Located around the corner of The Radission Hotel, Lazimpat, Organic Smoothie Bowl and Café offers fresh, quick, wholesome and “instagrammable” smoothie bowls, sandwiches, drinks and more. This gem of a place was discovered by our Strategy & Communication Manager- Eva who is very conscious about what she consumes. On a fine Wednesday afternoon, amidst the fear of COVID19, I, along with Eva decided to visit the place for lunch and talk to the very humble owner, Dhruba Thapa about how he started the business.
For those of you interested in eating healthy and opening a small business around the same line, get inspiration from Dhruba.
1. Could you tell us about yourself and your experiences that led you to open this business?
I’m originally from Lamjung and came to Kathmandu around ten years back for higher studies. The idea of starting a business and entrepreneurship came to my mind only four years ago. Accordingly, I also took a course in entrepreneurship from RSTCA Foundation for 45 days. During that time, I studied about the coffee shop and also took Barista and computer training.
After that, I interned at Himalayan Java for 1.5 months and then in a café in Thamel for 1.5 months. All of this to gain some experience and also to learn more about the market. Then, I thought maybe I’m ready to start my own business so, I started doing my own market survey not just in Kathmandu but also in Pokhara, Chitwan, Hetauda, and Lamjung. From that, I figured that running only a coffee shop will not make my business sustainable since there is a lot of competition already.
Luckily, during my survey at Pokhara, I found a café that really impressed me. It’s called Juicery café and is located right at Lakeside, Pokhara. I had already decided then that my business would be inspired by that café. However, I needed the training to make the food and find out how the business actually works. So, after following their vacancy for a few months I finally got hired and worked there for 10 months. During this time, I learned all about the business and became confident on starting up my own.
After looking around for spaces in major areas with customer flow, I finally found one in Lazimpat and started the business right away. It has been 11 months that the business came into operation and now my plan is to open the same business in other areas such as Paknajol, Thamel and maybe another one in Lazimpat. Currently, my team comprises of Sushma Karki, Kiran Thapa and myself who help me run the café.
2. How did you get funds for the business?
I had to convince my family to trust me and invest in the business. I have also taken a loan from some friends and family so I’d say I pooled in funds from here and there.
3. What were the challenges you faced while starting the business?
As I said earlier, I did not have a concrete idea about the business I wanted to start. So, exploring and coming up with one was one of the challenges. Second would be family support since they didn’t like the idea of me starting a business as it comes with a lot of risks. Third would be policies from the governmental side that would’ve made starting the business and running it easier. Lastly, I come from a village in Lamjung so I had to learn how to deal with people here and to be competitive too.
4. Did you learn the recipes from the café you worked at in Pokhara?
Yes! Not just the recipes but I’d say I learned everything from Juicery Café and have implemented them here. If you visit the café in Pokhara, you’ll see that we’re really alike as I opened this business after getting inspiration from there. The owner is also very nice who never hesitated to teach me how things are done.
5. Where do you source your raw materials from? Are they all organic?
I visit the farmer’s market, organic farms and supermarkets to get fruits and vegetables. I also get some of my special supplies such as Matcha powder, Chia seeds, Acai powder, Spirulina and Goji berry from my brother who lives in China and visits here often.
The plan was to get everything organic but I figured that it’s not that easy, especially when it comes to cutting down the costs. People want something that’s healthy, tasty and budget-friendly. Since organic food is so expensive, I wouldn’t have been able to offer budget-friendly meals. So, no, not everything on the menu is organic but they’re definitely healthy.
6. Does the café only offer veg and gluten-free items? Are you a health-conscious person too?
Well, that depends on your consideration for eggs. We do not offer meat items currently but we do have eggs so if you consider that veg then maybe yes, we only offer veg items otherwise nope! And we have gluten-free options but not everything on our menu is gluten-free.
Definitely! I had always been conscious of what I consume and have always made sure of cleanliness. I actually got it from my mother who inculcated this habit in me. Even as a child, I never ate outside or at places that didn’t look clean. Maybe there are people like me around who want to eat healthy food outside but don’t trust the cleanliness of some cafes or restaurants. So, my goal with this café is to offer hygienic food at affordable pricing, as you can see on my menu too.
7. Does this mean your target audience is both Nepali and foreigners?
Yes, definitely! Nepalese are picking up the pace of healthy eating and adopting a healthy lifestyle. So, my target market comprises of actually anyone who wants to eat good food that doesn’t hurt their wallets.
8. Has the business breakeven?
Well, this is a seasonal business so it’ll take time to get returns. But, as of now, the business hasn’t breakeven. I thought it’ll take around a year for that but given the circumstances now of COVID19, I think it’ll take more time and that I just need to be patient and hold on.
9. What kind of efforts have you made in terms of marketing your business?
I have made social media accounts for the business and have been posting whenever I can, although not frequently. I have also listed my business in an app called Happycow which is used worldwide by Vegans. Apart from that, I haven’t done anything extra but plan to do paid ads in the future.
10. Is there anything you feel like you lack in running this business?
The first thing would be the English language. As you can see that most of my customers are ex-pats living around the Lazimpat area so conversing with them in English is a bit difficult. I feel like if I had been a bit fluent then I could’ve been able to communicate properly. But I’m learning so it’s okay. Second would be dealing with different kinds of customers.
For more information about this café, please connect with Dhruba at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out their page Organic Smoothie Bowls here.
Interviewed and article by Yangzum Lama