A shared philosophy

Anyone who has young
children on the island or has ever needed to hunt for that perfect baby shower
gift knows of Little Darlings Limited.

The speciality store
– which caters to every conceivable infant, tot and tween need,-is owned by the
husband and wife team; Randal and Donna Daije. The Daijes took over the
business,originally owned by a relative, when Donna was pregnant with her first
child Lauren in 1997 and they did not have to think twice about going into
business together.

“Randal and I jumped
at the chance of owning our own business and saw the potential that was clearly
there to build on what my aunt had set up,” said the store’s general manager.

“When we purchased
Little Darlings it was located at the Automotive Art building. At the time
product availability was limited on-island. We bought Little Darlings with the
plan to expand into a business that was diverse.”

And expand the couple
did, in a few short years they had increased their inventory to such an extent
that they had to scour George Town for an alternative premises.

“By mid 2001 we’d
really outgrown our Alexander Place premises. At 1,500 sq. ft. it was too small
to accommodate our stock requirements or the big plans we had for increasing
our product lines and market share,” Mrs. Daijes said.

In October 2008 the
couple took Little Darlings to a higher plane by expanding their business into
the second floor and increasing their lines of inventory still further.

The public face of Little
Darlings, Miss Donna as she is known by staff and customers, is the store’s
general manager, book keeper and senior buyer. Aside from that she makes a
point of saying hello to customers and has a ready ear for what products they
would like in the store.

“Both Randal and I
are passionate about the business and about providing great service to our
customers. Client feedback and their suggestions as to new products is a vital
component of providing the level of service we strive for,” she said.

When not on the sales
floors at the cash register, finding an item for a customer or doing a stock
check, the general manager is in the office to an army of overseas suppliers or
fielding the constant stream of customer calls while Randal, a full-time
certified accountant, closes up each day and works in the store on Saturdays.

The couple talked
about how they juggle owning their own business and giving priority to family
time.

“We knew that when we
purchased Little Darlings it would definitely take away from some of our free
time but we didn’t have any children at that point. Naturally sacrifices have
to be made,” she said.

These days keeping a
healthy work/home ratio means sticking to their promise about eating their
evening meals with their two teenage daughters and limiting talking shop at
home.

“Family time is
virtually sacrosanct. Evenings are strictly family time to be shared together.
And on Sundays, we always plan fun activities with our girls and stay away from
work.”

The shared philosophy
works well and is only deviated from on the run up to Christmas when things get
extremely hectic at the store.

“We’re lucky to be
busy all year round but Christmas and the early part of the new year are
unbelievably busy,” said Donna “We have to open for extended hours to meet
customer demand and its a case of all hands to the pumps with our daughters
helping out… a couple of nephews and nieces help out too,so it’s definitely a
family affair.”

For couples thinking
about setting up their own business their advice is:“Be prepared to make a lot
of sacrifices for example taking short vacations and working six days a week,”
said Donna. She also advised couples to go into setting up together with a
clear idea of roles and responsibilities as well as a business plan. “Just like
there’s not just one business model, there’s no one way that’s the right way to
start and continue to grow your business. Constant communication and shared
goals like any partnership though will definitely help as will a friendly bank
manager!”

“Be prepared to make
a lot of sacrifices for example taking short vacations and working six days a
week.” Donna Daije, Little Darlings

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