The Little Drom Store @ SOTA. 2014.
Today we speak to Stanley and Antoinette, founders of The Little Drom Store from Singapore.
Yanda: Please tell us what do you do?
Stanley and Antoinette: We run an art & design driven retail store, called “the little dröm store”.
We aspire to bring people from all creative walks of life, to promote and share their work with the rest of the world.
How did it all started?
As graphic designers, we would always bookmark websites and dog-ear magazines of things we like and found inspiring.
So we wanted a place where we could retail such products, and we had this little desire in wanting to shake things up a little in our creative landscape. And in our own little efforts, we wanted to provide a shopping option for alternative products in Singapore.
Has it been fulfilling so far?
What were the challenges starting out?
The main challenge definitely had to be finances, we almost emptied our savings from working full time when we started out.
It was extremely challenging, especially mentally and morally when we had literally zero sales on some days, and rental in Singapore as we know ain’t cheap at all.
Who do you think your target audience are?
They are people who appreciates tasteful and well designed products.
So it is more for the niche and not the mass market?
(this is a long reply, but its one of our best eureka moments)
We must admit that we were quite self indulgent & naive when we first started out, only wanting to sell things that were designed by obscure and independent designers or artists from overseas, and even produced in limited edition! Which brought us to realise (as hard truth), that in reality not many people cared much about such details. If a product doesn’t relate to them, they’ll simply walk away from it.
But what opened up our perspective was when we were invited to showcase our series of Mosaic Playground photos for the M1 Fringe Festival in 2011 – in conjunction with that showcase, we designed and produced a series of mosaic playground brooches, as our own efforts of keeping these playgrounds close to our hearts while the actual ones were slowly being demolished. This was our first series of self designed and produced products.
And after launching them at our shop, the reactions that came from our customers were priceless! Because of these brooches, many of them started sharing their own personal memories with us, and us with them, and word got around and more people came to buy them. These exchanges were so precious because for the first time, we felt such great satisfaction and appreciation from our customers. Our customers were really generous with their words of encouragement. This had really opened up our perspective because we realized and understood the importance of authenticity and relatability in a product.
Back then, customers would comment that our store was quirky & interesting but not many made actual purchases. And this series of playground brooches kinda turned things around.
We had learnt that for the little dröm store, is to innovate and not imitate.
To innovate by bringing out the best from what we have in Sinagpore, as Singaporeans, and not strive to want to be like shops that we admire from overseas.
So in a nutshell, we had learn that we just want to design products that are honest, tasteful and hopefully bring about some smiles. So in that sense, we believe everyone deserves products that are tasteful & well designed, and we cater to anyone who appreciates them.
What was totally unexpected?
People from overseas having heard about our store and writing in to say how they had loved what we do and to encourage us! Sometimes even mailing gifts from overseas, that was very sweet. What was even more unexpected was when some of them eventually visit Singapore and our store!
Was there actually a business plan from the start?
To be totally honest – No, we didn’t when we started out. It was out of pure and childlike faith in wanting to change Singapore’s creative landscape and make it more exciting, to create a platform for creative exchanges.
Our plan was more of an idealistic one, without much practical business wisdom, but we had learnt a great deal over the years, especially from failures and discouragements.
Having been designers before starting the shop, how different from design it is being in this kind of service line now?
It can be very mentally tiring sometimes because we’re such introverts and we had found comfort in being behind our computers then, but now its full on meeting and talking to our customers, everyday. Apart from simply designing back then, we now have to manage our own time line, production, finances and sometimes difficult and weird customers.
Any decision that has been made could be better if you could turn back time now?
I think it would be for us to have more practical business wisdom and better financial management skills when starting out.
Does your parents know what you guys were doing? (Doing designs or opening a shop)
I guess they do, but only to a certain degree. They were worried initially but now having able to sustain 4 years, we think they kinda gave up worrying and started trusting us more. But I mean our parents are not the kind of people who would buy our products because they would comment on our products and go “美啦, but 做这个来干嘛?”.
How do you all split the time or work load between the shop, housework to even walking the dog?
The truth is we dont’t know how, because we are still having dinners at 10+pm (more like supper time, haha!) because we insist on cooking at home instead of eating out to maintain our health. We don’t have a fixed timetable of sorts but somehow we still get our housework done, shop stuff settled. One thing that we are guilty of is not walking our 2 pugs enough though.
What about work, play and leisure? How do you juggle them?
I guess when we love what we do and understand the purpose and calling of our lives, we are blessed to have the grace to go through all these. However we do remind ourselves constantly that we have the shop, but the shop doesn’t have us, we still need to have time for family etc…
Tell us the best experience so far since opening the shop in 2010?
In seeing how the creative landscape has grown, and that there’s a lot more local creatives stepping out to pursue their creative dreams.
Donna Wilson x dröm.
How has working for others and yourself shaped you so far?
It helped us to understand perspectives from both employer and employee, and as a customer and a shop owner.
Understanding the importance of not taking things for granted, and that there’s always 2 sides to a story.
It taught us to be more understanding, less narrow minded and judgmental.
Strangely Singaporean & Proud of it.
And is there any particularly meaning in choosing yellow?
Yellow because its uplifting & cheerful. Kinda like little sunbeams shining in our treehouse.
Last question. What can we expect to see from you guys in the future?
We’re definitely hoping that we can do more to inspire others.
So watch out for:
01. “dröm class” – where we will bring in local and overseas creatives in their own respective fields to host workshops.
02. “drom pop” – new initiative where we will invite various people to have a bi-monthly pop up at our store.
03. Even more “dröm sessions” – where we will continue seeking out inspiring creative individuals to share about their creative processes and other little nuggets of inspiration. (For past archive http://www.thelittledromstore.com/category/sessions/)
Thank you for reading and check out more of Little Drom Store here.