Ms. Pratima Thapa Karki (Free Wheel)
Growing up in a family that was involved in trading business, she saw her father take care of their handicraft business and even picked up a few tricks of the trade along the way. Pratima Thapa Karki understood what it meant to be an entrepreneur. So, when she finished her Master’s degree in Environmental Science, it was no surprise that she knew what she wanted to do. She realized that the Nepali market lacked environmentally friendly products, and she knew she had to do something which is how she embarked on her journey of becoming an entrepreneur. But success does not happen overnight. Before starting her entrepreneurial journey, she decided to work on several projects as a consultant and researcher with different government organization and UN agencies. She researched to gain more experience and knowledge about how she could do her part for the environment. It was her role as a researcher and an environment expert that played a crucial role in the creation of her product.
Pratima believes that being an entrepreneur is not about having big ideas, but rather it is about taking an existing idea and reshaping it to address current trends and needs. The method of using cloths as a pad is not novel and was popular back in the day. However, with increasing demand for comfort and safety during menstruation, cloths were replaced with the pads we now know today. During her involvement in Bagmati Cleaning Campaign, she witnessed a huge quantity of pad waste. These sanitary pads are made with plastic and are known to be harmful to the environment. This is when Pratima realized that she could do something, and that was how the Eco-pad came about.
These eco-friendly pads are made with 100% pure cotton fabric making it reusable and comfortable. The eco-pad was inspired by European and Australian brands and is at par with their qualities. As a married entrepreneur running her own business, she is lucky to have supportive family members who encouraged her to work towards her goals. However, taking care of business was an entirely different matter of its own. She faced many obstacles from procuring the right and affordable kind of material to convincing consumers to change their existing habits. But through it all, she knew all she needed was to work hard and persevere. The design and trial process took almost 1.5 years, but Pratima knew she was onto something. When the eco-pad was finally ready, they decided to test it out with fellow community members through word of mouth. They also visited several schools to educate and encourage young students about using eco-pads.
Business during COVID-19 and Adapting to E-commerce
The COVID 19 lockdown was a trying period for many entrepreneurs, and Pratima like any other entrepreneur knew she had to do more if she wanted her business to survive. The lockdown forced many people to rely on online shopping, and seeing this as an opportunity, she decided to take her business online. Before she was skeptical of putting up her products on online websites and as a result, they had been selling only through Facebook.
But with current circumstances, she knew it was wiser to put all her efforts into promoting her products online. She is one of the women entrepreneurs selected for the online promotion of her products under the “MA-UDHYAMI” campaign as a part of the project “Revitalizing Women’s Businesses Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic”. The project is being implemented by Federation of Woman Entrepreneurs’ Associations of Nepal (FWEAN), together with EMERGE and Thulo.com, and is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The response she received after being part of “MA-UDHYAMI” has been incredibly positive. Her products are now available to a larger customer base, and she says she is delighted with the outcome. Having an online presence allowed her to increase her customer base easily as well as reduce the cost of marketing. With that, she was also able to analyze and understand how well her products were doing in the market. She hopes that more women entrepreneurs will put up their businesses online, because in today’s context, with everyone relying on e-commerce, going online is indeed the best approach.
Something to learn from Pratima
Pratima’s journey as an entrepreneur has taught her that one should not be afraid to start and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. “The initial fear of starting something is a challenge you have to overcome. I started my entrepreneurial journey by communicating and understanding my community members’ needs and working towards addressing these needs and targeting them as customers eventually. I believe this is what laid the foundation for my product’s success. Once I had an idea for a product, I came up with a business plan and then started the business.” She believes that having a solid plan is a determining factor for success. The eco-pad is just a start for Pratima. She hopes to launch even more environmentally safe products in the near future and continue doing her part for the environment.
View all products of Free Wheel: https://thulo.com/free-wheel/
Story Covered by: Ms. Jaani Kandangwa
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