Can you tell us a brief history of Nauseni and how your own experiences led you to start the company?
My family and I were in Kathmandu during the time of the earthquake in Nepal on Saturday, April 25th 2015. Following the earthquake, we camped out in the open space with the local community as the aftershocks kept occurring.
My son (two years old at the time) and I flew to Bangkok three days later, while my husband stayed on in Nepal to help. Upon my arrival, I started sending to Nepal some tents and tarpaulin sheets, which were collected at Tribhuvan airport in Kathmandu by volunteers from Himalayan Area Development Centre, an NGO where I am an executive advisor, and distributed to those affected by the earthquake. Within the first 15 days, I raised enough funds to send over three tons of relief materials directly to Gorkha, the epicentre of the Earthquake.
Five weeks later, I returned to Nepal, and was humbled by the strength and serenity of all the survivors I met. Most of them, particularly the women, expressed their wishes to rebuild their homes with their “own two hands” and did not expect any handouts. With these sentiments in mind, I came to believe that providing income-generating opportunities, particularly for women, would be an effective way to support individuals’ and communities’ recovery and future development in a more sustainable manner.
I took the phrase “with our own two hands” quite literally and began exploring crafts that would connect well with Nepalese women and be relevant to domestic and global markets. Wool crafts came first on the list, as for centuries women in the Himalayas had been making rugs and coats from the wool of their sheep. While a majority of women are familiar with wool crafts, wool needle felting is still a novel technique, so I decided to introduce needle felting as a value added craft.
I organised a weeklong training on needle felting in Kathmandu in September 2016, with a designer/tutor invited from the UK. The training was open to interested women free of charge. After the training, we continued working with a smaller group of women to further train them to be trainers and lead artisans.
We began the trial production in October 2016 and sent our first orders to Christmas Fairs in the UK. The products were well received, with encouraging feedback and a sell-out.
Can you tell us the most moving experience that you've had through Nauseni?
When I first sponsored and organised a wool felt training in Kathmandu, we had expected about 15 participants, but more than 40 women turned up wanting to be trained. We welcomed everyone and had to promptly restructure and extend the training period.
After the training workshop, we started to employ smaller group of women to further train them to be future trainers and lead artisans. Seeing how happy the women were to be a part of the project and to receive their first month salary, some with tears in their eyes, I felt that maybe this could be a start of something.
What was the inspiration behind the design of your Wool Felt Slipper?
We wanted to develop products which make use of the traditional method of making wool felt in Nepal and which are also relevant in our everyday life, while reflecting fresh and minimalist design.
Drawing inspirations from the cultural diversity and vibrant colours of Nepal, we debut our slippers in rich colour ways inspired by the diverse ethnic groups and dramatic landscapes of Nepal. These colours include: Mountain Coral, Tikka Red, Ghaleck Maroon, Sherpa Blue, Gurung Green, Himalayan Grey and Yak Brown.
Where do you think the future lies for retail in general?
I think this is an exciting time for handmade-customised products from all parts of the world. On the one hand, with so many wonderful and innovative products available in the markets now, retail customers certainly have more choices regarding product options, price ranges and variety of features, thanks to market competitions and advancing technologies. On the other hand, people also seek more unique, customised and back-to-nature products, with more human touches.
I’m very excited to see e-commerce platforms, tradeshows, high-street shops and fairs dedicating special sections to hand-made products. This certainly helps to make the increasingly globalised market to be more inclusive, where artisans in more harder-to-reach parts of the world like Nepal can showcase their work to the world, making retail a more inclusive platform for equitable growth and sustainable development.
What was the last thing you bought?
Silk bed sets for the family.
What is your favourite Nauseni product and why?
Could I choose two products? 1) Children slippers in Tikka Red--I cannot imagine any children not looking adorable or feeling cosy in them; and 2) Needle-felted Rabbit in our Woodland Wonders Ornament Collection - it is one of the first products we made. I still have the first few versions that we made during the training period, which look quite different from the current product now! This reminds us of how hard our female artisans have worked to improve and prefect their skills.
What do you think makes a good company?
Teamwork: A company that works together as a team, where all the team members listen and respect each other. I believe that everyone has something unique and valuable to contribute, as a Founder and Managing Director of a company, it is my job to find the strengths of our team members and nurture them.
Transparency: A company that is accountable and transparent in all their dealings.
Fairness: A company that seeks to offer premium quality of products and services to their clients at reasonable prices and provide safe and pleasant work environment, secure employment to their team and fair benefits to all their employees.
What's your favourite thing to do away from Nauseni?
Spending quality time with my son, swimming and yoga.
Where is your favourite place to visit?
Again, could I choose two? Chitwan National Park in Nepal and Cinque Terre in Italy.
Can you describe your workplace?
Our small workshop is located in a residential area in Kathmandu. Majority of female artisans working with us can walk to work. Our workplace is a friendly, close-knitted and a happy environment where chitchats and laughter provide a soundscape to our workplace.
What is your life motto?
Do your best and enjoy the process.
What's next for Nauseni?
We are in the process of gradually scaling up in order to work with more women in Nepal and engage with more customers worldwide.