Little did Orpita Barua know when she decided to make her daughter a swing, which the four-year-old craved for during the pandemic lockdown, that her life was going to transform dramatically from being a homemaker to a handicraft entrepreneur.
One day in May 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced lives within the four walls of home, Orpita's daughter Adrika saw a swing in the house next door and she was adamant that she wanted it. Orpita decided to make it at home and asked her husband Suman Barua, a bank officer, to buy ropes. She then made the swing for her daughter and Adrika was over the moon.
Chattogram resident Orpita went on to post pictures and videos of her handmade swing on the Facebook page WE (Women and e-Commerce). And that was the beginning. She received multiple orders in a few hours. She delivered 50 swings in just 28 days.
Orpita and her husband utilised their time at home to the fullest and made Tk1.5 lakh, which turned the homemaker into an aspiring entrepreneur.
"I learned the rope skills during my school and college days as a scout. Some people from the North Bengal region used to stay in our house on rent and they also did rope work. Using those experiences, I made the swing for my daughter," Orpita Barua told The Business Standard.
Throughout the rest of 2020, Orpita made and sold swings, plant hangers, curtains and wall mats. Back in 2018, she used to sell handmade jewellery on an online platform. However, her decision to sell handicrafts made with ropes during the pandemic on the Facebook page Knot Art BD made her an entrepreneur.
As customer demand continued to grow, she set up a factory on Zakir Hossain Road in Khulshi in February 2021. She also opened a showroom in partnership to sell various products, including bamboo and cane furniture there.
That same year, she participated in entrepreneurship training through an online platform. The trainer, Kyle Baack, a US citizen, visited Orpita's page and ordered about 200 fruit hammocks. In October 2021, Orpita shipped the order, worth about Tk1.5 lakh. That year she sold a total of Tk10 lakh worth of products.
Orpita slowly expanded her business and currently employs 10 workers.
Apart from rope-made products, Orpita also produces furniture with bamboo, cane and board. She sources ropes from the northern region of the country while bamboo, cane and related raw materials come from Bandarban, Hathazari and Karnaphuli river areas.
Her range of products includes sofas, beds, baskets, mirror frames, vases, table lamp sheets, tea tables, bamboo blinds, children's toys, baby dining chairs and other handicrafts.
Kyle Baack, the trainer turned US-based customer, was extremely satisfied with the first shipment of fruit hammocks and expressed her interest in buying three-stain plant hangers made of rope, lamp shades, trays and jars made of bamboo.
Orpita has sent her US buyer the samples of these products.
Orpita completed BBA from a private university in Chattogram and later did evening MBA from Chattogram University. Currently she is completing a diploma course on fashion designing.
Her husband's unwavering support is behind her progress, she said.
"My parents are both government employees. Initially I was also thinking about government jobs. But, in reality, going to Dhaka with the baby and appearing for the exam was very challenging. So, I decided to do something myself. That swing order during the pandemic changed the course of my life," Orpita said. "My husband also gives time to the business after his office. He takes care of the accounts."
Suman Barua told TBS, "My wife takes care of the children and the family. She basically sacrificed her own career for the family. So now, I try to cooperate with her in the business."
"My wife is one of those who turned their entrepreneurial dreams into reality, that too at a challenging time," Suman Barua said, visibly proud of his wife.