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EARTHY & REAL – ANUSHKA SHRESTHA

by Ankita Jain

Anushka Shrestha is among those Miss Nepal winners who define that the crown goes beyond winning a beauty pageant to becoming a role model for the younger generation by the sheer force of her work. The titleholder of Miss World Nepal 2019, the Co-founder and CEO of Makkusé, a Nepali luxury dessert brand and the Regional Manager of Nepal for ACU, an Australian Public University, Anushka dons many hats.

For the 25 year old, the coveted ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ title at the Miss World pageant 2019 was a way of channelising her vision of making Solsing a self sustainable village. She calls the village her karma bhoomi and is engaged in several projects there, homestay being one of them.

A commerce graduate, Anushka is working towards a progressive career. As a foodie at heart, in 2019, she undertook an entrepreneurial journey with her homegrown brand Makkusé which she dreams of making global.

Excerpts from a heart-to -heart conversation with WOW’s Ankita Jain:

How has the journey from a beauty pageant winner to an influencer and now an entrepreneur been?
It has been extremely growth oriented, fast paced, gratifying and honestly quite surreal journey. I never thought I would be any of the three above. This journey has really given me a lot of insight into who I am as a person, what my values are and given me this clarity of purpose and drive, and blessed me with resources to go out there and fulfill my purpose. I feel in many ways my journey has only just begun and I am excited to unfold the newer chapters of life.

The role of an impact maker – one that I have not yet accomplished but have started through the pillars mentioned above. To see that you are enabled, inspired, nudged or in any way had a role to play in their success story is amazing. My ultimate purpose is to enable people to be the best that they can be which in turn means loads of learning and growth for myself. This I feel is best explained by my aspired role of an impact maker.

Why entrepreneurship?

Being an entrepreneur was probably the last thing I thought I would do. The risk-taking appetite wasn’t really there – at least I thought there wasn’t – and being a manager at someone else’s business always seemed like the most I wanted to become. Your own thing meant a lot of hassle I thought.

The year 2019 I feel was when all my bubbling, fragmented emotions of wanting to do something in Nepal, wanting to work on things that created impact on the ground and left a legacy, love for project and resource management – all culminated into starting this new brand. I wanted to create and grow something I was proud of. My mentors came in at just the right time with the idea that traditional Nepali desserts have a huge untapped potential, and voila, my first spoon of gundpak… and eventually there was no turning back. In many ways I feel all I want is to create and grow, and that the word given to this process is ‘entrepreneurship’.

Three essential learnings from your entrepreneurial journey

It is a cycle. There will always be things to do better, newer problems to solve. So do not get disheartened by problems. Get excited about solving them.

Get your hands dirty. When your business is in a small scale is the perfect opportunity to learn the ins and outs of your business – the vendors, the production, etc. Of course, there will come a time to engage specialists but you need to really know your business.

Measure yourself. Ask ‘what does “good” look like’? When I worked at the Commonwealth Bank in Australia, our manager would ask us every morning – how does your day look? How did it go yesterday and often we’d say “good”. He would then ask us “What does good look like to you?”. Am I going to say it has been a “good” month if I get certain sale? Market share? Instagram followers? Net profit? Setting measuring benchmarks for yourself I find is a great way to scale stably.

I had immense fear of failure and I still do at times. I fear failing so much that I would rather not try in the first place. How I cope with it now is that I throw my fears into the Universe. I trust that the best will happen and I focus my energies on believing in the best, and in case what I hope for does not happen, I allow myself to sulk for awhile and then find ways to move on.

Your ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ video won hearts globally as it focused around education and livelihood generation in the village, Solsing. How connected are you with the people there?

It is my second home. My karma bhoomi. We are still very much involved in the project. I visit at least once every 45 days. I even have a designated bedroom now and a pair of clothes there. But I always say, the success of the project will be the day the project stands and sustains without me. I will do all I can with my team to give the initial push and support but ultimately it is the community that has to run its own cycle – then I can just go for holidays in one of the homestays we are setting up there.

In a world where people underestimate the importance of leadership and guidance, what are your views?
I think leadership indeed is undervalued. When you are building a house or even renovating, we think it’s going to be easy – the painters will come in and paint, furniture will be placed, and all will be ready, but without this one supervisor, you very quickly realise the importance of leadership, how important and significant it is in getting anything done.

Mentorship, guidance and leadership are keys in any journey of an individual or a company. The guidance may not always be external from a different person, it might be that you are reading a lot and thinking critically and are being guided by your values. Nevertheless, guidance and leadership is of utmost important.
Women entrepreneurs often struggle with being taken seriously and owning their accomplishments. Your thoughts.

I have come across situations where people find it hard to believe that I am not the face but the operations in the project. Then there is also this massive glass ceiling that even if you are taken seriously, you are not really considered successful for your professional accomplishments. There is always the “Jastai bhae pani bihe nagare samma” which means everything said and done, until you are married and have kids you’re not really successful in life. This is even more difficult to deal if this sentiment comes from your near and dear ones. My way of looking at this struggle is really to love oneself, allow yourself to be, and not seek external validation, and let your work speak for itself.

How do you cope with fear of failure?

I had immense fear of failure and I still do at times. I fear failing so much that I would rather not try in the first place. How I cope with it now is that I throw my fears into the Universe. I trust that the best will happen and I focus my energies on believing in the best, and in case what I hope for does not happen, I allow myself to sulk for awhile and then find ways to move on.

