started out, I knew very little about tomatoes,” she remembers. “But I thought that was the only business that could help me find a solution to our money problems,” says Thapa, who lives with her family near Mujung, Palpa. “I was unsure how it was going to work.”

The days that followed were like nightmare. She incurred heavy losses. “During the first year itself, the crop failed. It was combination of bad seeds and lack of knowledge,” she confesses.

But Thapa, who calls herself a ‘tough cookie’, would not give up.  She says that losses did not hold her back. “It was because I wanted to escape poverty, and anything I would do towards that end would not go to waste. It was my belief.”

After her disastrous start, she decided that she had to seek help.

“I tried to get as much help and information as I could to understand the business. So I went around asking local farmers and various local offices to help me out. Eventually, the entire village was trying to help, and I even got some local media attention,” she recalls. With all the help and useful information she gathered, her tomatoes thrived the second time around.

Following this, she realised that she had great power to overcome loss, and decided to start cucumber farming. Today, both her tomato and cucumber farms are doing well.

Throughout her life, especially during tough times, Karki has received great support from her family and friends. She and her friends share their troubles, and try to look for solutions. That was exactly how they got the idea of venturing into the incense sticks business.

 

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Her decision to venture into the incense business has not only been beneficial to her and her family members,  in the five years since she started out, she has trained over 3,000 Palpali women.

“My friends and I started out by making incense and brooms,” and with time, “I started giving incense and candle-making training to the local women in my village,” says Thapa.

She saved the money she received in fees for her training and eventually, when she had enough, invested in a new business. Through her incense business, she earned Rs 25,000 per month in her first year, and the figure has tripled since then.

She claims there is little to no loss in this business, unlike farming, and that is why she has managed to improve her situation so quickly. She has now become financially independent and can take care of her two children, their school fees and her household expenses.

She adds, “My children do not even think about asking my husband for money, they come to me. I pay for pretty much everything now, and he only pays if we go out.

Being financially independent has been very freeing for me.”

Her decision to venture into the incense business has not only been beneficial to her and her family members,  in the five years since she started out, she has trained over 3,000 Palpali women.

She also plans to employ a few others to work for her enterprise. Helping other women learn skills so that they become financially self-reliant tops her agenda.

Her other goal is to expand her business, and take it to places such as Kathmandu and Bharatpur where her extended family members live, says Thapa, one of the 20 women nominated for Daayitwa Women Enterprise Challenge 2016 organised in collaboration with Innovation Action Palpa (IAP).

The writer is associated with Daayitwa.

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