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Catching up with Nana Khan

If there's one Mompreneur I admire, it would be Nana Khan. She is the the brainchild and Founder of Rotan Lot.

Rotan Lot is a modern, meets traditional rattan furniture brand that aims to preserve the art of handcrafted rattan furniture by reintroducing a wide range of traditional styles that is cleverly designed. It also possess a bohemian, continental, minimalist and luxury in mind to give your living space an instant uplift in terms of comfort and aesthetics.


My conversation with Nana was very humbling - she was cool, witty and so down to earth of a person that I knew I had to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey!


We got connected and the rest was history. Read on to find out more below!


1. How did the idea for your business come about?

I grew up in a multicultural family. Both sides have lots of rotan furnitures in their homes, so rotan furnishings feel very close to home. As i grew up, my attraction to it became more obvious because i was seeing so much less of it and i felt like we should definitely bring it back into homes. It started to hit me when I got my set from my grandmother. The condition of the set wasnt at its best and I wasnt working at the time so I couldn't afford to refurbish it. It was heartbreaking to let it go for charity as we didnt have space to keep it.


So like hunting for vintage collectibles, I always look forward for trips to find traditional rattan shops to find any pieces I can bring home. Then I realise it's not easy to find them and there isnt much options in design available in the market at the time.

I then started collecting designs I find online as inspirations.


Then the story goes as written by Options The Edge :

Although there were beautiful images on Pinterest, none were available for sale in Malaysia. When she enlisted her father’s help in her search, he asked her a pivotal question: “Do you want to buy or sell?” This got Nana thinking and as she had such difficulty in finding such furniture, she thought there might be a niche market she could tap into.

Nana had worked in the corporate world for many years before giving it up to look after her children. She felt like working again and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. With some ideas in mind, Nana set off with her father to explore the rotan shops but they ran into a snag.


Most of the Malaysian craftsmen were from the older generation, more used to classic designs, and as making rotan furniture is a dying art, they quoted high prices. The duo then set off for Jakarta to meet skilled craftsmen there. “We found people who were willing to do my designs. Of course, there was a lot of trial and error, but then we made it work. So I put together whatever savings I had and decided to give it a go,” Nana recounts.


2. What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?

Desperation.


Of course I have always had the dream of becoming my own boss and owning my own business since I was a school girl but I went through the whole standard process. When I finished school, I went to college, I graduated from a University and got a corporate job for 10 years.


When I had my second boy, he was consistently sick and going in and out of the hospital due to his weak lungs. I became really unhappy going to work knowing that he needs the attention and I am not there myself for my family.


So I just decided one day to quit my job and became a housewife. To help my husband with the expenses I tried a few small businesses and part time work but it just wasnt enough.

When I was down to the bottom of the barrel of my 10 years of work savings, I knew I had to do something. Then Rotan Lot started!


3. How did you come up with the name for your company?


It was about a 5 minutes decision. I wanted “Rotan” because it is what we call it here at home. It is the term we grew up with. Not “Rattan”. The word “Lot” represents not only a space but a community. Rotan Lot is direct, it's simple and easy to remember.


4. How has the pandemic affected your business?


I cannot be anymore grateful that the pandemic and with everyone staying at home, there was more love for interior decorating. With that trend, we have had steady support from our retail customers and we were able to do our orders online despite the pandemic and everyone staying at home.


Initially we were stuck for close to a month because of the first MCO. All orders froze, but so did a lot of other businesses so customers were very understanding. We had to be wary that there can only be a handful of people working at the workshop to maintain social distancing as well.


So production slowed down a little. Also, the pandemic worldwide did impact our shipping from our Jakarta based workshop to us here in Subang. Shipping turnaround time is slow but we try our best to do the best we can and deliver to our customers.


5. What was the biggest learning you’ve gained from the pandemic?


Always be prepared and be ready to adapt. Emergency funds are a MUST to sustain.

Also, I learn not to jump into the “loan” assistance bandwagon.


Do NOT commit to borrowings when times are uncertain. Keep things simple and manageable, without being pressured to grow at a phase that you don't feel comfortable.


6. How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful?

Rotan Lot’s main window is through Instagram.

We are also available on our Website, Facebook.


Our main business reach out is definitely ONLINE. We have been so fortunate to have had influencers, businesses, brands and followers online who have been so supportive and recommended our products to everyone they know.


Okay, so here's the part where I wanted to get deeper into her daily routine and mantra!


