Danfe is an initiative that came into inception when Kritishma Karki along with her co-founders decided to follow their instinct and drive to do something good and meaningful for the society. Read the full story about this company that empowers disadvantaged women by providing them employment opportunities.
1. Could you tell us about your journey of starting Danfe?
In 2004, while studying Bachelor in St. Xavier College (Social work faculty) we approached Karuna Bhawan for an internship. It’s an organization that works with HIV-infected people. While working there, we felt that the people living with HIV AIDS wanted to come out of their box, and the women wanted to do something of their own. So, a group of eleven of us organized a fundraising event. A decade ago such events were rare and seldom took place; the youth were not as involved either. The event was called SAATH. We were able to raise some fund and the collected amount of fund was distributed to the women working in the organization to enable them to start something of their own. This further motivated us to do something significant.
In 2006, we registered SAATH as an NGO. However, we were still working as a group of college students who lacked experience and expertise, but those who wanted to do something. A lot of the times, we worked on issues of Drugs, HIV, Women, elderly, environment and many more. Afterward, few of the founding members including myself went abroad for studies. We were abroad for 4-5 years. After returning, we resumed our work.
In 2015, after the earthquake, every Organization, NGO, INGOs, and Individuals wanted to support people suffering from the earthquake. We did not have special funding or grants, however, we still wanted to help. Some people who were abroad and those who were connected to Saath started reaching out to us at an overwhelming rate.
We thought of utilizing this money in a way that had a long-term impact. So, in July 2015, we reached out to five young girls from earthquake-affected districts and started training them in tailoring which was also our pilot project for Danfe. 6 months into training, an organization called Caritas Canada contacted us and approached us to extend our project. After scheduling a few rounds of meeting, in 2016, we finalized to scale our project work to 30 other beneficiaries from Sindhupalchowk, Makawanpur, and Kavre. We registered Danfe as a social enterprise in 2017 after we came up with a retail outlet called Danfe works.
2. What is the social problem that you are trying to solve and what is your business model?
Through Danfe, we brought in the beneficiaries from the earthquake affected and marginalized community and provided them with extensive 6-10 months of training.
Currently, we provide six months of training and this is our 5th batch. We provide the girls from marginalized communities with accommodation, food and training materials. We provide girls hostel facility to our trainees. This training is not just to hand over skills but to develop leadership quality as well. There is also an informal class twice a week for basic mathematics and English because a lot of girls are school dropouts. We’ve also included counseling sessions and have 11-12 days of life skill training comprising of business management. These extracurricular activities help to bring out the best from any individual and we can already see an increased level of confidence in them.
Once girls return to their communities, we still provide them the platform to work in Danfe. Since we have an outlet, few of the girls work in production which is directly sent to the outlet. Some take the raw materials and go back to their community and return with finished products on a paid basis.
Currently, we are running on funds and sales revenue. There are no profits yet so we are trying to increase our funding until 2022, after which our business will begin to sustain itself.
In this manner, we carry our sustainable enterprise that empowers girls from a marginalized community.
3. What social change are you trying to bring in society?
We are empowering the marginalized community which is challenging yet very important. Through our enterprise, we are playing a major role in enabling marginalized communities to communicate effectively, make the right choices and decisions of their own.
There are tons of clothes being imported on a daily basis. Through Danfe, we are trying to penetrate that market and create a market for Nepal made products simultaneously providing employment opportunities to the people in Nepal, this is a step forward
4. What challenges did you face while starting the company and what are the challenges you are facing right now?
Danfe is funded by Saath and Saath is again funded by other donor agency. Funding would always be our challenge. This year we are funded by Caritas Spain. Every year we are seeking new funders and this is our challenge. Another challenge we faced in 2017 was the notion that made in Nepal product is super expensive and that was a major setback to convince people to buy a good that is made in Nepal.
Another challenge is with the raw materials. We have a big issue with fabric because everything is imported from outside as we have to depend on outside market, the government of Nepal is not as supportive either.
When we first started, we did not have a professional tailor in the team which was a huge challenge because at the end people see the quality and do not care so much about the cause of Danfe. But in the later year, we overcame the challenge by bringing professional to the team.
The products of Danfe are also misidentified with other products that are in the market, and it is quite a challenge to differentiate our products and justify why they are a bit more expensive.
5. What is your human resource strength? How many people/trainees did you start with how many are there now?
There are more than 100 people who are directly or indirectly involved in Saath. Until now we have trained 104 young beneficiaries and we are in the process to train 50 more this year.
6. Is your business working on a self-sufficiency model or profit-making model?
We have been into operations for more than 2 years now. We have 10 tailors, masterjee, 2 fashion designer, 2 salespersons, and a procurement officer. There is also a rental charge, fabric cost and this raises operating costs.
We estimate to reach the profit-making model from 3rd to 4th year. For, now the project is supporting us and we are able to generate the revenue. Hopefully, in 2019, we can reach profit-making, till then we are in the process to sustain.
7. What is the future plan with your company?
We have two retail outlets- one in Jhamshikhel and another in Naxal Bhagwati as “Red Panda” which caters exclusively to kids wear. We’re planning further expansion since it is a must to stay competitive in today’s market. We want to expand outside Kathmandu Valley primarily, and maybe later expand in the International market as well.
8. What are the key needs of your company?
We want to bring in the funding for 5 year period (2018- 2022) from like-minded donors who support and share our beliefs. We also have Human resource needs. We have realized that we do not just need tailors but also need “Masterjees” – someone who is a designer or an embroidery.
9. Do you measure the impact of your product/service? If not what are your thoughts about impact measurement?
Measuring impact is very difficult. We measure the number of girls being employed or trained. Besides that, we have monthly monitoring and evaluation within the training. This is done by the trainer and the project coordinator. We have an evaluation sheet for the trainee measuring their confidence and other factors as such. We submit the evaluation and monitoring report to our donors at the end of the project because that is very important as we want our impact to be visible.
Since the shop operation, we have already generated more than $52000 in our endowment fund. Besides our impact lies alongside all the young women we work with that we believe we have made a difference in their lives at some level. We want to stand out as a Nepali local brand that is accessible and affordable to all.