We had the good fortune of connecting with Sushma Barakoti and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sushma, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Sunavworld is an Atlanta based social enterprise that provides socio-economic upword mobility to more than 800 grassroots women artisans in Nepal and Nepali diaspora in the US.
As a native of Nepal, I have worked in non-profit development in rural and urban Nepal on issues such as women’s economic empowerment, family strengthening and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. As a developing country that has strong patriarchal systems still in place, working on handicraft is not only a way of life for Nepali women, but an area where women can express their creativity and personality. For the past 20 years, I have been working to promote organizations like Janakpur Women’s Development Center, Women’s Skill Development Organization and Women’s Foundation of Nepal, showcasing their products and stories. In 2014, I participated in StartME: Business Accelerator in Clarkston GA, a program that provides entrepreneurs like me with knowledge, networking and capital. Since then, I have accelerated my business by participating in trade shows, festivals, exhibitions and fundraisers.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My experience as a non-profit professional for the past 35 years and working both in Nepal and the United States, has taught me a few valuable lessons – that women, whether an artisan in Nepal or a domestic violence survivor in American, their empowerment to live a life that they have envisioned, they must have access to resources and have finacial independence. Sunavworld made a short video last year that highlights our vision https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYztkUKzLzk
Early in my career in Nepal, I held leadership roles in various international development organizations including UNDP and PLAN International managing projects on micro-credits, HIV/AIDS, gender mainstreaming and more. I am an experienced trainer in Participatory Research and Action that is built on the premise that people who are most affected by an issue must be at the core participants in deciding the solutions to those problems. I have enbodied that principal therefore, I believe in designing programs in response to the community needs.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Georgia is a beautiful place and has so much diversity to offer, both in natural settings and also the diversity of people who live here. I am a foodie and love unique eats. I would start my itinerary on the South end of Buford Highway and eat our way all the way up to Duluth. In the South part of Buford Highway, there are immigrants from South and Central America and the highway is lined with papuseria, panaderia and Plaza Fiesta. Then, it becomes Asian town starting with Chinese and Vietnamese and Korean eateries and bakeries to Japanese food as we go up .
I would take them to Clarkston, obviously because Clarkston is the first stepping ground for refugees resettled in Georgia. In the last few years, the city has made tremendous efforts to keep the refugees and the cultural vitality they bring in the city by improving roads, public parks and more.
At Refugee Women’s Network, we recently started a Women’s Hiking Group, created to support wellness in refugee and immigrant women we work with. In this group, I have explored Arabia Mountain, Sweet Water Creek, East Palisades and many more trails. I will take my guest to these nature preserves.
Last but definitely not the least, I would give them a tour of my own garden! I have fruit trees and vegetables and flowers of all kinds. My husband built a green house for me for my 50th birthday and has been a new addition to my garden tour.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
StartME: Business Accelerator undoubtedly deserves my shoutout. They helped me believe that what I wanted to do, and what I had to offer has a market and that I am a business woman! My identity has been that of a social changemaker, but never as a business owner. They provided me with advice on topics such as legal, financial, pricing, inventory management, networking with other businesses and more. Then they connected with my mentor, Nadia Bredthauer Hoefel, who offered her time, her knowledge and taught me the tricks of the trade on pricing my products, participating in the wholesale market and much more. I couldn’t have done it without these folks.
More about StartME: https://www.startmeatl.org/
WSDO, Sushma Barakoti