The Local Project Nepal, located inside Café Evoke premises at Jhamsikhel, and Le Sherpa, Lazimpat, is a hub for brands producing and selling authentic local products. The store emulates the concept of empowering the local market and producers along with providing a diverse selection of authentic locally made products to our customers.
Here’s what one of the two founders, Mr. Binam Shakya, has to say about The Local Project Nepal.
1. Let’s start with your journey of starting The Local Project? How did it start?
It all started with a casual conversation at Evoke Cafe with my co-founder who also runs the place. At the time, I used to study abroad and had come back to Nepal for a few months. However, I was determined and had always dreamt of working for the welfare of the Nepali society. So, that’s when it all clicked and The Local Project came into inception. Space was already available at Evoke Cafe and along with my Marketing degree and my co-founder’s experience in conducting business, we were able to bring our idea into life. Since we didn’t have a lot of funds to start the business, we took some loans to kickstart the business.
The Local Project is like a concept store that showcases and sells authentic Nepal made products of high quality made by brilliant Nepali brands. It got registered as a Pvt. Ltd. company in April 2017.
2. What is the social problem that you’re trying to solve?
The society needs people who have a sustainable business model that not only profits them but society too. As such, a lot of Nepali enterprises have opened up with great business models but factors such as finance and investment have always been a challenge for them and upcoming entrepreneurs alike. Thus, by helping them to showcase their products in our outlet saves them from huge renting costs all the while increasing their sales through one platform.
3. What are the social changes that The Local Project has been able to bring?
Since the products sold in The Local Project are not made by us, we aren’t directly bringing social changes. It is through these entrepreneurs that we have been able to aid in the process. The brands that are displayed in our stores are sustainable, WTO certified, authentic and local made. Most of these brands support a cause and help society through their business. So, I guess, by making their brands visible and helping them make sales is like promoting their cause of benefitting society.
4. Which stage do you think your company is in right now?
Right now, we’re in a growing phase since we started with seven brands and now showcase thirty-two brands. This number is likely to increase in the future and we’re hopeful about it. Furthermore, The Local Project now can be found at two different locations- EVOKE Café & Bistro, Jhamsikhel, and Le Sherpa, Panipokhari and we plan to be available in more places.
5. What was the team like when you first started out?
We started with just the two of us- me and my co-founder. We gave our full time at The Local Project and since it was a small business then, we didn’t need a lot of helping hands. Even though it’s still a small business now, we have four employees working to grow the company.
6. Were there any challenges that you faced while starting The Local Project?
Yes, of course! We had planned to open up in a month’s time after we had finalized on the business model. However, it took us 3 months to start the operations since nothing goes as planned. Most of the time was taken for the construction and designing of the store. Other than that, we had difficulty finding Nepali brands that produce unique and high-quality products to showcase in our store. We wanted these brands to be exclusive and not already available in the market like the Nepali products we find in Thamel.
7. How did you overcome those challenges?
I would say we were patient. We could not do anything else than to be patient! We wanted to start up as soon as possible but it was just the two of us so we had to wait and look for alternatives as to how to speed up the constructions. We searched for the vendors in Social media and asked our friends if they were interested. I remember texting many people asking if they were interested to feature their product in The Local Project. So I guess patience is what that overcame everything.
8. What are the challenges that you are facing as of now?
Well, there are a lot of great Nepali brands that we want to feature in our store but due to limited space, we haven’t been able to do so. So, the biggest challenge for us right now is finding a good space to expand our business.
Another challenge is that of increasing competition. Although, we’re happy and proud that people have started to promote Nepali brands, overcoming a competition is still a challenge for us in becoming sustainable.
9. What do you think is the market potential for your company?
The market potential is really, really good. When we started out, we thought our clients are only going to be expats or foreigners but after operating for more than a year, we have come to realize that we were wrong. Nepalese are equally interested in Nepali products and feel proud to own one.
10. Can you give us an estimation of your investment to date?
Umm, the investment would be somewhere around twenty lakh.
11. Whom do you see as your target customers?
As mentioned earlier, we thought our target segment comprised of expats and foreigners but now we can say that it consists of everyone- both Nepalese and foreigners of all age groups.
12. On a monthly basis, how many customers do you have?
Now, this is something that depends on the seasons. Although, on average, we have at least three people visiting our store every day not necessarily to buy the products.
13. What do you think are the key needs of your company?
Definitely, Human Resource is the major need of The Local Project. Especially, since we’re planning to grow, we feel like the four of us are not enough. My business partner and I are doing most of the work at the moment so, additional hands would be great.
14. Do you have other plans for The Local Project in the near future?
As I said, we are in a growing phase and a lot needs to be done. Expansion is one of our top priorities for now and we’re also planning to export to a few countries in the near future. You know- The Local Project International! We just want it to grow bigger.
15. Do you consider yourself as a social entrepreneur?
The products that we’re selling through our store are not ours but since we’re benefitting the society through an enterprise, so yes.
16. Is there anything else that you want to share with people?
I think people are still stereotypical regarding Nepali products. They think these products are really expensive and not worth the quality. But I think people should know that Nepali products are in fact of really good quality and in order to for them to become better, people need to support them. Some might be hesitant about the price since the same quality product can be imported at a cheaper price. People need to understand that the production costs in Nepal are high since the products aren’t mass produced and in order for them to be cheaper, the brands need to be supported first. So, please support Nepali brands!
Interviewed by Ashmita Rai and Edited by Yangzum Lama