Shemb Shemb

She worked with her mother to build a traditional handicrafts business that empowered the community.

Selyna Peiris
Sri Lanka

I cannot tell the story of our business without first telling you about my mother, Sandra Wanduragala - the founder of this company.

My mother started this venture in 1991 as a means of empowering herself and the women around her. She came from a background that helped her understand the problems of women living in rural areas and the business was born out of her desire to help others.


She not only retained the essence of the local artisans’ craft but found a way to market it globally.

The business which started with 15 local women working out of my mother’s home garage now has over a thousand contributing artisans. All of them have been bringing out the beauty of the traditional Sri Lankan loom. While the quality of the fabric itself is high, my mother recognized the need for modern expressions of the fabric and she diversified into high-demand products like toys early on. The revenues from this helped stabilize the company.

Together they grew the company’s reach far beyond the shores of Sri Lanka.


The biggest problem rural craft and talent face is that they don’t have wide markets within their reach. And this makes it difficult to have a healthy income flow. My mother and I rely heavily on social media to get us this access to bigger markets. We have also understood that though the craft is traditional, we can always design the product according to international tastes. And now we get orders from customers all over the world. That’s a joint win, for both our heritage and our business.


Through the pandemic distress, they never forgot their artisans or their core community.

We refused to shut down during the pandemic. We navigated our way through the crisis. We could have discontinued handloom because its sales got affected and just focused on making toys for export but that would have compromised the artisans. So instead we just innovated, innovated, innovated. To keep the handloom community going. We even wove environment-friendly, reusable masks.

The world is moving towards ethical, sustainable and natural products. And we will be right there to meet them.