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.
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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