By Jarryl Bryan
At age 27, Romona Singh is the proud owner of her business Coco Crafts and Custom Party Decors. She is living her dream of being an entrepreneur, but she has met many women who had to give up on their dreams due to life’s circumstances.
Singh, who was born in Black Bush Polder, Berbice, but now lives in Good Hope on the East Coast of Demerara, has a passion for social causes such as women empowerment. And during an interview with this publication, she had words of encouragement for women with unfulfilled dreams.
The businesswoman noted the importance of women holding on to their aspirations and dreams, even when life’s responsibilities seem to be holding them back – responsibilities she knows all too well.
“Many times I have met women who have dreams or a passion they want to follow but they don’t because of duties or responsibilities towards family, especially married women and I respect that but I feel a woman should not be confined to what society accepts as a good wife or mother,” she said.
“Being married for seven years, I understand some of the challenges myself but I’m thankful for the support and encouragement I get from my family and friends especially my husband and my mother because they believe in me and my business. Sometimes all we need is the little encouragement.”
The entrepreneur is very cognisant of the disadvantages people in Guyana, especially women, face in the world of business. In her journey to Coco crafts, she faced them too. This is why she considers it a duty to encourage her friends to start their own businesses and use her personal Facebook page to promote them.
Romona also has plans on the horizon, to organise events that will provide young women with opportunities to network and launch businesses of their own. She explained that these plans were in the pipeline for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic put them on hold.
Singh explained that the plans are back on and likely to be executed next month, in observance of her business’s second anniversary. She’s also enlisted the help of other like-minded entrepreneurs, including the owners of Aleesha Sweet Treats and Tiffany’s Beauty Salon.
“Some of the challenges women face are acquiring capital, the need to focus on a 9-5 job for financial security, uncertainty, self-doubt and fear of failure among other things. Straight Outta 592, The Buzz and others are doing an amazing job in sharing the business experiences of so many women and I think we need more of this.”
“So what we’re trying to do is get a few women who own or operate small businesses to come together to host an event and invite women who might be interested in starting a business or learning a new skill. We will share our experiences and give advice or even financial help to a few women,” Singh said.
On the rise
The businesswoman gave this publication a glimpse into her experiences in business, recounting that while she always loved crafting, she never saw it as a viable business. Rather, her idea of businesses involved salons, boutiques and restaurants. However, it was the encouragement of family and friends that got her started.
“I would make handmade gifts and decorations for my friends and family. After seeing my work they encouraged me to start selling my creations. While I loved the idea, I thought my work wasn’t professional enough to be sold,” she explained.
For a while, Singh trod the conventional path of a young professional. After leaving Cove and John Secondary in 2010, she completed several computer courses, worked as a part-time teacher and then spent the next two years as a customer service representative.
“After I got married, I planned on helping my husband with his small business. He owns a gym but I realised I wanted something that was mine and I enjoyed doing. So, I started thinking of business ideas but my main issue was getting capital. Fortunately, the start-up for Coco Crafts was manageable and I worked and invested,” she said.
“February 2019, I got my first order from a friend and I was thrilled because I was getting paid to do something I actually love and that’s when I decided that I will start a craft business. I created a page on Facebook and informed friends and family of my new venture,” Singh further explained.
Despite her initial success, Singh went several months without any sales. The drought even led to her questioning herself and her business venture. But when the chips were down, she decided to go all in and increase her investment… something she still does today, in a quest to expand and offer new and better services.
“I decided to make more products and used paid advertising to promote my page because I was determined to make it work. The paid advertising and new products worked because Coco Crafts got a lot of new followers and I was super excited when I started getting orders right away.”
“There are so many new and exciting ideas that I would love to try and introduce to my customers but a lot of the materials and tools are not available in Guyana and the cost of shipping is high especially for my small business that tries to make affordable crafts for everyone. I am working on opening a craft store so I can provide tools and materials for other crafters as well.”
According to Singh, her ultimate goal is to open a craft store this year. She has also started to offer wedding decor services, with aspirations of becoming a wedding planner at some point in time.
Whenever Singh is not working, she is spending time with her family. Her other activities include reading, painting or binge-watching her favourite shows. She had some parting advice for anyone looking to start a new business.
“Don’t give up on your dreams, you will have doubts and insecurities when it comes to starting your business or going through with it and that’s okay but don’t let fear and uncertainty keep you from the amazing future of being a businesswoman. I am happy I took the step but I needed a lot of encouragement before I did, so I am hoping this inspires you to keep working on your dreams.”