Saturday, 22 August 2015

Juices, hot chocolate and scarves

When I first arrived in Naddi in February, I thought B didn’t want to open Restore. I was focused on making it look nice. No, think about the concept B said. What do we want Restore to be? Five months later and I feel at last the concept has been defined.

The journey started with the idea of a juice stall. We wanted to promote healthy living, and after seeing a juice press in action in Dharamsala, we realised that fresh juice was missing from Naddi Main Square. B liked the idea so much that the juice press was purchased in record time. It only took a few days from proposing the idea to B to a juice press and mixer arriving at the square.

The main aim of the juice stand is to help young girls from the community earn additional income and gain confidence in themselves by serving customers and interacting with new people. We decided the girls should work on a commission basis - they receive five rupees a drink for every drink sold. However, even with this financial incentive finding staff was not easy. Finding motivated and available staff has remained our main challenge for the last three months.

EduCARE Team preparing juices in Restore 
Sisters, Nisha and Bindu, now come consistently every Sunday. However, both go to college and school every day, apart from Sunday, as do many girls in the village. So at the moment Restore is only open every Sunday, with a big remaining challenge being finding staff for other days of the week.

The actual juice business has been surprisingly successful: daily sales have gradually increased since the opening of the stall, despite the worsening weather. The resulting profits have been reinvested into the shop. We have put down a new gravel floor, painted the shop and invested in a small gas stove. We plan to start offering coffee, hot chocolate and herbal teas, again drinks that are missing from what is offered on the square at the moment. The purchase of tables and chairs have also given the shop more of a cafe feel.

Elliot, SWASH manager, helping in Restore
The profits have also been invested in other microfinance projects. Many local women are very good knitters, and we have developed some scarf designs with them that we feel would appeal to the tourists from Punjab and Delhi. Some of these scarves are already being sold in the shop. We have also started initial investigations into pickle making which could also be sold in the store.

If the shop is a respected, successful business, the girls who work there will feel a pride in themselves and their work, and hopefully want to take on more of a leadership role in the running of the shop. This is the long-term goal and will probably take several years to fully implement. But at the moment, small steps continue to be made, profits are being reinvested into the shop and other microfinance projects, and the girls are smiling and taking home money and hopefully increased confidence each day that they work.

Eileen McDougall - UK 
Micro-finance project manager, Naddi 

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