A professional trekking guide, Malika Shrestha started Maya Ko Chino at a young age. Maya Ko Chino makes products that are locally made and affordable for the locals. It is a cute little store that pulls customers towards it with just one glance. Malika Shrestha has a clear vision of what she wants to offer. Let’s take a look at what she has to say:
1. Tell me about your journey for starting your venture? When did it start?
During my treks, I always used to see numerous people making crafts. I opened Maya Ko Chino initially, to mainly sell my mother’s crochet, weaving products and get into hand-looming business. I used to weave camera straps, belts, and guitar straps and worked with recycled tyre and tubes to make first aid and toiletry bags. I wanted to place my products in other concept stores but their commission rates were too high. So, I made the decision of converting Maya Ko Chino into a concept store in the November of 2017 and registered the company as a private limited company under my name. A concept store is a collection of different products and concepts of various producers; it is a one-stop shop for handcrafted items. I wanted Maya Ko Chino to be an outlet for talented producers and their concepts.
2. What is the social problem that you are trying to solve or what social change do you see your product or service bringing in the society?
Among the 7 producers that put their products in Maya Ko Chino, 3 are working towards solving social problems. They are Project Human Nepal, Candlestick Woman, and Khaddar.
So, I do my part in giving these social entrepreneurs and small producers a platform to showcase their products to end-users. With a small value chain, I want to promote Nepali entrepreneurs and Nepal made products. Products made should be accessible and affordable for Nepali consumers as well as foreigners and expats.
3. How did you raise funds to start your company?
This is my father’s property which I am leasing. Initially, my parents were going to rent out this space to a department store. Somehow, I convinced them that I would do something with the space and make money with it. I did invest all of my savings but yes, my parents have also supported me in many ways.
4. What stage is the company in?
I would not say we are a top-tier store however, we are getting there slowly. We try to rotate the producers and their products every 3 months. If the products are doing well in the market then we continue with them. If they are not, we collect feedback from consumers and try to convey the producers the necessary changes they need to make to their products. We do our best to get the producers to do better and in turn, the store functions better as well. As of now, we’re almost at the break-even point.
5. What challenges did you face while starting the company and what are the challenges you are facing right now?
One of the main challenges I faced was to ascertain the producers and entrepreneurs. It was confusing as I had to do two things simultaneously- trekking with my clients and working on the store when I was back.
When I established Maya Ko Chino, there were already a lot of concept stores in Lalitpur. Maya Ko Chino stands out among them with its affordable pricing. I always make it a point to set the price at a level which is affordable for all ranges of customers- teenagers to middle-aged foreigners.
I always feel that every product should be sold with their story. So when a customer comes into the store, I try my best to deliver the story behind the products for more detail. For us, it is not only about selling products but also about boosting the responsible entrepreneurs.
6. Who are your target customers? How many customers or clients do you have?
As I’m located in Jhamshikhel area, I know a lot of the residents here who are expats that like to spend a lot on Nepali products. They are my main target customers alongside Nepali people who are locals. Accordingly, I request entrepreneurs to set an affordable price if they are to showcase their products in my store.
7. What is the business model? Is it for self-sufficiency or profit-making?
We generate an average revenue of Rs.40,000 to 50,000 per month per producer. This could be different for different producers with respect to their products and the season.
Initially, we allowed the producers to put their products in our store for free for a period of 3 months. After that, we started taking a 25% commission from the sales. Now, we take a commission of 30% of the total sale but for social entrepreneurs, we only take 5% of their sales.
8. What is the plan with your company?
Soon I plan to start exporting some of my products (outdoor gear) with the help of local tailors. The products range from toiletry bags, chalk bags, and first aid bags. Once, I get sufficient interested buyers, I can start shipping the products. However, I do realize that shipping costs a lot and I am preparing for the costs accordingly.
I want to collaborate with someone to start a co-working space right beside Maya Ko Chino which will serve coffee and tea as well.
9. Do you consider yourself as a Social Entrepreneur?
Yes! Previously, when me and my mother used to make crochet products, from our earnings, we always donated a certain portion towards the social institutions who worked for street dogs.
10. Do you measure the impact of your product/service? If not what are your thoughts about impact measurement?
I think I am making an impact but I have not measured it yet. We would be measuring our impact in the near future alongside the number of products we have sold or the entrepreneurs uplifted.