Did you know a plastic bag is used only for 12 minutes on an average but takes 1000 years to breakdown?
My Earth Eco friendly Bags , is the brain child of Stuti Thapa, a passionate social entrepreneur who is trying to curb a menace by making affordable cloth bags. Her desire to provide new opportunities to women through her company stood out for us in our conversation with her.
Recently her company also bagged Best Start Up of the Year award given by Clock B in partnership with Indian embassy. At the pitching event with an audience of 200, she was the only women CEO to pitch and she won. Get to know her entrepreneurial journey through this interview.
We have heard that you started your company in unusual circumstances. Can you tell us about it?
I was always inclined towards creating value for the society instead of a 10 to 5 job. So when the idea of making fabric bag occurred to me I went for it. I had a meeting with Mr. Min Bahadur, the owner of Bhatbhateni who placed an order of 10,000 bags in the first meeting itself. I hadn’t imagined that I would get my first order so easily. This was when the economic blockade had just started and I was in a dilemma if I should go ahead or refuse the order. I didn’t have the manpower or capital and I was working from home but I accepted the challenge. It took me 3 months to complete the order but after that there was no looking back. Its been 3 years and I have been successfully managing and growing Myearth ecofriendly bags.
What is the social problem you are trying to solve?
I do not to have to mention how plastic is causing a havoc to our environment. We use plastic for a little time and it gets thrown away. We need to stop using plastic completely. I believe that our generation can be the one who can bring about this change. Infact I can see people are aware and would like to switch. Although the government has also put a ban on plastic bags, it has not been implemented widely because there are no alternatives. We are trying to create alternatives to plastic by making cloth bags available at a affordable rate. While doing this we also provide employment for women from underprivileged background by giving the production work to them.
Can you tell us about the challenges you faced or are facing?
I started my company in the midst of national economic blockade. Everyone was facing difficulties in their day to day lives. Many businesses were shutting down. But my entrepreneur journey was just starting. It was a lot of struggle. There was no petrol and I remember borrowing petrol from friends to make things happen. That was the biggest challenge I ever faced. But once I completed the order and got my cheque I knew there was no stopping for me .
Being a woman entrepreneur and running a women led organization is not easy in our society. I receive comments like “what you are doing here”, “get a job in a bank or in an NGO”. People are not comfortable speaking about the commercials to a women. I have to remind them that I am the CEO of the Company and they can speak about the products and commercials with me. I am always prepared with my response.
I feel its still easy because I always find opportunities in challenges but for many women these biases are still major hurdles and therefore I try and give opportunities to them in my organization. I would like to see women leading all my departments but its very difficult. e.g we are trying to hire a women graphic designer from a long time but we may soon have to give up.
How did you raise the capital for the business? Are you sustainable?
When I got the first order I had no money. I was a student. I asked my father but he refused to invest. I argued and fought with him. Eventually he agreed when I threatened him of getting a loan from outside. That’s how I raised my first capital. When I got my first cheque I returned him the money with interest and reinvested the profits in the business. Currently my company is sustainable in the sense that we did not have to raise money for day to day operations. We are scaling up organically.
Tell us about your team.
When I started out I was a one woman army. From taking orders to supervising production to delivering bags, I did everything but now I have a core team members of 5 and I set up an office last week. We work with 5-8 didi’s who sew the bags and get paid on a pay-per-piece basis. For me my team is very important, even if I don’t take home any money I ensure that they get paid first.
Where do you source your material?
We source it from the valley itself we donot want to import any raw material. We give priority to Nepalese material.
Who are your target customers and how do you acquire them?
Everybody is our target customers. We have tote bags for college going students which are very trendy, hemp laptop bags for office goers. We supply to banks, NGOs, iNGOs for their conferences. We also have liquor bags for stores. So everyone can buy our bag. Anyone who wants to buy our bags can get in touch with us on our facebook page.
Interested in knowing more about My Earth Eco Bags? You can write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or check them out them on their Facebook profile.