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Rama Moccasin and Craft Shop

Rama Moccasin and Craft Shop


      The Rama Moccasin and Craft Shop offers a wide range of Native arts and crafts, moccasins, specialty handmade items, jewellery, carvings, quill boxes, pottery, original art and prints, sweat shirts, t-shirts, leather goods, Pendleton blankets, bead work, bone jewellery, sweetgrass, birchbark items and many other items. Open year round, 7 days a week they accept visa, mastercard and offer interact for payment. They are also wheelchair accessible.

      To the credit of husband and wife team, Joan Simcoe and Charles Big Canoe and her daughter Lynn, they established the first retail in Mnjikaning First Nation in June 1981. One day when Joan and Lynn were sitting in the kitchen making necklaces and lighter holders for sale, they decided that Rama needed a craft store. Up until that point they had been selling their crafts from their home and displayed the items on the wall. Their initial bare bone investment was about $1,000. They turned a small building on Joan's property into their store. They had to close that first winter because it was so cold in that building despite the wood stove heat. The following year they expanded by adding one more room, insulating the walls and installing electric heat. They gradually expanded their inventory throughout the years without going deeply into debt. They had to maintain another job to support the business at the beginning and it took 4-5 years before the business was able to stand on it's own. The advertising grew as the business grew.

      Their challenges in this business when starting up were financial constraints and finding suitable suppliers. Her family and friends supported her during these times. They travelled to Gift Shows, Pow Wows and other Native communities to connect with suppliers.

Charles and Joan       Their customer base is primarily European tourists. Local people are not a steady clientele, with the exception of Christmas. Business brochures at Tourism Associations and the Chamber of Commerce has proven to be effective advertisement, as well as other forms of media, such as a local radio station and word of mouth. Joan states that to be a successful business owner one needs persistence, to be able to work lots of hours and have lots of patience.

      Other potential businesses that would compliment her business would be a product Co-operative that manufactures and distributes crafts at whole sale prices.

      Joan is most proud of the fact of being business for 18 years. She is also proud of the fact that they sell mostly Aboriginal products. Her greatest joy comes from coming out ahead at the end of the year while supplying employment for herself and family. If she were to do it all over again, she would probably have waited until she had more money to invest and more planning of the retail space. Crucial to her success is marketing and advertising.

Advice for young entrepreneurs:
* Things are different now, you have to have more education in the business world for marketing and networking etc.
* Don't go too deep in debt in starting up, start small so you can handle it.

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