Meet the Woman with a mission to create a million Smiles
Read the story of how a corporate professional embarked on a mission to create a platform for hundreds of deserving people to serve the society and spread joy
She is on a mission "Million Smiles”.
In her smile we see dedication,strength,grit, humbleness and a passion to selflessly contribute towards society.She lives by the quote “Charity begins at home”.
Her business is a home for many underprivileged women and children, to whom she is gifting smiles and bright future.
Meet Mrs Gouree Deshpande Manjarekar, she is the co-founder of Pankh Handicrafts.
Pankh was started in 2012 and it aims to educate, employ and empower rural women by training them with different skills and providing them a platform to apply these skills.
They envision making these women financially independent and providing sustainable income. Pankh provides training to unskilled rural women with different skills and create eco-friendly products such as bags, school materials and uniforms,reusable sanitary pads, jute files, corporate gifts and other products based on the orders they receive.
Pankh also has a NGO wing which supports school children through various initiatives.
A part of the profits gained from Pankh Handicrafts is directly invested in their NGO to support and supply materials to school children.
Their vision is to provide “wings” to needy to help them grow, develop, and fly in life.
Gouree’s work and her contributions towards society are beyond words. She works relentlessly and uplifts rural women and children. Her love and passion to contribute towards society existed since her childhood. She feels happy and content when she sees others happy and smiles.
Charity begins at home.
Gouree recalls an incident when she was a child
“ Right from my childhood I was taught to have gratitude towards the less fortunate. This is what I watched my parents do when I grew up. I remember an instance when I was around 8-10 years old and wanted an ice-cream and just when I was about to eat it I saw a small girl on the street looking at me, I don’t know what I felt from inside but I ran and gave her the ice-cream, she smiled and I was so happy. "
My parents looked at me and they hugged me and I realized that I felt so good which I think I wouldn’t have felt even after eating the ice-cream. That feeling is something which cannot be described but I loved it and hence started doing smaller deeds in whatever way I could ''.
This realization of possessing a passion to work for others got even stronger as she grew and this made her start her own business. She adds “By the time I had post graduated, I realized that I wanted to work for the society because that made me feel more happy”
“Your greatness is not what you have, it’s what you give”
The Initial days.
After her post graduation Gouree joined a multinational company in Bangalore.
After working for a few years she quit her job and in 2008 she started an NGO named “JOY-BANK” in Chikodi ( a village in Karnataka, India ) a virtual bank in which people who had something to give to the society could deposit happiness and people in need could withdraw the joy.
Initially she and her team donated to several old aged homes, orphanages. After running the NGO for years she started thinking of starting which sustainable.
In 2012 she Co-founded Pankh Handicrafts along with Manish Shanbhag to provide sustainable charity to underprivileged rural ladies.
“A big business starts small”
Talking about her initial days she says “During the initial years, we did not even have an office. We trained the women at the trainer’s house and the women were given work which they completed at their homes.
The women whom we trained were either working in farms as helpers or were household maids”.
She adds “ The only source of income for them was manual labor in farms or construction sites. The women were either sole earning members of the family or had abusive, alcoholic husbands who contributed very little financially, so it was the need of the hour to train them with some skills and also provide them a platform which could help them apply these skills and earn a livelihood”
Her passion, her energy and her dedication can be seen in her work and heard loud and clear in her voice. The way she has grown her business is commendable.
To be able to do this especially in a place like small village after leaving behind a wonderful job in uptown Bangalore is beyond words.
In a world where people move away from small towns and look for high paying jobs and settle in metros, Gouree has proved to the world that nothing is impossible if we have the passion, dedication and an attitude to work hard through all odds.
She has not only built a sustainable business but has also created employment opportunities for underprivileged women.
Creating a sustainable model.
Through the NGO founded in 2008, Gouree and team were donating to old aged homes, orphanages, schools. After founding Pankh Handicrafts in 2012, they started approaching organizations,schools, colleges for corporate gifts, corporate & school uniforms.
As soon they finished and delivered a project they made it a point to put a part of the profit into the NGO for donations.
Through the NGO they started several donation drives like :
Happy School Drive – Through this we started donating school bags, pouches, mats, napkins, school stationary to the needy children.
Winter jacket Drive : Through this drive we donated warm winter jackets to poor children
Blankets of love Drive: Through this drive handmade blankets are distributed to slums/ people during crisis like floods
Happy period drive: Through this drive free reusable sanitary pads are distributed to rural adolescent girls along with awareness of menstrual hygiene.
She says “All these drives are doubly virtuous because the school kits, blankets, jackets and reusable pads are all handmade by the women at Pankh. This benefits not only the poor children but also it provides employment to the needy women in the community”
“If you don’t challenge yourself, you will never realize what you can become”
Challenges in the journey
One child, one teacher, one pen, one book can change the world
Gouree faced many challenges along the journey. Right from starting a business in a small town to creating awareness to educating women to marketing.
Talking about her challenges she says “The first challenge I faced was to convince the women that the skills could really help them get income and could help them become financially independent”
“The second challenge which I faced and still face is to get continuous work for the women on an ongoing basis. Only when they have work and their skills can be applied for income generation will they become financially independent”
But she does not let these challenges stop her.
Gouree continues with the same passion and grit. She creates awareness and educates the women regarding the advantages of the skills.
She adds “ Once the women realized that this is really going to help them on a long run , they started approaching me for work and training”
Knowing Gouree better : The mantra which keeps her going
Happiness is seeing others happy
This is her mantra and when asked what she loves about her business she says, “The happiness which shines on the faces of the women we empower every time we receive a big order is what I love about my business. Every small victory matters. The women have become financially independent; they can pay their children’s fees which was difficult for them initially”.
"There are going to be tough situations but I believe that one must try to focus on the solutions and not the problems."
"The biggest lesson I have ever learned is- stop overthinking and focusing on negatives"
"My favourite business tool or resource is- social media! That has helped me a lot , staying in a small village such as Chikodi I am able to connect with people all round the globe"
My favourite quote "Believe you can and you're halfway there”
The Advice I would give to other entrepreneurs "Love the work you do and success will follow"
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