Cooking with people from all over the world, identifying your real customers and finding a second home far away from your actual home – these are some of the things we talked about with Sibjan Chaulagain, of Creating SMILES, Building the Nation, after he completed the first three weeks of the SE Outreach Accelerator.
Why did you apply to this program?
In Nepal we had been working with farmers and there were some NGOs that were ready to pay for our services, especially the weather and the market information. As we were creating the profiles of the farmers, we realized that there may be a different business opportunity but we were not sure how to model it from a business point of view. At the same time we also had a few donors, but they wanted the real business plan and we were struggling with that. So I heard of SE Forum last year and I thought that this could be the perfect platform where I could meet the right people and have time where I can think of my business plan, and at the same time get mentored, have linkages and create network so that I can go back to Nepal confidently.
You are three weeks into the program now, what has your experience been like so far?
So far it has been as I expected. Every day there is an intense program, but I get sufficient time to myself to really think for my business, to make it better. There are lots of topics that I was not aware of and that I was not able to model, but after being here I feel like I have the capacity to do so.
What has been your biggest learning?
Some of the topics like the customer acquisition, how to get the customer, what are the sale cycles, what is the market, what exactly is our market share… How do we measure the impact? These are the topics that I was not previously aware of. At the same time I was not really able to identify who the real customers were and who the beneficiaries were. Now I feel like I am able to segment them.
What is the first thing you are going to do when you go back to Nepal?
I think I will hire someone who is really good in marketing, as I feel like there’s a gap in my team. So far I have been depending on freelancers for my IT, so I might partner with an IT company that shares my vision. I have some insights that I learned here about how to select partners and hire new people.
What has it been like being in a group of people from different countries?
The 7 different people I’ve met are all from countries of which I’ve never met anyone from before. Apart from the cultural experience, I found that there is a single language that we all share and that is how much we care about each other, how friendly we are to each other. So it has been pretty good and we have lived together in an apartment, shared things, worked together, cooked together… This kind of experience has been a good moment in my life!
What has it been like being in Sweden?
Ah Sweden, Sweden… It has been just like my second home although it is far from my home. It’s the first time I’ve been here but since I’ve been here it has been like a second home. There are a couple of people that I know and they have really been taking good care of me. I don’t think there are this many people in other countries, apart from Nepal, that know me.