SINGAPORE: “Except you really want to, do not begin a vogue enterprise. Do one thing else.”
I as soon as jokingly gave that piece of recommendation when somebody requested me in regards to the challenges of being a vogue entrepreneur throughout a pandemic. That was months in the past, after I nonetheless had my store, Butterflies and Marigold, in Guoco Tower.
We had simply come out of the circuit breaker, once we had zero gross sales for 2 months — my first in 16 years of enterprise. For sure, issues have been robust and positively unsure.
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You’d assume with the ability to reopen in Part 1 meant excellent news for us, however gross sales have been dismal, to say the least.
We have been situated within the Central Enterprise District (CBD), and a number of our clients have been nonetheless working from residence.
Foot visitors dropped violently, and it was like a ghost city.
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It was essential for my enterprise companion and I to start out speaking to our landlord about our plans after our rental reduction was to finish in August.
To be honest, given the client footfall once we signed the lease three years in the past, our lease was affordable. Guoco Tower is linked to the Tanjong Pagar MRT station, a really busy station.
However once we reopened, the footfall was near zero, so our lease ought to come down fairly for us to outlive.
In the meantime, I needed to alter my way of life. In a short time, we began cooking at residence — no extra consuming out, no extra restaurant meals. It was a sensible approach of being thrifty with out compromising household time with our two boys.
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Fortunately, my husband has a steady, full-time job, in order that has helped. However to maintain my enterprise alive, I knew I needed to attain out to our clients who have been nonetheless working from residence.
As a small enterprise, we have been nimble and have been in a position to adapt to the scenario. We arrange an internet purchasing platform by way of Shopify. We even began live-streaming on Fb each week to promote our garments.
We managed to get some gross sales, and the interplay with our long-time clients was good.
One factor I actually cherish about 16 years of doing enterprise is the connection with our clients. That’s one thing we now have not misplaced to COVID-19.
Whereas issues have been selecting up for us on the digital entrance, our conversations with the owner weren’t yielding a lot fruit.
As early as July, we proposed a Gross Turnover Mannequin, which was in essence asking the owner to share our ache. That didn’t undergo.
The owner was keen to provide us a small rental discount, however that was nonetheless disproportionate to the drop in footfall.
Our final resort was to file for a Notification of Reduction, which helps SMEs like us to defer rental funds till November. That allowed us to handle our money move in the meanwhile.
When November got here, we have been as a consequence of communicate to the owner once more. Our lease was going to run out on the finish of the month, and given how unsure issues have been, I assumed we may negotiate a shorter lease — six months or a 12 months — as a substitute of committing to an extended one.
We have been nonetheless fairly hopeful. However earlier than we may make that proposal, the owner instructed us: “Oh, Elsie, I’ve received excellent news for you. We discovered somebody to take over your store already.”
I misplaced it, in fact.
The owner knew our pre-COVID gross sales numbers — we have been right here for the previous three years — and that Butterflies and Marigold was a worthwhile enterprise. We had constantly turned in these numbers.
How may they do that to us, particularly when it’s so troublesome for retailers now?
We may discover one other store house, however let me put it this manner: Say you’re taking part in soccer and abruptly there’s a heavy downpour. Do you wish to maintain taking part in within the rain? Or take shelter for some time?
Maybe for Butterflies and Marigolds, that is our time to take shelter. We’re going to attempt to pivot 100 per cent in the direction of on-line for now.
We will function out of a warehouse or my residence, so long as we discover the house to proceed live-streaming each week.
I nonetheless had an excellent run. My companion and I ran a really profitable enterprise for 16 years. That’s an achievement that no one can take away.
After all I really feel very unhappy to let this store go. However as painful as it could be, it isn’t the tip of the highway.