Women-Led Trekking Company Challenges Social Norms In Nepal

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In Nepal, a social enterprise is employing a for-profit and nonprofit hybrid model to finance the country’s first and only women-led trekking agency. 

Note, Nepal is ranked as one of the worst countries to be a female, and sits on the bottom of the Human Development Index, which measures for quality of life and the chance to improve one’s socio-economic status. Hence, to have a women-centric business, financed and led by women, is no small feat.

In the 1990s, three sisters, Lucky, Dicky and Nicy, from Darjeeling, India relocated to Pokhara in Nepal to start a guesthouse for visitors.  Quickly they learned that only Nepalese men were taking foreigners into the Himalayas on treks.  This posed a challenge for female travelers — and even some allegations of abuse surfaced. So the trio started Three Sisters Adventure Trekking where women would lead other women on treks in Nepal.

Instead of just running a business that pairs up foreigners with female Nepali guides, they also set up a non-profit called Empowering Women of Nepal, or EWN. The non-profit provides six months of free training to Nepali women interested in learning about mountaineering and the outdoors. To date more than 2,000 women from around the country have done the training program and many have continued on to become guides for the for-profit trekking business.

“Whether or not these women go on to become a guide, we feel it is a seed planted for them and future generations. We demonstrate that women are mentally, physically and emotionally as strong as men,” Lucky says.

Read the full story on Forbes.com.

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How This Mom Is Using Her Business To Transform The Food Culture in Alberta

Karen Anderson is changing the image of Calgary from “cowtown” to one of Canada’s finest food cities. The self-proclaimed “momtrepreneur” started Alberta Food Tours, after having established a friend circle of farmers, chefs, and foodies.  Last year, she organized 169 tours for more than 1000 guests. She’s found a niche and a business in promoting sustainable agriculture through tourism.

“I could see that more and more people were traveling with the intent of trying local cuisines, and exploring the food culture of a city,” she says, driving down one of Calgary’s main throughways, the Macleod Trail. “But Calgary never had a reputation as being a foodie city, like Vancouver. So how could we change that?”

Read the full story at Forbes.

Does Patagonia have the answer for narrowing the gender wage gap?

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The debate around fairer pay for women feels more prominent and urgent than ever. Yet, despite this momentum, new estimates suggest the gender pay gap won’t be closed anytime soon. A new report from the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take up to 170 years for the world’s women to earn wages that are equitable to men’s.

While that’s the global picture, things aren’t much better at home in the US. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2015, female full-time employees earned about $0.79 for every dollar made by full-time male employees. For minorities, the data is even more disparaging: African American women earn $0.64, Native American women earn $0.59 and Latinas earn $0.54.

Read the full story at Guardian.

The New Crop of Bra Entrepreneurs Are Finally Women

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Bra entrepreneurs are finally women.

While that may seem obvious, the lingerie and underwear industry, a reportedly $13 billion market, has long been dominated by men, three entrepreneurs tell me. They’re all looking to transform what lingerie women buy, how they buy it, and for what purpose.

Portland-based Evelyn and Bobbie is the most recent addition to the mix. Founder and CEO Bree McKeen is not the average apparel entrepreneur: she worked in human-centered design and digital products before venturing down apparel. “I was in Silicon Valley, in the world of innovation, and I’m walking to work in this underwire and I’m just thinking, ‘What the heck is going on?’” she says, recalling her ‘aha’ moment. “It was so uncomfortable.”

Named after two independent-minded women from McKeen’s family, the company will launch its first line up of products this fall (but is taking pre-order in the spring).  While product images have yet to be released, underwire will certainly not be part of the collection, McKeen reassures.

Another company is also foregoing underwire as a response to customers, seeking comfort, not cleavage.

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Lively founder and a former Victoria’s Secret employee, Michelle Cordeiro Grant, stepped away from the retail giant in 2012 to redefine how bras were sold. While Victoria’s Secret had been championing sexier, sultrier images of women, Grant realized that vision no longer resonated with her: 

“I admired that Victoria’s Secret was able to capture so much of the market share with their message, but as a consumer, it just didn’t resonate. I had gotten married, had children.  The thought of my daughter fantasizing about contouring yourself into something that’s not achievable just didn’t sit well with me,” she says in an interview from her New York offices.

The ultimate problem that these women were getting at?  “This was an industry where men made the decisions, but women wore the product. It was just a big disconnect,” Grant explains.

Read the full story at Forbes.com.

How One Self-Funded Home Decor Brand Is Challenging Big Box Retailers With Their Supply Chain

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Last month, Target decided to pull all the bedsheets, manufactured by one supplier in India, Welspun Inc. Could this be the beginning of a transparency revolution at big box retailers?

“I’m surprised that Target was surprised about their bedsheets not being Egyptian cotton,” says Scott Tannen, CEO and co-founder of Boll and Branch, an organic cotton home essentials brand. “There isn’t enough Egyptian cotton being produced for global demand and that’s pretty well known in the industry.”

Egyptian cotton, once highly-regarded for their long fibers, is rarely produced in Egypt any more.  According to the US Department of Agriculture, less than 1% of the world’s cotton supply comes directly from Egypt. It’s largely marketing, says Tannen, when companies tout their bedsheets as the highest-quality Egyptian cotton. “It sounds nicer to think of it as cotton, growing in small farms on the banks of the river Nile. In reality, it’s a company-owned 4,000 acre farm in China.”

Turns out, Target wasn’t the only one in the dark. Walmart and Bed, Bath, & Beyond also sourced their “Egyptian cotton” sheets from Welspun India. Both retailers are now questioning, and rethinking, their business with the manufacturer. For Welspun, which reportedly brought in nearly $1 billion sales from American retailers last year, this is could be crippling for the business.

Read the full story at Forbes.com

After Pampering Celebs In Hollywood, This Entrepreneur Is Ready To Take On The Goliaths Of Beauty

Celebrities don’t want you to know that they’re using other beauty products than the ones they endorse, Jean Seo, a skin care expert to Hollywood stars, says.

Seo has spent the last decade catering to the who’s who of Beverly Hills with her anti-aging skin care line, Èvoluè.  But now she’s launching a more affordable option, Luè, which is already available on Amazon and her own site.  Made of natural, and often organic ingredients, Seo’s new line is as much a business as it is a defiant gesture to the goliaths of the beauty industry. 

“Skin care in America is really messed up.  These companies have so much money for advertising that they make you think you need all this.  When in reality, it’s just an ugly cycle to get you to buy more and more,” she says.

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Jean Seo of Lue and Evolue, two brands made of natural, organnic ingredients, sourced from around the world.  Photo Courtesy of Subject.

Read the full story on Forbes.com

The Fabric of Our Lives or the Planet’s Latest Threat? Fashion Startups Look Into Cotton Alternatives

Would it surprise you to hear that Kendall Jenner and Carrie Underwood have been wearing pants made of wood? It shouldn’t! They’re not stiff or awkward; in fact, it’s more likely that you probably couldn’t even tell that the skinny jeans and slouchy sweats worn by your favorite paparazzi bait are, in fact, made from eucalyptus trees.

The fashion business is in the midst of a reset, waking up to a whole new set of fabrics that go beyond the polyesters and synthetics of previous generations to find solutions that are both eco-friendly and fashion-forward.

Read the full story at Vogue.com.