What keeps you motivated?

My big picture, plus my small steps are things I truly love and look forward to. So when you are running towards a destination that you want to be, that destination becomes the motivation to run, to get up if you fall, and then keep running.

What is holding women entrepreneurs back?

I think this is not a one-cause problem rather many reasons cemented over centuries. Historically, in majority men have been the ones out there doing business, working for money. This gender role cemented over centuries has subconsciously set the outline of a family to be that the man earns, or at least earns majorly to take up major economic burden, and the woman’s job is more like a hobby for her personal side-income. Even in cases where women have had to raise their family with their income we see more women resort to jobs instead of business. Limited financial literacy, lack of self confidence that is the result of generations of being treated as the weaker gender has all resulted in the gender disbalance when it comes to entrepreneurship.

What are some of the lies women are fed about beauty standards?

I find beauty standards are very time relevant. At one time thick brows were beautiful, then there was a thread like brow trend that was beautiful. At one point freckles were beautiful and another time they weren’t. Trends will come and go but to feel that one is worthless because they do not match the contemporary standard is not right. I feel there will always be that external push, standards, but we need to intrinsically have and work towards getting that anchor, that self-assurance that we are all our own kind of beautiful.

Hows the bond you share with your mother?

My mother is my superwoman. With time, our bond has evolved but we have always been the closest with each other. I learn so much from her every day, now more so in my capacity of an entrepreneur, she exemplifies good work ethics. Mamu is also very open to learning these days and she really tries to be empathetic, which I find really admirable. She is the glue of our family and of all of our lives.

What are your views on online toxicity?

I first got a taste of negativity on the internet when I started my reign as Miss Nepal World. I was honestly quite surprised to see people commenting the rudest things about an individual, that too from their real accounts not even fake accounts. I wondered would these people dare say these words out loud though? Why so much hate? The way I see it now is that these are people with issues. To let or not let these affect me is up to me and I choose to not pay this toxicity any heed. Of course when it comes to harassment one has to address the harassment and the perpetuators, but in general, the negativity online, I tune it out. There is more good to overshadow the bad.

Anonymous for a day, how would you like to spend it?

In Nepal, oh I think I would go out on a proper date without worrying about being gossiped about haha! No but for real, for the most part I find people not really recognising me which works very well.

Who do you usually turn to for advice?

My younger sister, my mother, my maternal uncle, my best friend, and my three business partners whom I consider my mentors.

Is there a need for more women to speak up and tell their stories?

Yes. To show solidarity, that you are not alone, that you are not the only one suffering and it does not have to be this way. Especially in societies such as ours wherein the respect and dignity of a family is considered to rest upon the woman’s shoulders – which means she has to maintain a certain façade to appear and for her family to appear great, honest story sharing is liberating and inspirational.

What are your views on learning to accept and embrace our flaws?

I am all for embracing yourself – acknowledging the good and the flaws. Accepting one’s flaws does not mean that we say “Oh well I am what I am, I am lazy, this is my flaw and that’s it”. Embracing one’s flaw to me means seeing a situation, a trait for what it is, and working on self improvement. The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging there is one. If we’re talking about physical attributes though, I don’t believe there is anything such as a physical flaw – only uniqueness that needs no improving, only embracing.

Plans for the future

Work with the most passionate minds and souls of Nepal to build a global enterprise that leads to financial abundance and positive social change. That’s the big picture. Small steps would be devoting my energies to do justice to the Makkusé brand – take the authentic tastes of Nepal worldwide, continue to work in Solsing, travel more, invest more in self care and growth, eat well and live happy.

One Minute With Anushka

Best relationship advice: Build each other up, make each other happy, if that is not happening respect yourself and your partner enough to end what is not working
An absolute no no: Oysters – tried them but not my thing!
Qualities you appreciate in men: A balance of ambition and empathy; self-assured without being egoistic; verbal appreciation
Your biggest fear: Failure and FOMO – learning to outgrow them both
Your current read: Good to Great by Jim Collins
A makeup hack you swear by: Three minutes – under eye foundation, powder foundation,;blush, mascara, peach lip
What’s always in your bag: Phone, wallet, sanitiser, mask, medicine pouch and perfume
Three must haves in your closet: Pencil skirt in a dark colour, a blazer, V neck string top
Best holiday destination: Where I’ve been to – Venice, where I want to go – Turkey
Fitness routine: Seven rounds of Surya Namaskar daily followed by a round of stretching and 20 minutes meditation for that mind muscle
Favourite thing about yourself: Compassion
Least favourite: I seek validation a lot – learning to outgrow this
Mantra for success: Eyes on the stars, feet on the ground, and heart in a happy place
Women who have inspired you: Any woman who has stood up for herself and others.
Cheat meal: Fried chicken and ooh burgers.
Life is: Anything and everything you make it

Cover Girl: Anushka Shrestha (Instagram: @anushkashrestha)
Photographer: Indepth Photography (Instagram: @indepthweddingz)
HMUA: Suman lama (Instagram: @makeupbysumanlama)
Wardrobe: Minalanddeepa (Instagram: @minalanddeepa)
Jewelry: Samaah Jewelry & Crafts (Instagram:@samaahjewelryandcrafts)
AMP Collection (Instagram:@ampcollection)
Coordinated by: Ankita Jain (Instagram: @jain.anki)

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