The Pitch: DOKO bags
Every month, an entrepreneurial EUR student is put in the spotlights in ‘The Pitch’. The entrepreneur answers five personal questions related to entrepreneurship and gets thirty seconds – and only one take – for a video pitch. This edition, RSM Master student Ruud van Dijk (25) and IBEB student Nick Mahn (22) present their company DOKO bags.
Last summer, student entrepreneurs Nick and Ruud visited Nepal for the RSM International Care (iCare) project. After a month of voluntary work and travelling, they returned home with two colourful bags and a brand new business idea. Under the name DOKO they now sell handcrafted Nepalese bags. These two entrepreneurs don’t just talk business, they also have a higher goal to reach with their company. Ruud: “My biggest drive is to give something back to the people we visited.”
Why did you decide to sell these bags in the Netherlands?
Ruud: “When we were in Nepal, we bought these bags on a local market. We immediately thought they were unique, something you don’t see here.”
Nick: “They’re made of hemp, a weed that practically grows everywhere in Nepal. Not many people in the Netherlands know that you can use it to make a very sustainable, durable fabric. Hemp grows really quickly, doesn’t need pesticide, and the fabric is much stronger than cotton.”
Ruud: “Back home, people asked me where I had bought my backpack, and told me they thought it was really cool. Nick and I were both very enthusiastic about these bags back in Nepal, and after giving it some thought we decided to go for it.”
Besides making your business work, what higher goal do you want to reach?
Ruud: “We want our bags to be made in a factory where people are treated fairly, and we definitely want to make sure that our products are not made by children. Also, we pay them more than they would get on a market in Nepal. Seeing people live in poverty had a big impact on me, and by selling their bags we create some labour and income for them.”
Nick: “People in Nepal don’t have much to share, but they are so generous. That really was an eye-opener for all of us. If things go well, our next aim is to start a foundation that spends part of the revenue on children’s education in that area.”
Why the name DOKO?
Ruud: “Dokos are big baskets worn by people in Nepal, in which they carry practically any kind of product. It’s a woven basket made of… bamboo I think?”
Nick: “To me, they look a bit like baskets you would put your laundry in.”
Ruud: “The name just fits: it refers to carrying things around in a bag, and to Nepal as well.”
What kind of customers do you target with your product?
Nick: “At first I thought this product would be a ‘hipster accessory’, but I came to realize that our target audience is much broader.”
Ruud: “These bags come in many different shapes and forms, but I think we selected some designs and colours that appeal to a larger group. We sell five different models at this point.”
Nick: “I think our bags are fit for people who don’t just want a regular backpack. I see so many accessories in lots of different colours: bow ties, bright coloured shoes, big rings and necklaces. Stuff that’s a little weird, but interesting at the same time. But bags are often boring, and just plain black or brown. It makes me wonder: why can’t a bag also be a little different, and show what kind of person you are?”
Is entrepreneurship a skill you can learn, or rather something you are born with?
Nick: “If you would have told me I would be selling Nepalese bags four years ago, I’d say you were mad. In my case, it’s something that developed over time.”
Ruud: “I think that having the courage to start a business, invest your money and take a gamble is something that comes from the inside. Running a business however, is something you can learn.”
Nick: “You grow into it. Do you think you would have done this a few years ago?”
Ruud: “Yes, I think so.”
Nick: “Really? I don’t know. I’m more confident than I was a few years back, so for me it’s probably also a matter of self-development.” IS
Ruud (left) and Nick with their bags.