Creating an international brand never has been easy for Nepalis. But the dedication and hard work of this entrepreneur and his family has established an outdoor clothing brand that competes with the big global names.
“I always knew that I was going to join my family business but I just did not know when,” says Tsering S. Shrepa, vice-president of Retail Operations and Business Development, Duo Wears, the makers of Sherpa outdoor wears. Khangri Sourcing (the registered trade name of Duo Wears, a brand that produces well-made, technical mountain outdoor gear) was founded in 1985 by his father, Tashi Sherpa.
Being born in a business family, Tsering always knew that he wanted to continue his family legacy and get involved in the apparel business. He was born in 1982 in Nepal but at the age of eight his family shifted to Seattle, the USA. “I don’t have a lot of memories from my childhood in Nepal. The only ones that I have are with my family,” says Sherpa.
Immediately after completing his associates’ degree, he joined his family business but only after a year he realised that he wanted to do something else. “At that time, we had not started Sherpa Adventure Gears but we had Duo wears which was a volume oriented business,” he recalls. After leaving his family business, Sherpa worked at a bank for almost three years. After working for three years in the finance sector, he thought maybe this is the time that he should re-join the family business.
When he re-joined the company, his family had already started Sherpa Adventure Gears. “Many people think that if it’s your family business then you’ll straightly get a desk job but in my case my father believed that in order to learn something you need to know the roots of the business. So, after I re-joined, I worked at the warehouse where I picked, packed and shipped our garments.”
According to Sherpa, after a year of working at ground level in the warehouse, he started looking after warehouse management. Soon after that, he started looking at the logistic management. “For me, the journey hasn’t quite been easy as I have worked very hard in my own company to reach where I am now,” says Sherpa.
Sherpa returned to Nepal last August and started with managing the overseas market and the retail side of his father's company. Since last January, he has been looking after the operations and business development. “I now look after merchandising, sourcing and production side as well,” he shares.
"There have been a lot of challenges along my way. But every challenge has been a learning experience for me," says Sherpa. "I have made a lot of mistakes in the past and I still continue to make a lot of mistakes. Nevertheless, I work to improve every day that keeps me moving forward," he admits. Sherpa who doesn't believe in regrets as he thinks regrets can't change the past things. “If there is something I want to do, I really go for it regardless of the consequences," he adds. He considers himself very lucky because his father made many mistakes while building this brand. And, he learned from those mistakes.
Sherpa says that understanding the working structure in Nepal has been a major challenge for him. “I am so used to working in a structured way, having set SOPs for people to follow and using them as a guideline but over here the situation is completely different,” he says, adding , “There are structures here but it tends to float around and to adjust in that structure is kind of tough.”
He joined the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) in November 2016. The EO is a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 12,000 influential business owners with 160 chapters in 50 countries. Founded in 1987, EO is the catalyst that enables leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond. EO Nepal, founded in 2003, is one among the 160 chapters of the global organization which has 51 members at present.
According to Sherpa, his main reason behind joining EO was to grow his networks. “EO is a great avenue for me to meet people on professional basis and build my networks. The learning tool that they provide has been very useful for me. Through EO, I am starting to get the basic idea about how businesses run in Nepal.” As per Sherpa, EO brings international speakers to various events which helps enhance the personality of entrepreneurs.
Sherpa is a travel enthusiast and even though travelling for work sometimes gets very tiring for him, he never gets bored of it. He loves spending his free time playing golf and relaxing with his friends.
Today, Sherpa Adventure Gear is Nepal's own answer to the world-famous mountaineering apparel brands like Patagonia and The North Face. And even in Kathmandu, the brand competes successfully against the Chinese knockoffs sold in the backpacker ghetto of Thamel where a Gore-Tex shell with The North Face label costs less than a third of Sherpa Gears made-in-Nepal originals.
Five years down the lane, he sees his company become a full house sourcing company not only for Nepal but for the entire region. According to him, the long term vision of the company is to expand their business to India. “We are also working on a new project that is launching corporate wears which will be totally new to Nepal,” says Sherpa.