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Rags to riches The story of a maverick

People often waste time searching endlessly for magic shortcuts to entrepreneurial success and fulfillment but not Tenzin Yeshi.

To him, the only real path to success is summed up in one word: grit.

Tenzin Yeshi is the second person in Paro to own a handicraft business. He is also the chairperson of Paro handicraft association and owns two handicraft shops, a popular café called Heritage, a travel agent and transportation business.

A true rags to riches hero, Tenzin was born in a village on the outskirts of Gankhardung, Trashiyangtse, as the second youngest of four siblings.

Although his single mother who was illiterate raised him up, he knew how important education was.  Despite financial problems, Tenzin attended school while working at various odd jobs to pay for it.

Growing up, he always felt like he was living on the other side of the greenery. He knew other people had more resources, money and happier families. And all he wanted was to climb over that fence and achieve something beyond what people were saying was possible.

“My dad passed away when I was just four years old. Life was hard back then. I was a cow herder for three years for my relatives,” said Tenzin Yeshi.

When Tenzin was in class VI, he was cleaning drains in town at Samdrup Jongkhar during the winter vacation. When he was in class VII, he did temporary job of loading logs.

“My elder brother helped me during my primary education. He was working in the forestry department and used to earn a little. But later after my brother got married, I had to manage my own education because he had to look after his children,” he said.

Since Tenzin was doing various jobs, he could not focus on his studies and he failed in class X.  “I could not ask help from anyone. Nobody was interested to help me. All thought I was good for nothing.”

But Tenzin did not lose his hope. He got a temporary job in Bhutan Olympic as a Taekwondo instructor for a year. With the money earned, he went to Kalimpong, India, and repeated class X.

He graduated high school in Bhutan after which he spent his night at drayangs, singing songs and lived off one meal a day since he did not have resources to pursue higher studies. And during the day, apart from applying for desk jobs, he used to collect scrap to earn money. Because of this his friends called him ‘Tenzin tin man.’

Tenzin still recalls sleeping on the footpath and under trucks during winter to keep himself warm. “Those were hard days,” he said. He could not afford proper meals so with the tips he got from singing at drayangs, he bought chickpeas, put them in a plastic bag with water and covered the bag with grass. After a few hours, he would take out the chickpeas and munch away while working.

But collecting scraps made him what he is today. “While my friend used to earn Nu 15,000 -20,000 as their monthly salary, I used to earn Nu 60,000-100,000 every month. “I used to send two DCM truck full of scraps a month to Phuentsholing.”

Even today, one can see piles of scrap in front of his house, “I may now have a house and everything that any guy can dream of but I know where I am from and I know what reality is like.”

Tenzin is now a family man. With three children and a supportive wife, he said that to attain one’s goal, one has to struggle and should make the right decisions.

“Everyone thought I would take drugs or end up in jail but I did not. I chose my own future but yes, it takes time.”

Pema Seldon from Thimphu

 

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