Sita Magar, a mother of two children, got connected to a Facebook group dedicated to mothers during last year’s lockdown. In the group, the members used to share parenting tips.
There, she noticed many parents, especially mothers, were worried about managing the frequent need for clothes for their growing children as all the clothing stores were closed at that time. In addition, many parents had lost their jobs due to the lockdown, and the families having low-income levels were struggling hard to fulfil their children’s need of clothing.
“After seeing all this, a concept struck my mind. As children grow out of clothes quickly, many of their clothes and accessories are not much used and mostly in a good condition,” Magar narrates, “Hence, I thought of creating a platform where the mothers could donate or sell and buy their babies’ pre-loved items at a reasonable price so that it would be valued and the needy ones could be supported while adding up to environmental sustainability.”
Giving wings to her brainchild, Magar along with six of her friends came up with Mom’s Store Nepal (MSN), as a voluntary initiative, by creating Facebook and Instagram pages, a platform to facilitate the sale of used or spare clothes or toys or accessories of the children in October last year. As this kidswear-centred thrift store is yet to mark its first anniversary, the co-founders hope its growth will be as exciting as the growth of the children it serves.
Laying the foundation
Besides Magar, Anu Upadhyay, Hishi Tuladhar, Barsha Poudel, Sunita Thapa, Sanju Rajak Shrestha, and Suman Kunwar are the people behind MSN, who are making volunteering contributions to this initiative in addition to their full-time jobs.
Magar and Upadhyay have been friends since 2017 when they were in the same cohort of the Australia Awards scholarship. “During our stay in Australia, we got to see and experience extensive thrifting culture and practice there,” Magar shares, “That has remained somewhere in our head and we were looking for ways to bring that practice here as well. Fortunately, the pandemic blessed us with that opportunity in a way.”
According to Magar, after this idea hit her mind, she shared it with Upadhyaya, who appreciated it and showed keen interest to work on it. Then, they started selling their own children’s spare dresses and toys. And, the response was quite positive, claims Magar.
“The team grew bigger when we shared this idea with our friends’ circle and found people having similar interests and passion,” says Upadhyaya.
Bringing in ‘waste’ into a circular economy
The MSN, which is in the process of registration as a social enterprise, collects the donated children’s items, processes (washes and packs) and sells them at a minimal price by branding them as ‘pre-loved items’ rather than used or second-hand items through their social media pages, according to Magar.
Upadhaya shares, “We also used to sell these products at the Saturday market at Labim Mall before the second wave of the pandemic hit the country.”
Apart from this, the MSN also partners with small stores to sell those clothes and also works like a consignment store for home-based businesses run by women who are into making handmade products such as knitted children’s clothes, crochet, and many more, says Upadhyaya.
“We invest the money raised through the sales in managing the operation, logistics, store management, and laundry costs of the MSN. To date, we have invested around Rs 100,000 into this although we have had sales of around Rs. 60,000 only.”
And, for the registration fee, all the seven co-founders are collectively investing the required money from their own pockets, reports Magar.
Coping up with hurdles
While mentioning that the MSN is gradually growing, both Magar and Uphadhaya talk about the barriers they are tackling. First and foremost, the impression of Nepali people regarding second-hand clothes or items stood as the roadblock, according to them. As all of the team members have their own full-time jobs other than the MSN, they also fear the sustainability of this initiative.
Sometimes, the misunderstandings between the buyers and sellers create a huge fuss in the platform bringing in trust issues regarding the purchase and sales of the items, says Magar.
“As we have recently launched the Momta app, we have been realising that most internet users are not used to using such apps. Plus, we have been facing problems in logistics time and again.”
“While tackling all these problems, there are many things that encourage us to move forward.” She exemplifies, “Many high-profile people, especially those working in foreign embassies based in Kathmandu approach us and make donations.”
As of now, citing the pandemic, the group has halted the sales and is focused on app development and creating awareness. However, it aims to expand its services targeting the youth as well as contributing to thrifting culture and also plans to have its own physical stores in a near future.