Grooming her business: a beautician-turned entrepreneur’s story from Nepal

Kavre, Nepal — In the historical town of Banepa, 35-year-old Sulochana Timalsina runs a little shop, half of which is a grocery store and the other half a beauty parlour. The two units share one space to serve different purposes for her patrons, but one single purpose for this young entrepreneur – empowerment.

“Five years down the line, I hope to turn this place into a full-fledged beauty parlour. With houses mushrooming in this area, I am positive that my business will flourish,” she says, sharing a secret. “I am aware that I can seek investment any minute now, but I won’t. I want to save up and open a parlour with my own money – a 100 per cent-personal investment.”

Timalsina currently earns a monthly income of NPR 16,000 (USD 140) from her business and is able to save 5,000 rupees (USD 44 per month).

Also, the president of a local business association for beauticians in Kavrepalanchok District, she says it is very important for women not to depend on their husband’s income. She says there are many opportunities for women out there: one just has to be prepared to grab them and use them to one’s advantage for financial freedom and growth.

Timalsina has been running a parlour and a store side-by-side for a few years now, but says her life took a turn after she participated in the 12-day Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurship Development training implemented by Vocational and Skills Development Training, UN Women’s implementing partner.

“The programme opened my eyes,” says Timalsina. “It not only taught me the importance of entrepreneurship, but it also shone light on how a business can be sustained with discipline and how it can flourish with ownership, leadership and focus.”

Timalsina uses the strong networks she has cultivated in the community to effectively run her small business. Photo: UN Women/Merit Maharjan

She shares that before the training, she unwittingly undermined her business. “I have learned to separate the accounts now. It’s so much easier to track where the money comes from and where it goes.”

That isn’t all. She points to a rack with tools and accessories that she recently installed in her parlour section, which she got as part of business start-up support from UN Women’s Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment (AWEE) programme.

“Before the training, I didn’t really care how my parlour functioned,” she admits. “Today, I have realized that it is important to have a professional setting and the right tools. I have even registered my business.”

Today, Timalsina is a community leader, she attends trainings, hosts community gatherings and participates in every networking opportunity that allows her to advocate for equal opportunities for women. She’s also the go-to person for her friends and family.

“The AWEE programme has helped many women like Timalsina become economically competent,” says Mio Yokota, Head of Economic Empowerment Unit at UN Women Nepal. “But the real objective of the programme goes beyond just providing income-generating skills to women. Through the programme, we would like to help women like Timalsina gain decision-making power, exert confidence, and excel in all aspects of their lives. For this to happen, it is very important that the women have the right support of their families and communities.”

Sulochana Timalsina is the go-to person in her community. Women come to her for beauty treatments like eyebrow threading or hairdressing, as well as for advice on self-growth and empowerment. Photo: UN Women/Merit Maharjan

Timalsina exudes confidence and leadership, which now seem to come to her so naturally that it is difficult to imagine her without many ambitions just few years ago.

In fact, she is eager to support other’s ambitions too, and has been preparing for the National Skills Testing Board (NSTB) exams of the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training. After clearing the first level of the NSTB skills test, she earned legal recognition for the skills she possesses. She is currently preparing for level 2.

“Once I clear this exam I can start training other young women like me,” she says, excitedly.