Up Close … with Daisy Romain, owner and manager of Daisie’s Upholstery-‘My greatest satisfaction is to see the people I trained succeed’


17-July-2012

Mrs Romain in her workshopSince 1991 when she started her own small enterprise, Daisy Romain has conducted business from her small workshop until four years ago when she moved to a more spacious location at Providence.

Meeting her there recently, I had to wait a few minutes for her to make space for us to sit among all the pieces of cloth and thread which covered every chair.

“Welcome and make yourself at home, this is my world and I enjoy being surrounded by all types of fabric, this is who I am,” she said.

From a family of seamstresses
Daisie Romain born Stravens, a mother of three sons including well known young music star Joan Romain better known as Jah 1, started sewing her own clothes at a very young age.

Being the daughter of a seamstress, it is no surprise that Mrs Romain and two of her four sisters followed in their mum’s footsteps.

While the latter only sewed clothes, her girls started with that as well but gradually each of them moved further beyond just being the ordinary seamstress.

The eldest of a family of nine children -- five daughters and four sons -- Mrs Romain noted that apart from two, all of her other siblings have their own small businesses.

“One specialises in baby clothes and school uniforms and two, including myself, are in the upholstery business,” she said.

Originally from Praslin, she eventually moved to Mahe but one of her sisters has her workshop there.

She recalled the old days on Praslin when her mother, a seamstress, and her father, a farmer, helped each other to raise their nine children but now her father, Antoine Louis Stravens, has recently passed away and her mother, Nancy Stravens born Labrosse, is not sewing any more.

Her younger days and time in Lebanon
Reminiscing about the different stages of her life, Mrs Romain recounted that she left Seychelles in September 1977 at the age of 17 and travelled to Lebanon where she lived and worked for nine years.

“I was happy there, where I spent a good part of my teenage years and I really enjoyed it,” she recalled.

Mrs Romain said apart from the war which worried her a bit, she otherwise continues to cherish some very good and happy memories of her time spent there. She considered herself lucky because she worked for some very nice families who treated her well.

“At one time I had a boss who had two teenage girls around the same age as myself and we got on so well,” she remembered.

As sewing has always been her favourite past-time, Mrs Romain bought a sewing machine with her first salary working in Beirut, the Lebanese capital.

“I have always enjoyed sewing and during my time off I went shopping for nice fabric and I would sew myself some nice clothes,” she recalled.

In spite of her workload of house work and child-minding, she always made time to sew something pretty for herself and with her sewing machine in her room this made it much easier for her.

“I can never spend a long time without touching my fabric and sewing machine because I believe my passion for sewing overwhelms me,” Mrs Romain noted.

She developed a passion for sewing just by watching her mother at work and copying afterwards and by the age of 12 she was already sewing anything she wanted to wear.
She remembers her boss admired her handiwork so much that she too bought similar fabric for her to sew outfits similar to hers.

Back to Seychelles and launching her upholstery business
After her time in Lebanon, she returned to Mahe where she married, settled at Forêt Noire and took up employment at Bodco.

It was there that she was introduced to upholstery and there and then her interest in a new area developed.

“I became so fascinated by upholstery that I stopped sewing clothes commercially altogether,” she added.

After four years at Bodco working on clients’ orders, Mrs Romain decided she had gained enough knowledge and experience in that particular area of sewing and together with what she already possesses, she was ready to start her own small business.

Surprisingly though, even to herself who had been sewing her own clothes from a very young age, Mrs Romain started her business in upholstery instead.

“It was not easy at first especially with young children, a home to look after, among other responsibilities but I was so keen to be my own boss and at the same time work at my own ease and most importantly be financially independent,” she added.

Her small workshop, Daisie’s Upholstery, was among the first of such businesses and it remained there for 21 years.

Mrs Romain does all types of upholstery - office chairs, padded sofa sets, cabin seats and cushions for boats and many more. She also sews various types of curtains and sheets for private homes and hotels and often visits her clients to take measurements and advise them.

At her workshop she has quite a large variety of fabric for clients to choose from but clients also have the choice of bringing their own fabric.

At present in her new workshop at Providence Mrs Romain has three employees but she said that over the years she trained quite a number of young people, several of whom are today owners of their own small businesses.

“My greatest satisfaction is to see the girls I have trained succeed in their own small businesses,” she added.

Facing challenges
Mrs Romain said her hard work over the years has made it possible for her to obtain the things she had wanted in life and today she is very happy with her achievements.
“Everything I possess today I have earned through hard work and looking back I am very happy and proud of my achievements,” she said.

“Life is never easy but it is your success through hard work which will bring you and your family the comfort you want in your life,” she reflected.

She admitted though that doing business is a bit tough at present and small businesses like hers are the first to be affected and they have to struggle at times to make ends meet.

“It is not easy at all as more and more rupees are required to buy dollars to bring in most of the raw material I need for my business,” she pointed out.

But that does not in any way dampen her desire and eagerness to continue and persevere in what she does best.

With regard to competition which is getting tougher, Mrs Romain said she is neither afraid nor worried about that.

“I am in no way afraid of competition; in fact I believe competition is good as it gives people a wider choice but at the same time I feel  that while clients remain faithful, they are finding it more and more difficult to meet the costs of having new upholstery work done come the festive seasons,” she remarked.

She said on her part she always takes good care of her clients and tries to accommodate their needs as much as she can through reasonable discounts.

“We Seychellois take great joy in redecorating our houses and redoing our furniture come the festive occasions but it is clear that the economic situation is not making that easy for many families,” Mrs Romain pointed out.

But in spite of the difficult situation, she is very positive with regard to the future of her business.
“One has to always be positive and persevere in life in order to succeed regardless of all the challenges and difficulties,” she said.

Mrs Romain noted that love for what one does is also very important for business otherwise it will not develop, grow and prosper.

As for all young people aspiring to start their own small business enterprises, Mrs Romain has this to say; “Go for it but make sure you know and you are sure about what you want to do and plan everything well. Do not let yourself be intimidated by challenges and difficulties which you are bound to encounter,” she said.

For so many years doing her business, Mrs Romain recalled that at one time she promised herself to slow down a bit at 50 years old but looking back now she is already past that age and she is still full of enthusiasm and strength to continue.

“I enjoy what I do so much and I do not feel like giving it all up now. It is my life and I believe as long as I have the strength I will continue,” she said.

Leisure time and family life
Spending time at home with the family, going to church and on outings every now and then are also things Mrs Romain enjoys and looks forward to come the weekend.

Apart from her passion for her work, she is also a good cook. She takes pleasure in preparing her family different Creole dishes and other little treats like pizzas and not to forget the occasional baking.

Ensuring her home always looks lovely, Mrs Romain also dedicates some time to her flowers.
Her pet dogs also have their share of her affection. She has altogether seven of them and they include small house dogs and the ordinary guard dogs.

“I always have so much to do once I get home but as long as I love and enjoy what I do I am happy,” she said.

 

By Marie-Anne Lepathy

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