Gone are the days when women were only recognized for caring for their families and were restricted to their homes. In the past, Bhutanese women were rarely seen doing business upfront because, like many other countries, it was considered a man’s realm. Entrepreneurship in Bhutan was a man’s dominion traditionally with Bhutanese men traveling to Tibet and India to do barter trade with neighboring countries at the borders. So even if women wanted to become entrepreneurs and do business, they lacked the social freedom to do so.
Times have changed now. As society has become more accepting and encouraging of women’s participation in public life, Bhutan has been witnessing an evolution of business, and Bhutanese women have been joining the world of entrepreneurship. A growing number of women have started micro and small businesses. Some women-founded businesses because they had incredible knowledge, skills and wanted to work for their passion, which allowed them to be independent, while others did so because they were the bread earners of their homes and needed to support their families.
According to the Department of Cottage and Small Industries (DCSI), the percentage of women-owned and operated Small and Medium Enterprises is around 35 percent, compared to the estimated 63 percent for men-owned and operated Small and Medium Enterprises. Of course, this is a significant figure and an indication of great progress, but it is now more vital than ever to unite behind the marginalized communities, which include women.
One of the simplest ways to express your support is by shopping from businesses owned by women. Hear inspiring stories about the top 6 women on brand, 6 self-made female entrepreneurs from Bhutan, and their entrepreneurship journeys.
Chandrika Tamang, CDK
Chandrika Tamang has always been interested in making clothes; as a child, she once took her mother’s clothes apart to make a fancy dress for herself. She left her corporate career to pursue her passion for textiles and fashion as a pioneer fashion designer. In 2014, she launched her clothing brand “CDK” with the support of her family and friends.
CDK is one of the first Bhutanese clothing brands that encourage women’s empowerment while also preserving and promoting weaving culture and emphasizing sustainability. Driven by her passion and creativity, Chandrika’s boutique studio caters to distinctive and fashionable clothing for ladies of all ages. Her intriguing work is inspired by Bhutan’s rich weaving, natural dyeing, and spiritual-cultural traditions.
Although she originally faced hurdles such as a lack of business expertise, limited finance, and a shortage of competent staff, her business has begun to pick up and is on track to meet its sales goals. She was even named “Woman Entrepreneur of the Year” at the 2017 Bhutan Entrepreneur Awards. CDK has currently provided employment opportunities to 8 full-time employees and 12 part-time employees, with all her weavers being women. Chandrika has launched a physical outlet in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu.
She aspires to modify the fashion industry’s characteristics by attempting to ‘Go-Green.’ She also hopes that one day CDK will become a worldwide recognized premium brand.
You may now assist her in realizing her aspirations by purchasing her lovely goods.
Sonam Pelden, Mudra Products
Sonam Pelden is the founder of Mudra, which means “seal” or “sign” in Sanskrit. Given the variety of therapeutic herbs that grow in Bhutan’s pristine and calm environment, she realized that the potential for goods containing these elements is limitless, so she decided to manufacture her own.
Mudra products are free of chemicals and preservatives and are created with locally sourced ingredients. Mudras are hand motions used in Buddhist rituals to influence the flow of energy in the body and so have a positive effect on the mind. Mudra offers a wide range of goods made entirely of natural ingredients such as shea butter, beeswax, and essential oils, including lip balms, all-purpose salves, scrubs, and a variety of essential oil scents.
Sonam Yangchen, Rinyang Artisan
What does fine jewelry look like? Try any of the gorgeous pieces created by talented local artist Sonam Yangchen at Rin Yang. She enjoys hand-painting wooden earrings that feature Bhutanese textiles. “Rin” is an alias for her daughter’s name “Rinchen,” and “Yang” from her name. Intricate Bhutanese textile patterns are painted on light wood in her collection. She is an arts and crafts enthusiast who began producing them as a hobby but is gradually turning her hobby into a business with the genuine support of her customers.
Swastika, Sharikpa patterns, and Drami motifs are just a few of the symbols she uses. The earrings are made of light wood and have an acrylic painting on them. They’re varnished for long-lasting durability and set on a silver hook that’s gentle on the skin. They are extremely light, comfortable to wear, and will add a pop of color to any outfit.
Kelzang Wangmo, Kelzang handicraft
Producer of exquisite Bhutanese Textiles and crafts since 1995 based in Thimphu, Bhutan. Kelzang, also known as Jambay, is a weaver, designer, and owner from Lhuntse’s Khoma village, which is known for its magnificent -Kushuthara- the “skirt” part of the traditional attire.
She began weaving in her village when she was ten years old. Education possibilities were few at the time, and even more so for those who lacked the means to attend school. She and her family moved to Thimphu when she was 16 years old. She and her two sisters wove kiras and ghos (Bhutanese dress), which they marketed to office employees and the wealthy.
Jambay now designs the majority of the textiles in her shop, from face masks to kiras, table runners, placemats, scarves, stoles, and so on. She currently employs 60-70 women in Thimphu and Lhuntse to weave for her allowing them to be able to provide for their families. The Royal Textile Academy has given her multiple honors for their creations.
She is living proof that women can support themselves and be successful in society if they use their skills and talents to their full potential.
Sonam Lhamo, Druk Yathra
Druk Yathra is a family-owned enterprise situated in central Bhutan’s Bumthang. They primarily focus on Yathra manufacture and traditional dyeing. The initial concept, which was conceived by the father, Mr. Thokmed Yeshey, in the 1980s, was to create opportunities for the people of Bumthang to earn income and meet their necessities.
The mother was passionate about textiles and had always loved dyeing and weaving. She taught her daughter Sonam Lhamo at the age of 12. Sonam is now running the business and is an expert dyer. Her mother taught her how to weave on several types of looms and how to do traditional dyeing. Color is so highly valued here that dyeing is regulated by strict taboos. Dyeing is done at first light, behind closed doors. No one outside the family is allowed to witness this process, especially pregnant women whose unborn children might “steal the colors and spoil the dye baths.”
Sonam has established herself as a well-known textile designer and a teacher to the Druk Yathra studio’s weavers. Her goal has always been to preserve the dying and weaving arts. She also used to share her knowledge and skills with the people in the community.
From soft wool carpet to handwoven wool Rug, Druk Yathra deals with varieties of textiles to preserve and promote the culture and tradition of Bhutan. The simple and beautiful design, which is made entirely of natural wool, looks great in bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms.
Tshewang Dem, Tshejor's Ayzey
Tshewang Dem’s friend was so taken by her Azey (pickle) that she advised Tshewang to start selling them in 1998. She took up the idea two years later and began pickling on weekends, paying for the supplies with her salary. The pickle is created at home with traditional ingredients and creative recipes that are free of preservatives and use less oil. It’s a vegetarian product that’s flaming hot and spicy, with a variety of unique tastes and flavors, as well as healthful, with a high energy content and low-fat content. The goods are usually served as appetizers with rice, bread, or flatbread, as well as a drink accompaniment.
In 2011 she formally registered her business, “Tshejor Azey”, which has grown in popularity over time and enabled her to leave her job in 2013. She presently employs 9 full-time and 2 part-time employees, with a total of 25 women employed over the years. For Tshewang, this was never a get-rich-quick strategy, but rather a passion.
These are 6 great female entrepreneurs that are creating a name for themselves and making changes for the people around them. We, at Taste of Bhutan, take great pride in supporting women-owned businesses and love sharing their stories and wonderful products. Help us support Women making changes in Bhutan by sharing their stories and buying their products this holiday season.
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