1. Can you describe/outline your typical day?


I am a full time mompreneur. I wake up, sort out the kids and their schoolwork, then proceed with my house chores , furbabies and plants in the morning.


Then I straight away start working - answering queries online, any administrative work for Rotan Lot and then scheduling deliveries and appointments at the Rotan Lot Showroom.


Sometimes I’m home earlier to have meals with the family and then back to work. Usually by early evening ill be back home and clocking in for mom job and continuing queries online.


It's when the kids go to sleep I have the time to lookout and experiment new designs, read books or find inspirations online.


2. What motivates you?


My main motivation are my kids.


They give me the reason and motivation to do better. To live life the way I want to, while they are still growing up with me. They inspire me to break away from the standard way to thinking and explore life the way I want.


3. How do you generate new ideas?


Online inspiration is endless like the sea! I try to follow inspirational designers online to see what's trending and what looks good and try to see if I can make a rattan version of it. I also love ideas that revolve around my customers' feedback. I have some of the most wonderful ideas from their feedback.


Travelling helps too and I look forward to it when the borders are open again.


4. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?


It may seem traditional but I do believe in hard work, and my early desperation pushed me to do what I initially thought was impossible for me to do. What scares you is definitely an adventure that makes life worth living.


5. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?


The flexibility of time, freedom of being creative and owning the responsibility of my decisions. All the things I never had working for a company.


6. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?


Simply having other people acknowledging your work and the mere idea of people WANTING to have your products be part of their HOME. Its still surreal for me till today. Like they get it. Infact some of them bring the products into a whole new level with their creativity and make it their own.


I also wanted to discover what would be her tips to stay inspired, and to keep going...


1. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?


a. Habit of being “Debtless” - Not having debts to bring you down or any commitments that sway you away from your goals. I feel before you hop on to this bandwagon, main objective is to clean off any monthly commitments. It helps you focus on the business, and lifts off a lot of stress weight financially.


b. Experience - If you are not certain what business to do, - DO ANYTHING! TRY ANYTHING! I have done and worked with various companies and none of them have anything to do with what I am doing right now. However it is the skills from everyone of them that I know a lot of things that's required for me to start my own business. Not to mention the people I know along the way who are direct or indirectly related to people who have helped me.


c. Positivity - Have the habit of prioritising your mental health and focus. Own a business that you enjoy and that you are confident with. Dont be scared and just bulldoze through, just do ittttt! Surround yourself with positive people who inspire you.

2. What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?


I am in the business that revolves around things that I'm passionate and obsessed about. Interior and RATTAN! So I'm productive and focus automatically.


3. What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?


Knowledge.

Buy as many books, listen to as many podcasts, get as many inspirations online, get yourself into classes if you can afford it, and surround yourself with people who can inspire and teach you.


4. Please share your top 4 tips on how to Work From Home successfully/productively?


a. Have a schedule that works for you - It becomes an automatic productive routine. No matter whats the time, get a solid block of time just for work without interruption. For me its time between meal times. Usually when the boys are having their online classes, their playtime or bedtime.


b. Accept help - If you are a mompreneur like I am, do not spread yourself thin and think you can take it on and do everything. You end up tired, frustrated and unhappy. Working from home allows you to share your work with the family. Make them understand that everyone needs to take on the responsibility so it does not become too overwhelming. If you can afford it, seek help anyway you can. Dont feel guilty if you need to order in, or get a helper to clean the house, or a tutor for the kids every once in a while.


c. Take breaks - Working from home can be overwhelming because you donno know when to stop. It's really important to stop every once in a while so I could gather my sanity and not be a monster to the family.


d. Stay Connected - We have to learn to switch from doing networking face to face, to connecting with people online. Never loose touch even when you are at home, in fact take the opportunity to get to know them via their posts and thoughts, and just through your fingertips you are able to connect with more people in less time than meeting face to face.


Before we wrap up, here are some fun and relaxed questions for Nana...


1. Who has been your greatest inspiration?


My arwah nenek. Most of her life she was a single hard working mom of 7 children. She's ruthless through her struggles, so independent, and always put her family first. Her love for her children was unconditional. She passed away at a young age of 57, but her presence is legendary in the family.


2. What business-related book has inspired you the most? (or, What is your favorite book?)


Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T Kiyosaki.

3. If you had a magic stick, which are the three things you would change in the world?


First thing that comes to mind currently is STOPPING the oppression from Israel to the Palestinians. Or any form of oppression from anywhere for that matter. Human beings have the right for freedom and liberation to grow, be at peace and be happy.