Thanks to our delivery partner ONOW, and the support of our Google.org-funded COVID-19 Rapid Response and Recovery programme, Htu has successfully pivoted her business through the pandemic and is now developing her digital skills to reach more customers.
34-year old Htu Luan is originally from Kachin, a predominantly rural, northern state in Myanmar. Shelives with a disability in her right foot, and growing up, she often felt like a burden to her family due to the extra care she required. But this only fuelled her determination to become independent and earn her own living as an adult.
To follow her dream, like millions of others from rural regions of the country, Htu migrated to Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, which offered more opportunities. Her original plan was to open a beauty salon, but that changed when she started working at a textile factory and discovered her passion for tailoring. Htu then decided to become a seamstress and start her own tailoring business, as she enjoys creating her own designs and making people feel beautiful in them.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Htu’s business was doing very well. She had many customers from different parts of Myanmar who appreciated the high quality of her garments. Her main source of income were bulk orders of T-shirts, uniforms and skirts for a social enterprise. She also ran a tailoring training course and employed other people living with a disability.
But when COVID-19 hit Myanmar, Htu’s ‘non-essential’ business was severely affected. She lost most of her customers: even the social enterprise that provided her main source of income through bulk orders. This led to the temporary closure of her business and left her struggling to cover basic expenses such as rent and groceries. Sadly, this has been the fate of many small businesses in Myanmar since the start of the pandemic: 60-70 % of the businesses that did survive are now functioning at less than half capacity.
Our delivery partner ONOW in Myanmar helped Htu get back on her feet. ONOW has supported her since she started her business, and she says the ONOW coaches have become like a family to her.
ONOW encouraged Htu to shift her production to a product that is currently in high demand: face masks. Htu is now diversifying her product portfolio even further by producing wallets, phone bags and handbags. Simultaneously, she is working on expanding her customer base. Losing her main customer made her realise the importance of building a broad customer base for a crisis-resilient business. She recently participated a Google-run ‘My Business’ seminar through YBI’s COVID-19 Rapid Response and Recovery programme funded by Google.org, and she is keen to use digital media and adverts to reach more customers.
Htu thinks that the support she is receiving from ONOW has been vital for her business’ survival: “If ONOW had not helped me, who knows? My business might have stopped a month after the business got hit.”
With the support from ONOW and the COVID-19 Rapid Response and Recovery programme, Htu is feeling positive that the changes she is making to her business are putting her back on the path to success.
Learn more about ONOW’s work with young migrant entrepreneurs through our COVID-19 Rapid Response and Recovery Programme, funded by Google.org, from our recent interview with ONOW’s MD, Matt Wallace.