Educated in France, Ms. Lumanti Shakya was always inspired by the Parisian style: its effortlessness, simplicity, and minimalism. After being back in Nepal in 2018, she realized that she finally wanted to venture into the world of entrepreneurship. As someone who loves to travel and shop abroad, she was already buying different items upon friends’ requests and eventually started an online concept store where she sold a curated collection of products from various countries. When most of her collections were sold out immediately, she wanted to turn this side hustle into a full-fledged company. Since most of the demand was for jewelry, this gave her the initial idea of producing jewelry in Nepal, which would enable the products and her business to be scalable. To be able to produce locally and empower people was the icing on the cake. Currently, Ms. Shakya and her sister Mijala Shakya work together to grow this venture.
A couple of weeks back we connected with Ms. Shakya 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.
Can you tell us more about the production process and packaging?
Our artisans are from four different families. They work from the convenience of their own workshops. From our side, we provide the designs, materials, sizes, and pay them per product, based on their stated charge of each design. We personally source gemstones, and raw materials to maintain our quality. While determining the selling price, we only charge a fair margin as we want to cater to the mass rather than a niche market.
Most of our raw materials can be found in Nepal. Most of our jewelry is made of a copper base and 24-carat gold plated locally. Some have a silver and panchadhatu base. In terms of packaging, we source our boxes from an old Lokta paper manufacturer in Kathmandu and our pouches are handmade by housewives from Patan, which generates additional employment and uplifts the community side by side.
What are the products currently being offered?
We started with jewelry products like hoop earrings and minimal necklaces which were not available in Nepal at that time. We have been adding a new range of products every season. We have our signature Therapy collection, which includes minimal gold-plated jewelry. Along with that, we have recently launched “Luxury by Therapy”, where we have introduced occasion wear jewelry with precious and semi-precious stones.
How do you define your target market?
Our target market is every individual who is interested in fashion and jewelry, especially those who embrace the effortless look. We identify our jewelry as minimalistic everyday pieces; hence it fits well for everyone. Our customers are not just from Kathmandu, but from various little cities and towns all over Nepal as well as Nepalese living abroad, so I feel elated to have reached the mass.
Who are your allies in running the business?
We currently have five people in our administrative team. We have a delivery partner as well as a courier partner, who deliver our products locally and internationally. Considering all the people involved from production to packaging, we provide employment to around 15-20 people.
What were the major challenges that you faced while starting this venture?
The most crucial part for a jewelry company is the artisans who make them. Although Kathmandu is known for its artwork and craftsmanship, it was really difficult to find the right people who can transform your vision into reality. It becomes challenging to find artisans who understand your specific vision and can adapt to your needs. Additionally, it also took a long time to get the consistency in quality as everything is handmade. But, I am proud of the people that I have found and the quality we have been able to achieve. They have understood my vision and are loyal to our brand.
As the Nepali market is filled with jewelry from other countries which are low in price as well as quality, do you consider them as your competition?
It is not comparable. They are good in their own way and have consumers who prefer to buy such jewelry. Even I buy artificial jewelry myself sometimes. But, our products are different and they stand out from the rest. There is a difference in quality, craftsmanship, sustainability, and packaging, which you can easily see and feel.
I do not mind healthy competition. It would be great to see more unique designs so people will have wider choices. Nevertheless, we have also started to witness people copying our designs and styles, which makes us feel sad and disrespected.
Where can the consumers find your products?
Most of our sales happen through Instagram. However, we also have a design studio and office in Patan; consumers can visit and try the products there, by taking prior appointments. In addition, we have been planning to open a physical store, which is currently in progress but is taking longer than expected due to the global pandemic.
What are your future plans for this enterprise?
I never planned on doing just jewelry. Being a creative person, I like to experiment and keep trying new things. Hence, I am already in talks with artisans to make other handmade products. Therapy will venture into home decor as well as clothing in the near future.
How has this entrepreneurial journey been so far for you?
As I feel very strongly about what I am doing, the journey has been nothing but fulfilling for me. It feels amazing to make money doing something you love, while also providing employment and empowering the local artisans. I aspire to introduce more products, expand the brand internationally and work towards generating a higher impact from my work.
Is there any additional suggestion you would like to give to other emerging social entrepreneurs?
A popular misconception among aspiring entrepreneurs is usually to start big and expect quick results. But on the contrary, my biggest advice would be to start small. Everyone has several doubts during initiation. Hence, it becomes quintessential to test the market and observe the market response before you start investing more into it, and taking bigger risks.
To achieve long-term success, it is a must to do something that truly interests you or you feel passionate about. Entrepreneurship is a long journey and you will most likely burn out if you merely start the venture with the market scope in mind. If the venture actually resonates with your soul, you will be able to put in more effort, time, and energy despite the challenges, and eventually succeed.
Want a trusted replacement of gold jewelry at a much lower price and high in quality? Order the minimalist yet timeless pieces from Therapy!
Interviewed and Article by Shreeya Bhattarai