Keeping it real

Mango Wood Crafts with home decoration such as handcrafted frames, basklets, and vases at Holland Village in Singapore | Shopkeeper Stories

Walking into this shop, you will be delighted with the calming aura of a tropical forest, as though its fragrance was freshly awakened from the rain. The baskets and vases are hand-fashioned out of natural material such as atah roots with designs that leap out for their distinctive style. Rose Ramzan has been in the business of handicrafts for around 16 years, and shares a practical overview of what it means to be the owner of a shop.

Do not drop out of school to start a business

“Let me give you a tip. Get a good education, because this business is your back-up. After you get your degree, whatever you do is your problem! You can be a salesperson or start a new venture, but you will always have a back-up.”

Your salary is not guaranteed as a business owner

“Look at it this way. A job only has 30 days: very fast — in a blink of an eye — 30 days is over, and you get your salary. Unhappy? You quit; you find another job. A job will give you security like CPF (social security), medical leave, and so on.

“It might not be much, but you still know that at the end of the month, you will get paid. But not in business. For a business, you have to work very hard — and it goes to paying the rent. Then you work very, very hard — it pays the PUB (utilities) bill. Then you work very, very hard — to buy the inventory.

“Then you continue to keep working, and you might have a little leftover to spend. That’s business.”

Remember that sales cycles have ups and downs

“If you are not in business, what you are seeing from the outside can look very good. You will see many people flooding a restaurant and think: “Wow, good stuff, this business is making good money!” But it’s a lot tougher in reality. You have to consider production costs, rental, employees, economic cycles, and all of that. The first people to know when the economy is slowing down are retailers. Immediately, we feel it.”

You cannot only sell products: you must offer unique experiences

While Rose has been in business for 16 years, she is constantly exploring new ways for her business to stay vibrant. Retail shops everywhere are learning that putting products on the shelves is not enough. They need to go many steps further with spectacular service and provide a memorable experience.

“In time to come, I will invite the weaver to come to this shop to make her handwoven baskets— just to show the weaving process. Sometimes, it’s not so important to make money: you have to give something of interest to the customer such as product knowledge. People love natural products, and they will be able to see the hard work that goes into making them.”

Stay focused on your core value proposition

How does Rose stay inspired?

“I love these products very much, and I put a lot of effort into them. If you have quality items in your shop, then your customers will buy quality products, and they will be happy. It’s very simple. I use these products myself and will do this for as long as I can.”


Shopkeeper Stories is a photographic documentary of small business owners and their trades around the world, sharing insights, stories and views. You can see all the posts on Instagram and Facebook @ShopkeeperStories


Shopkeeper Stories has a book! This delightful coffeetable book was sponsored by the SG50 Celebration Fund and Singapore Business Federation.

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