Yaju Maharjan, Kritina Raghubanshi and Merisha Shrestha have known each other since early childhood. Despite the difficulties, the lockdown worked as a boon in a way that compelled them to rethink about ways to contribute towards the economy. Being fashion enthusiasts, they were drawn towards the jewelry industry. In January 2021, Philia Jewels started with a unique vision to represent Nepali jewels in an international market while promoting local skills and materials.
A couple of weeks back we connected with Ms. Maharjan who answered all of our questions about their entrepreneurial journey and upcoming visions for this venture.
Read our conversation to find out more about this interesting business.
Tell me about your motivation to start your own enterprise?
I recently completed my degree in social work. My entire reason behind studying social work was to learn different ways to give back to my society and to do something in Nepal. Additionally, both my friends had already started a venture before. Hence, we had the initial motivation to start a business. With an interest in the fashion and jewelry industry, we did a lot of research which led us to local artisans. The vulnerable financial position of the local people made us further motivated to start Philia Jewels to support them.
What is the inspiration behind the name of your company?
Philia in Greek means love, companionship and friendship; while jewels are used as a gift in every kind of relationship. Hence, the name Philia perfectly suited our purpose. We also brand ourselves as “handcrafted jewelry with meaning”. Every jewelry that you purchase will have a connection with you and will add some meaning to your life.
Can you tell me more about the production process?
Our production happens in Thamel. We initially determine the theme and designs of our collection. All the jewelries are then handcrafted by local artisans based on the designs provided to them. We do quality checks on each piece after completion in order to maintain consistency. Post production, we focus on social media marketing and to create awareness about our cause that is to preserve the local skills already available in Nepal.
What are the products currently being offered?
We are currently producing handcrafted jewelries out of golden colored brass which is easily available in Nepal and it is sustainable for longer term. Our jewel includes earring only at present, but we do plan to expand our product line. In the future, we want to experiment with copper, silver and gold plated materials. We also have ideas to include different stones in our pieces.
How do you get inspirations for your unique designs?
I have always been passionate about fashion. I surf through different resources to discover ideas and get inspiration. I usually aim to give creative twists to my ideas. For example, our first collection was Dear Universe, which I themed due to my belief in the universe and cosmic energy. The second collection was termed Limitless, in which we took inspiration from all women. It included jewelries such as faces and lips, body parts, palm leaves, etc. Hence, our designs are inspired by things around us and every piece has its own unique meaning.
Would you say that your product is 100% Made in Nepal?
Yes, everything used in our product along with packaging can be found in Nepal. We have an eco friendly and plastic free packaging. We aim to promote local artisans and their skills as much as possible.
Who are your allies in running the business?
Like every new venture, we, three founders, handle everything from accounting to delivery. In terms of our artisans, we provide work to about seven people, who work based on the designs provided by us. Hence, we currently do not have a separate workstation to directly employ the artisans. To protect our designs, we have signed contracts with them to avoid copyright issues.
What is your target market?
We would define our target market as people who are fascinated by unique pieces of jewels. Our main target is the international market through which we aim to build a unique identity of Nepali handmade jewelry. Additionally, we want our brand to be viewed as gender inclusive, so we plan to bring some jewels for men as well.
Even though your company is recently established, has there been any initiation towards international sales?
In this short span of time, we believe luck worked in our favor when we found a company to collaborate at an international level. Our products would be sold on Lezeri after April. The founder is Nepali, who operates based in the US. Thus, all our international orders will be sold through this website in the future.
Most of the accessories found in Nepali market are products imported from India and China. Being a new enterprise, how do you feel about the existing competition in this industry?
In today’s world, I believe that there is a competition in every market, since most products are already locally available. Nevertheless, every jewelry that we have crafted has its own unique meaning, which makes our product stand out among other competitions. Additionally, our vision is also not limited to gain short term profits. We want to build a legacy by promoting Nepali handmade products at an international level. This vision along with patience and trust keep us moving forward.
Where can the customers find your products?
Currently, we are exclusively selling online. We tend to do some pop-up shops when possible. We do all our sales through Instagram and Facebook. For international customers, our products are being launched on Lezeri website soon. For other collaborations, people can message us in our social media platforms itself and we can further provide other contact details.
How has this entrepreneurial journey been so far for you?
It has been an exciting experience to see our dreams turn into reality. It is quite a proud moment to be working together with my childhood friends and forming a brand that utilizes local skills. Post our launch, the appreciation and encouragement from our customers have been motivating factors for us to focus more on consistency and perseverance.
Is there any additional suggestion you would like to give to other emerging entrepreneurs?
Despite having limited experience as an entrepreneur, I have realized that it becomes crucial to never get intimidated by challenges and barriers. You should never limit yourself rather keep pushing in order to turn challenges into success factors.
Make a bold statement through your accessories while supporting handmade products from our local artisan. Let’s shop now from Philia Jewels!
Interviewed and Article by Shreeya Bhattarai