Ram Odedra’s shop is clearly a community store. From the village posters on his store windows, to promoting other local businesses on the village board, but the poster for his annual Indian night takes pride of place at the till.
- Location: Whissendine, Rutland
- Trading since: February 2011
- Staff: One full-time, two part-time
- Size: 1,000sq ft
- Hours: 7am-7pm Mon – Sat, 8am-2pm Sun
- Style: A rural village shop with no passing trade and a local customer base as the only store in the community. No competitors from other villages or farm shops.
“I do it for selfish reasons,” smiles Ram. But he arranges this annual Indian-themed night – complete with Bhangra dancing, traditional clothes and plenty of food – all for the entertainment of the local village. Last year the night raised £1,000 for the town hall.
In a previous life he was an air steward until he decided to settle down, have a family and open his first store in Nottingham. But life in the city is a far cry from the quiet life he now enjoys in Whissendine. “We had so many racist threats in Nottingham, but when we moved to the village they made us so welcome. It just makes me want to do more to help them,” he said.
As well as raising money for the town hall, he’s tried to help every aspect of community: the local pantomime, the church, children’s charity Rainbow Hospice and the Air Ambulance which has come to the aid of some of his customers in the past. His store has raised an estimated £5,000 for charity, but with an army barrack nearby, he hopes to do more with Help for Heroes this year.
“They’re just four miles away. It’s important to give back to people that have done so much for us. I’m just a store but they are willing to serve us with their lives.”
- Admit your mistakes: Even if you’ve paid for them: Retail is a series of learning curves. Ram paid £3,000 for lights that have increased his electricity bill so he’s reinvested £1,600 in cost-efficient LED lights.
- Know your limits: Every Friday he stocks a range of bread from his local baker, because he knows they will sell on a Saturday morning. He tried an all-week bakery, but there was too much wastage so he’s reduced the time frame and is now selling more.
- Relax and smile: “People are really friendly in the village, but it’s also about how you treat them,” he says.
His hard work has not gone unnoticed and this year Lord-Lieutenant of Rutland, Dr Laurence Howard, gave the retailer a surprising phone call. “I was freaking out, what are you supposed to do when this guy says he wants to have a chat with you?”
Ram had no need to be worried though, because the chat was to reward him for his community work and invite him to the Queen’s garden party this summer – an event where 30,000 people are thanked and recognised for their public service. “Tears came to my eyes when he told me,” he added.
Ram’s hard work is a thank you to his community and his friends who helped him get the store off the ground. He knew he wanted to open a business in the village and continue with his retail career, but he put his fate in the local parish hands by asking them what they wanted. Once the parish councillors had discussed the store, he then put the question to the whole village via the local magazine.
“I was committed to buying the business, but I needed to know their thoughts. Did they really want a shop?” Fortunately, the villagers were crying out for one, as they hadn’t had a shop in more than six years.
But it was close to not existing because the expense of launching a fresh store meant Ram found himself in financial difficulty, with banks refusing to provide the extra £15,000 he needed. Another retailer saw the potential and kickstarted the store.
This community spirit shouldn’t be mistaken as a soft target: instead, this mantra is helping his business and staff develop. His only full-time member of staff, Michaela, has been put on a leadership course to help her run the store.
“We’ve put her on a leadership course, so she can take charge and I can work with the community. I haven’t forgotten the generosity, and with her help, I hope to pay them back.”