One of the entrepreneurs who has benefited from TFO Canada’s support is Ms. Shirajum Munira, co-founder of Sutar Kabbo in Dinajpur, Bangladesh. Ms. Munira, a researcher by profession, aimed to create employment opportunities and teach loom work to rural women to enable them to gain income and contribute to their households. She tells us as newcomers to the area it was really challenging to encourage rural women to work outside the home” [and] “I wanted to create employment opportunities and teach loom work.” Since 2017, her company, Sutar Kabbo, has been promoting Bengali culture and empowering underprivileged women by manufacturing biodegradable hand-knotted jute rugs and loom-made chenille rugs.

Sutar Kabbo’s factory is equipped with 42 looms and a training center. The training center has empowered rural women to produce stunning handmade products, such as table runners, place mats, and wood crafts, using traditional methods. The company uses a weaving technique called Shantajri, which is specific to the Rangpur region of Bangladesh. In 2021, this technique was declared a Geographical Indication (GI) of Bangladesh. Using a GI label links products to a local heritage and reputation by offering a guarantee of origin and specific characteristics. Consumers
are often willing to pay a higher price for GI-certified goods. he company sources raw materials from different regions within the country, particularly the south.

Despite having to temporarily shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic due to rising transportation, raw material costs, and a decline in demand, Sutar Kabbo restarted its business. It worked hard to support its craftswomen and micro and small enterprises in the informal craft sector meeting local demand, participate in trade fairs to gain exposure to competition, improve product design and promote their businesses. In 2022, the company participated in an export readiness training program, jointly organized by TFO Canada and SME Foundation. “Through this training, we have gathered [extensive] knowledge about preparations we need to make before starting exports and also considerations on gender, environment and climate change and corporate social responsibility. Says Fardous Ahmad, Managing Director of Sutar Kabbo. “We learned how to prepare a price list, create standard catalogues to showcase our products, research the market, and effectively communicate with buyers. We gained valuable knowledge and have confidently started to apply changes to our company”.

In 2023, the company had an opportunity to participate in the NY NOW Trade Show, creating linkages with large retailers and buyers. “We are having ongoing discussions including design and hope to enter the North American market.” In the same year, Sutar Kabbo began exporting their products to Kuwait and, supplemented with an increase in local demand, has added 30 looms to its business, also resulting in substantial business growth for 25 craft enterprises that support more than 200 families.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Thanks to her outstanding contribution to business and the community, Ms. Shirajum Munira received the prestigious DHL-The Daily Star “Bangladesh Business Award”. The company has also signed an MOU with an NGO to reuse plastic collected from the community, converting it into handicrafts, wallets, notebook bags, and rugs. It also plans to provide employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities and prides itself on its diverse workforce.

Sutar Kabbo’s incredible impact provides an inspiring example of how businesses can empower women and promote sustainable practices while still achieving significant business growth.