Twenty-four-year-old Abha Dhital says she doesn't remember the last time when she had a paper and pen in front her and she didn't use them to draw or write something. She also remembers constantly telling her friends maybe she could excel at making "cheeky cards with not-so-fancy doodles and not-so-heavy words."
Her friend Sabin Bhandari managed to sneak out of her designs, printed it out on a card, and presented it to her on her birthday, saying: "Here's, it's time to start the company." This, in short, is how 'Little Things' was born. Abha and Sabin then started the card company with a humble investment of Rs 10,000 last year.
Fast forward one year, Little Things has produced over 500 cards under themes like "Just Because," "Love," "Family," and "Inspired from Nepali Music," begun producing customized gifts like handmade scrapbooks, calendars and notes in a jar, and even received compliments like "We don't need Hallmark anymore."
In conversation with Poonam Maharjan of Republica, Abha talks about how it feels like to be an entrepreneur, the challenges of startups in Nepal, multitasking, and other things in between, all the while maintaining that they want to bring into light the fact that "best things in life like happiness and love can be found in "little things."
How does it feel to be an entrepreneur?
It takes a lot of courage to chase your dream and do what you always wanted to do. I still muster a little more courage every day to put my love for what I do for the world to see out there, but of course, being an entrepreneur feels absolutely amazing. As corny as it sounds – it makes me feel really alive. Having said that, I still hesitate a little to call myself an "entrepreneur," because I know that as soon as I affirm it, there's no turning back.
Tell us about the challenges you've faced, and what you've learnt from them.
From finding the right vendor to finding the right paper and printer to deciding on the right selling price, challenges were and are everywhere. Little Things is a small venture, but we want to provide value for money and for this the final package plays an important role. Despite giving our best, things don't always fall into place. There have been times when we've gone completely broke, there have been times when we compensated our customers with freebies because we felt that the products were just not up to the mark. We still have a stack of cards piled up at one corner of our workspace because the printer totally screwed up. What's interesting is the challenges were not always external; we've also had internal challenges such as lack of confidence and lack of motivation in the process.
What we've learnt is, friction eventually brings about growth. For every time we overcame a challenge, we also grew wiser, smarter and more efficient. With perseverance, patience and most importantly smarts – challenges can be overcome.
Do you and Sabin have specific roles in the venture?
I design the cards and gifts. I've never taken a course. I learnt to use design tools from Sabin, who is a self-taught designer himself. His responsibility is to make sure there are no glitches in the production and delivery. However, the roles keep overlapping as he's a designer himself and I sometimes make a better manager. Let's just say I'm the heart and he's the brain.
You also work full time at Rockstart Impact. How do you manage time?
It's not easy, but when you know you've got to do what you've got to do, you always find a way. I add more hours to my days when duty calls. It isn't so difficult when it comes to designing or ideating a product but making time for the final packaging can sometimes get the better of us. I've had days when I used my lunch hour to deliver the cards. I've had days when both my job and my venture required equal attention and hence I worked eight more hours in the evening after working 10 hours in the day job. I've realized that when you're creating something you love and building something that you always wished you did, you just manage somehow.
Where do you see Little Things in the next five years?
We want to add new products and designs to the Little Things line up, open up one proper store and establish Little Things as a cheeky Cards and Gifts brand with at least a hundred loyal, recurring customers in Kathmandu alone.