Nang No, a 33-year-old mother from Htee Kan Laung is one of five family members with only an elementary education. Her three children are all in school: the oldest is 15 years old, the second is 13 years old, and the youngest is 5 years old.
Her family’s income is from traditional farming- enough to maintain their daily lives, but nothing could be saved for investment, home improvements or even emergencies. Loans could be obtained from brokers outside her village, but the interest rate is between 5 -7 percent per month.
A few years ago, Nang No got the idea to start a tofu-making business after attending a training by Shanta Foundation in her village. This included agricultural education, capacity-building, and business management. She was empowered and decided to take advantage of an opportunity to obtain a business loan from the project to start a snack business.
At first, there were some significant hurdles and her confidence wavered. In the past, women were forbidden to engage in business or trades. Unfortunately, her husband was not supportive of her participation in attending community meetings or the women’s small business group. But, through perseverance, she perfected her recipes as well as her business tactics and made a profit in year two from her tofu business!
“I had no idea how to keep track of my earnings and expenses in the past, but now I can do so for both business and agriculture, and I can determine if I am making a profit or loss,” she explained.
She not only profited from selling tofu but also developed her communication and marketing skills and now regularly leads farmer group meetings. As a result of Nang No’s involvement, women’s participation in the farmer’s group is expanding, and community members recognize her as someone who can help them succeed in business because of her capacity to motivate and advise others.
“With more money in the family, we can better support our children’s education. Previously, my husband had no idea how to make or sell tofu. When he saw how enthusiastically I was doing it, making a profit, and witnessing that hard work was paying off, he learned to cook and helped with the selling,” she smiled. “I’m thankful for the training from Shanta because my husband can handle bookkeeping and business records while I cook and manage sales. We intend to expand our business in 2024 by purchasing a small potato drying machine and establishing a potato chip business in addition to the tofu business.”