advice on how to move abroad and start a sustainable business
Jazzmine Raine, of the website Sunshine and Raine, was the very first blogger I worked with after launching virtue + vice last year. What inspired me most about Jazzmine was her genuine desire to help people and the planet, you can really tell that her heart is in the sustainable and ethical movement.
This week I had the honor of getting to learn more about the opening of her zero-waste guest house in Bikaner India, and now I have so much FOMO. Bikaner has long been on my list of places to visit in India, and now I have an excuse to check it out this summer! Did you know there is Rat Palace there?
Maybe on our next sustainable fashion tour through India, we will plan a day in Bikaner. Our first trip from January 7-16 is almost sold out, so if you want to join us to meet our makers and learn how your clothes are made while seeing some of India's more iconic sights reserve your space soon!
What inspired you to become active in the conscious lifestyle movement?
I’ve always been quite the conscious consumer. In high school I actually started my own nonprofit at home in Toronto to raise awareness and funds on the global water sanitation and conservation crisis, an issue very close to my heart and one I strongly still advocate for.
Once I got started with my research and in-field work in Ghana and India after college, it only made me more aware of all the other consumption issues we were facing, specifically in the Western world. Since the Industrial Revolution, consumerism has been a priority in our lives especially when times were tough and the war had just ended. Now, it’s 2018 and things are still spiraling out of control, we don’t seem to be happy regardless of how much or how little we own.
Happiness has always been a driving factor of why living a more simple and conscious lifestyle has suited me. I focus on projects and buy from brands with a focus on social, economic and environmental innovation, and know that each little change I make in my lifestyle will influence another person to be more mindful in how they consume.
Living a conscious lifestyle isn’t just about consumption, it’s a mindset and a love for community, specifically the global community, and understanding that not one country or continent deserves to take up more than 50% of global resources, which we see happening here in North America. In the past 5 years, we’ve seen so much positive growth in conscious living though, and more people understanding why it’s important and how what you own does not reflect how happy you are whatsoever. This excites me and inspires me to continue my journey, learning from others and influencing new individuals looking to make a change.
Tell us about Hara House. What was your inspiration? Why Bikaner?
I moved to India in January 2015 to work for a local NGO on waste management and water conservation projects and was placed in Bikaner, Rajasthan. This is where my love affair with the city began. Having worked there for over a year on various projects, from implementing a waste management system in rural communities, to managing microfinance and healthcare projects, I began to see just how excited residents were becoming with such innovative strategies being implemented to help beautify, clean and conserve the villages surrounding Bikaner. As a traveler, implementing conscious and sustainable practices into how I travel was just as important as how I consumed at home. The travel industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. In 2016 alone, passengers in transport generated 5.2 tons of waste. And with no proper waste management systems set up in developing communities, the solution still seems very far away.
Hara House is a zero waste guesthouse and social enterprise investing 20% of profits into social entrepreneurs local to north India with projects focuses on environmental action and education. Myself and my business partner, Manoj Gour, a local to the Bikaner area and a young, serial entrepreneur whom I met through the NGO I was working for, developed the concept after realizing our passions for hospitality and tourism, environmental action, and social good. With these three ideas in mind, Hara House came to be. We chose Bikaner because of the relationships we’ve been building here for over 3 years and having watched the city become a new hot spot for tourism. We feel we can have a major influence on how travelers consume at home and abroad while implementing facilities that are innovative, fun, and community-centric that positively impact humans, animals, and mother earth.
Hara House is made up of two 6-bed dorm rooms, two private rooms, a beautiful rooftop restaurant, and a community hub with resources available for social entrepreneurs to use as a co-working space. Through Hara House, travelers can experience Bikaner as a local by exploring the city and north India through our tours that focus on introducing travelers to unique, community-centric experiences. We want to help build memories, not fill suitcases with useless souvenirs. Bikaner is also becoming a really exciting destination for ethical camel safaris, textile and jewelry shopping, and sightseeing, without the crazy hustle and bustle that you’ll see in Jaipur and Jaisalmer, two very popular destinations in Rajasthan that border Bikaner. As we build our community of hospitality and tourism organizations, with an overall goal of forming a tourism cooperative focused on sustainable practices, we are so excited for the what the future has in store for the city.
What has been the hardest part of creating a zero waste guest house/starting a business? Were your challenges unique to India?
Being a foreigner is always a unique challenge when it comes to obtaining a visa, business licensing, insurance, etc. Having a business partner local to the area helps mitigate those issues. As we go into our renovations and start preparing the space for launch, the hardest part is getting our community and staff to understand the values and ethics of our zero waste guesthouse. This is relatively a foreign concept in India and one that will be quite interesting to watch the city start to get used to! I’m sure once we get going with renovations and head into launch in the fall, we will be faced with a new set of challenges that I’m can’t wait to overcome! As for general challenges starting a new business, it’s all the little things: building a solid marketing plan, defining our markets, putting a timeline together to obtain all our tools and resources, start-up funding, etc. We’ve been very fortunate to have the help of the Ryerson SocialVenture Zone, a social purpose business accelerator through Ryerson University in Toronto that we were accepted into. The program has provided us with a well of resources and business coaching!
What advice would you give women who want to start their own businesses?
Do it! Live fearlessly, be strategic and just go for it. I’ve been sitting on the idea for Hara House for about 5 years now, not specifically in the context of India, but suddenly all the stars aligned and I just had to go for it. I took the time to realistically think how I could uproot my life again to India, found financial assistance for the business, built my digital nomad brand and jumped. I’m still terrified all the time and think I’m crazy for being a 25-year old business owner, but there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you’re going after your dream. Even if I were to fail, it’s a decision I would never regret. Doing something that you know will make you happy is never something to regret.
What advice would you give to female solo travelers in India?
Be smart. Regardless of the destination, there are dangers and dangerous people. Never put yourself in a setting where you think something could potentially put you in a dangerous situation. I’m one of those crazy adventurous, budget backpackers who will sleep on the floor of sleeper class trains, and stay over in family homes that I’ve just met, but I always follow my gut. I never let myself get too whisked away so that I am unaware of my surroundings or what’s happening. I also recommend learning a bit of the local language and staying in larger city settings until you’re comfortable enough to venture off into more rural areas. Always make friends on overnight trips on buses and trains, and plan your routes before you head out. Travel with a menstrual cup and get used to wiping with your left hand. Don’t worry, water is always available for a squeaky clean behind!