We chat to CHANTAL TRAVERS from Emperor’s Attic (a wonderful collection of antiques and home décor goodies) about what it takes to run a successful business in Singapore and how she is (still!) trying to achieve work-life balance.
What inspired you to want to run a furniture business?
I had left advertising after 18 years and, after seeking the advice of a life coach, I decided to pursue my original passion of retail. At the same time, I found out that Emperor’s Attic (then called FairPrice Antique) was for sale. It was an established business in Singapore selling high-quality Chinese antique and vintage furniture to an international market. This was something I’d wanted to do when we lived in Beijing from 2008 and 2012, so the stars aligned for me.
What has been your biggest challenge with the business?
Staffing is a challenge for every small business. I mostly employ expats because they have such a passion for the products as well as the flexibility to work just a few days a week. I’ve had some fantastic staff over the past three years, but so many of them have transferred back home or to other countries. Training staff takes time, so it’s a real loss when someone leaves.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt?
Owning your own business doesn’t give you work-life balance – though you do have flexibility as to when you work! I have to set boundaries for myself so I have time for family and the gym (still working on the last one!). I wanted to be my own boss so I could control my hours and find balance. But my work is my life now – I love it and have never been happier. As a small business owner, you manage finance, HR, the shop, the buying, the marketing – everything. I try to get to bed earlier, force myself to take two days off (also still working on that) and hire fabulous staff to help take the pressure off. I’m really lucky with the team I have.
What motivates you to get up each morning?
So many things! I love being my own boss, I love my job, I love my team and I absolutely love buying beautiful products, and being in the store and meeting customers. I get such satisfaction when a customer comes in and recognises the quality in finish and construction that we strive so hard to achieve.
What makes Emperor’s Attic different?
Emperor’s Attic and FairPrice Antique beforehand have been selling high-quality, hand-crafted antique, vintage and reproduction Chinese furniture in Singapore for 20 years. We are “award winning” (we’re consistent winners of both the Expat Living Readers’ Choice Awards and Tatler Best of Singapore), “artisanal” (we rarely sell the same thing twice) and “actually affordable”!
Our pieces are traditionally hand-crafted and restored and use the highest quality materials and workmanship. We believe you will not find this quality at these prices anywhere else.
We also travel to northern China twice a year and work with a few trusted suppliers to personally select every item that arrives in the store. As we only buy from that part of China, our pieces can move when you move and can live in cold and dry climates – not just the heat and humidity. That helps them last a lifetime and more.
For more on business in Singapore, plus news, views and tips on a range of topics, head to our Living in Singapore section.