An Interview with Kanchan Amatya

April 25, 2017 , by DREAMS, Leave your thoughts
An Interview with Kanchan Amatya » My Dreams Mag
Kanchan Amatya is a young social entrepreneur from Nepal currently serving as the UN Women Global Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Sustainable Fish Farming Initiative – a female owned social enterprise which empowers young women farmers in rural Nepal to help them realize their economic independence and legal land rights. As an ambassador to Women Protection Center Nepal (WPC), she also works with women survivors of human trafficking and advocates for Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). She is a current scholar at Watson University and a Global Citizen youth advocate.


What are some challenges you faced when developing your venture?

Personally, being a young ‘female’ social entrepreneur in Nepal working to support other women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses, had its own set of trials. I am usually the only young women in the meeting rooms, regardless if I am with stakeholders, colleagues, or investors. Specially, at the early stage of my venture, I knew I was creating a business model that was being introduced for the first time. And to get people to follow and support my vision— customers, partners, early team members, and of course funders— I needed to be the best version of myself.

Today, my venture has been recognized by the United Nations, Clinton Global Initiative and in various local, national, and international platforms but this did not happen overnight. Specially, being young, I had to put in extra long hours so I could earn credibility and become extremely knowledgeable in my field. It was the confidence in my vision that eventually helped me to persist.

Additionally, running a ‘social’ business has its own set of challenges in the corporate world we live in today. I still remember vividly at the early days of our start up, the challenge of continually reiterating a social vision along with steering a business towards it was difficult; especially with a model that ensures that women we work with who are often at the bottom of the pyramid are our venture’s primary stakeholders and vision-setters. Maintaining this core, with as many advisers, funders, and stakeholders while they engage with our work, is a challenge but ultimately our goal in the long run!

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Was there any point when you thought it was over? That you were going to fail?

Yes, I have failed over and over again and received outright rejections letters but I believe that the difference between those who succeed and those who fail comes down to whether or not they choose to rise above the criticism and soldier on.

Let me give you an example. Initially, after sending proposals of my venture idea to 12 different funders, I got rejected by every single one – mainly because they deemed I was ‘too young’ to carry out a project of such grandeur. It did make me lose hope and confidence in myself. But, I decided to take a different stance, pitched my idea at a venture competition, and finally got our first seed funding through the Resolution Project. The same year we started our venture, our impact was recognized by personalities like President Clinton as one of the best solutions to combat hunger and poverty in developing nations.

Personally, for me, knowing that my work is helping someone is enough to make me excited to wake up every morning in spite of varying challenges. Culminating from my own experiences of failure, I would say that if you have a dream or a passion and you keep getting rejected or running into failure, don’t give up yet! Because if you do, you’ll never know what could have been. Who knows, you might end up breaking records! They say it right, failure is in fact success in progress!

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As an entrepreneur how important has flexibility been in developing your venture?

Flexibility makes a huge difference! Reid Hoffman explains entrepreneurship quite well: “You jump off a cliff and you assemble an aero plane on the way down.” Reality differs greatly from business plans on paper. It was the same in our case!

I find it very crucial to make sure that entrepreneurs today consider alternatives and have a fall-back strategy in order to survive until the venture does take off. Through my own experiences, I have learnt that success is not having a bulletproof long term plan; it is rather all about the ability to stay agile and adapt to changing situations and challenges!

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What was your spark, where did it come from?

I was one of one of the few lucky girls from Nepal to get an opportunity to pursue my high school at the prestigious United World College (Norway) through which I got an opportunity to travel across 30 countries with young leaders from all over the world at 15. This exposure at a young age, combined with my experiences while growing up as a millennial during the Maoist revolution in rural Nepal left me enraged with the inequities of life and the needless poverty in this wealthy world.

Specially, in 2015, we ended up with a famine in my country. I saw how my own community was dependent on aid. I soon realized charity is no solution to poverty. Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. And that’s a terrible situation to see around you. That is when I realized that I cannot sit back and wait for change to happen. I visioned of a future in my community where hunger and poverty is eradicated, and each individual’s creativity released despite of their gender.

It was eventually during a service trip while I was working with poor farming communities in Western Nepal, that I along with the community witnessed vast opportunities in abandoned ponds and rice paddies. We soon started organizing to use these abandoned lands to run a climate resilient and sustainable fish farms — which would later be a source of nutrition and income for many. In the beginning with SFFI, all I was trying to do was help a few people. I guess that’s how social business begins – solving a very tiny piece of a problem at a time.

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What are your non-work habits that help you with your work-life balance?

I tap into my creativity and wisdom by travelling. In the past few years, travelling across various continents and interacting with millennials and entrepreneurs around the world has pushed me to set my foot beyond my own self-set boundaries. I usually keep journals during these escapades and am currently working on publishing a book accounting for all these experiences in the coming years!

I also always make sure to give myself a set amount of time a day to relax, rejuvenate, and regenerate myself, whether that be through dancing, doing yoga or meditating – basically anything to pump feel-good endorphins through my body.
Additionally, I work as an ambassador and serve on the board of various organizations like Women Protection Center Nepal, which provides care to survivors of human trafficking and their children. So, you can find me volunteering wherever I can in my free hours – whether it be through mentoring younger girls, speaking at various conferences, or helping organize local community based events. What are we here in this earth for if not to help one another?

What is your best tip for entrepreneurs?

Probably one of the best advices I have personally received from my mentor is to not let the fear of failure hold me back from pursuing my dreams. For all aspiring social entrepreneurs out there, don’t think twice on acting on that big idea that you have because you think it will fail or it is not perfect enough, think about the world you want to live in and be part of building that. I personally find the thought of not chasing your dreams crazy! I truly believe that, we, Generation Y can be the driving force towards a future where sustainability and ethics are at the core of every business. If you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and set all your energy to make it happen, it eventually will!

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Republished from intheirshoes.ca.

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