What I love about traveling the world is that I get to witness the amazing ways communities come together to take care of one another and admire the entrepreneurial spirits of the locals. I recently visited Nepal for a work/play trip and had the opportunity to go on a short hike to see the incredible Annapurna mountains and to hang out lakeside with new friends in Pokhara. But what impressed me—as someone who considers herself socially conscious and an entrepreneur—was all of the awesome businesses and organizations that encouraged people to shop sustainably. Many of the shops unexpectedly carried local products from organic coffee to Nepali hand-made paper to unique textiles. There were also a few socially and environmentally conscious services like wellness spas and boutique hotels. Coming across so many socially-minded businesses was really unexpected, but an awesome surprise since I love learning about what social enterprises around the world are doing for their communities.
The coolest place I came across was a social venture called Seeing Hands, a massage clinic in Pokhara. They provide training and employment opportunities in massage therapy for visually impaired people and employ professionally-trained blind therapists who provide massages. Unfortunately, I discovered it on my last day in Pokhara so I didn’t actually get to get a massage, but I ran into some guys outside of the clinic and they said that the service was great. They looked so happy and relaxed.
I also had a wonderful lunch at Green Organic Cafe and Farmers Bar, a quaint restaurant located in Thamel, Kathmandu. I had mouth-watering wheat (read: brown) veggie momo and light, crispy pakodas. Their rooftop was relaxing for drinking calming tea and deep conversation. I really enjoyed their organic, local dishes and was happy to be able to support healthy and sustainable food practices while I was exploring the neighborhood.
My absolute favorite store was Folk Nepal, an organization that sells fair-trade handicrafts and whose mission is to support skill-building for needy craft artisans. They carry everything from clothes to jewelry to rugs (the latter I snagged because I love collecting textiles when I’m on the road). My hand-woven rug was only 1800 NPR (about $18 USD) which is a steal. It pains me to know that other shops sell these kinds of crafts for much less, which means that craftspeople are often exploited for their skills and labor. It kills me even more that people buy into it, because I can’t describe how important and how good it feels to know that I’ve supported an organization that helps contribute to communities and people’s livelihoods in a positive way.
I’m obsessed with social enterprise because it’s such a powerful way for businesses to make money and create a positive impact in communities, and for consumers to spend consciously so that their money goes to socially responsible businesses. As a consumer, I know I wield a lot of power in where I choose to spend my money— I choose to support mission-based businesses and products as much as I can because I know that my money makes a difference in communities and the environment. Nepal was so exciting to explore because of its incredibly robust social entrepreneurship culture and was the perfect place to travel to for someone like me: Down for the green cause.
Remember to shop responsibly when you can, folks!
Kimberly Phan // Creative Director, $calechange
and more, Kathmandu
after a massage at Seeing Hands. Pokhara
mouth-watering organic momo
Green Organic Cafe and Farmers Bar, Kathmandu
supporting underprivileged teen girls, Pokhara