Since many of you are working on your business idea submissions, we thought it would be nice to hear from some previous students about their experience! Our friends Shivangi and Tanya from St Mark’s Secondary School, Meera Bagh, in New Delhi, India, very kindly agreed to speak to us. Shivangi and Tanya’s team started a school business ‘Nirmaan Enterprise’ selling cloth bags in 2012, and the business has run successfully ever since.
How did you come to decide on running this particular business?
Well, we considered running other businesses including selling paper bags, pickles and spices, or jute bags, but there were drawbacks to these ideas. The cost of production was often too high, or the competition was intense, or in the case of a pickle-and-spice business, there were hygiene issues and concerns about how to store the pickles and spice. In the end, our business selling cloth bags was the best option because there was negligible cost and it fulfilled the People, Planet and Profit requirements of sustainable and environmentally responsible businesses.
What was your biggest challenge in running the business?
We wanted our business to have a positive impact on the local community by employing women who were living below the poverty line. After finding these ladies, our biggest challenge was convincing them that our business was going to make a profit and that their efforts wouldn’t be wasted if they joined our enterprise. Also, we had to convince the customers that it was worth buying our bags. Customers tended to have a lot of questions so we had to be prepared to answer them.
Definitely leadership skills, especially in managing our team and dividing up tasks. We have 12-15 students in our team, and 7-8 women working for us. Each woman was assigned one student as a personal contact. We also organised ourselves such that we had five departments on our team: the creative department, marketing department, accounts department, admin department, and resource development department.
Be well-organised and take things step-by-step. In our first year when we started this business, we were not looking to make profit, it was more about establishing a business, having a healthy division of labour, and establishing a working relationship with the women who made our bags. In the first year 80% of the profits went to the women; in the second and third year, 50% of the business profits went to them. The profit we kept was to reinvest in the business.
What was fun about running the business?
What are you most proud of in this experience?