Tales of a Shopgirl

There you go. I’ve done it. I took one good look at my American High School Diploma, my International Baccalaureate Diploma (because I’m such a greedy mofo, I had to do two diplomas) and then my prized Warwick University degree and said, “F*** it all! I am going to be a shop girl.”

Well, not quite. I’d like to think that I have, or more accurately, my family has taken on the mantel of the entrepreneur. When you read business magazines and economics textbooks – there is something undeniably romantic about being an entrepreneur. We are, as they say, the engine of growth in any developing or developed country. We are the bastions of innovation, we are drivers of growth and <<insert all other compliments business schools use to encourage people into entrepreneurship>>.

This is the sexy part about entrepreneurship. The fancy packaging done by my extremely talanted brother, the gourmet teas and rustic feel…

I am a big fan of academics. I am not one to knock off the scholar – but I do get a wee bit frustrated when the sexiness of “engines of growth” doesn’t quite tally with my experience of a very confused shop girl. Because as I realize painfully on my first day at The Good Tea Company’s stall, that my over-privileged education has not taught me how to use a cash register. Yesterday was Day 34 at The Curve and I still got it wrong. Not so sure how something that should have total RM 45 became RM 92.50 on the cash register.

It seems I can’t pretend that RM 25 somehow adds up tor RM 92.50.

And it would not be good business practice if I charged my friends who came to support me, RM 92.50. Despite the temptation to do so anyway.

Don’t get me wrong – I love what I am doing. I love the tea that we’re bringing to market, I love meeting customers and explaining to them about the teas. I am so touched when my friends and family come over to support our little endeavour. We have put in tons of effort, sweat and tears – and to see that lovely and fantastic response makes us well up. I am tearing up here. I surprise myself with a heart sometimes.

But as with all the sexy parts, people tend to censor the non-sexy bits. Like when two Hollywood actors make love on screen – they show the heaving bosoms, the breathiness and the perennial hotness that both actors have. They never, ever show the part where the man farts under the blanket and you can’t get the blanket off you as quickly as you’d like.

This book kept me company for a total of 2 days. And then unfortunately, I fell asleep each time I read it. And then I left it on the table to seem more well-read than I really am.

I’m just saying, that sometimes, on the very quiet days where I can roll on the floor from the North Entrance of the Centre Court of the Curve all the way to Ikea without knocking anything, or anyone at The Curve – that is the fart under the blanket with you being trapped under it, with nowhere to escape. You’re sitting there, eyes glazed hoping, someone, anyone would turn up or anything would happen. Like a meteor were to strike the deejay who keeps playing Siti Nurhaliza on constant repeat for 5 weeks running. She may be Malaysia’s sweetheart but she sure ain’t mine.

Also, The Curve tortured us with their “Eid Dance Extravaganza” for 5 weeks straight. The same dance, twice a day, every bloody weekend. I did however, have a soft spot for the dancer on the left. He was so painfully awkward, that it was pure pleasure watching him dance.

Doing retail work is more exhausting than I expected it to be, especially when we are usually here around 9:30am and we leave around 10:30pm. On fasting months, days seem a lot longer but days are willed by through  endless debates on what we would have for dinner. The first three weeks, we practiced bento, my mother tirelessly packing food for us as we did shift work at The Curve – the last two weeks, Sakae Sushi and Popeyes knew me by name. I leave it up to you to make up your own conclusion of what happened.

It was a lot of hard work, late nights and sometimes, a lot of tears. Entrepreneurship is not easy especially one of the most difficult requirements of opening our stall at The Curve was working on Eid day itself and the whole week after Eid. It was hard to remain cheerful working on Eid day itself – I looked at the pictures of everyone’s celebrations with unbridled jealousy. And then pettily comforted myself with the knowledge that some of you guys probably got food poisoning on Eid day itself.

Did we just hold our Eid celebrations in a mall? Oh yes, we did! Photo courtesy of zayni.

Like it’s not Eid unless someone ends up in the ER with a shot to stop the purging.

But…

It was a wealth of knowledge and experience this past 5 weeks. As a company, we had grown from a very gawky entity which can’t seem to work the cash register to something akin to confidence. We are braver, a little wiser and more mature. We’re understanding retail, we’re understanding sales and we even, have become a little bit more ambitious on where The Good Tea Company is going to go.

Like the USS Starship Enterprise, we are going to boldly go where no (tea company) has gone before.

If we’re willing to put face clamps on our face, we’re willing to go to the ends of the earth for the best tea ever.

Tomorrow, it is with bittersweet feelings that we’ll close our retail presence at The Curve as the Raya promotions end. I say this with mixed feelings as I will miss the customer interaction that I get daily but I have to say, feeling incredibly happy that I will be able to rest again! Yay for sleep. But! There is no rest for the wicked, and should you want to get some teas, feel free to bother me by texting me, calling me or emailing me or online at our website or our Facebook page.

Alternatively, you could bother these people as well.

Thank you all for your tremendous support. Thank you to everyone who came by, for making me feel that this is worth doing. That this is something very special and precious. I’ll see all of you again soon.

***

Edited: Upon posting, I noticed that there isn’t a picture of the true hero of this entire endeavour and that would be my boss i.e. our biggest investor and/or Venture Capitalist – my mum.

Here is the VC with the sister who was channeling Tutankhamen.