Soapy Empowerment

Providing training and jobs through felting
In the culturally rich city of Bhaktapur, Nepal, the primary source of livelihood is through agriculture. The caveat of farming is that it is seasonal and many of the skills used can’t be transferred, leading to seasonal unemployment. But it’s worse for women within the region. Many are illiterate and regarded as multi-taskers who can handle a number of small tasks, but with no pay. 
 
Founded by the husband and wife team of  Krishna Sadan Awal and Mandira Silakar Awal, Vimco Handicrafts was established as a corporation in 2009, Vimco Handicrafts has become the “it” company in Bhaktapur for local woman thanks to the specific objectives to help them earn a livelihood through a paid training program and with job offers. Currently the employ between 20 to 25 local women.
 
The company produces a variety of felt accessories from handbags to slippers. Much of the wool used is either imported from New Zealand or Tibet. Once the wool is carded and then dyed. Before they become official employees, Vimco first provides paid training to learn how to felt. “We provide the needed skill training and to those who have done well through the training process, we offer them employment. During their training period the women with some monetary benefits,” said co-founder  and general manager Krishna Sadan Awal. Once the training period ends, the women have the choice to work full or part-time.
 
There’s no question that competition in the handcraft industry can make or break a business. Like many businesses Vimco has has low and high periods. In the beginning the company had trouble finding buyers for their goods. Gradually, they met with middlemen who sold and exported their products. On their own, they’ve reached out to buyers in Germany, France, Slovenia, the United States and Japan. But the company is producing less then their production capacity. “We need more buyers to keep our employees happy,” said Awal. 
 
To expand their market reach and grow their brand, Vimco Handicrafts will be showing for the first time a wide range of felt products at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource in New York City at the Jacob Javits Center. Products include their collection of Christmas accessories, felted slippers hand bags, and children’s toys. 
 
Vimco currently doesn’t have any retail outlets in Nepal or abroad, but interested buyers can contact them for a catalogue of their collections at www.vimcohandicraftsnepal.com.
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