Starting a Retail Business from Scratch, with Nana & Bird

Tucked away in a tidy, unprepossessing alcove off Yong Siak Street is the gem of Singapore’s fashion world, Nana & Bird.


Where it began.

You see, “nana” and “bird” are the nicknames of Georgina Koh and business partner, Chiew Ling, the founders of the widely acclaimed little shop. Georgina being “nana” and Chiew Ling “bird”.

“They have been our nicknames since we met in junior college bonding over a shared love for fashion,” says Georgina. “Chiew Ling and I have stayed closed friends since.” 

“We were living in separate cities when we started Nana & Bird back in 2010 – Chiew Ling in Shanghai and me in Singapore. We’d both been questioning the satisfaction we got from our jobs and were itching to create something that we could call our own. And so we decided to convert our love for shopping into a business.”

Not to be held back by such foolish constraints as “money,” Georgina and Chiew Ling decided to just do it. Only less conventionally.


How it began.

As Georgina describes it, they were “bootstrapping from the start. We decided that it is easy to experiment with a once a month pop-up store concept. And so I opened the “shop” one weekend in my apartment in the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood,” says Georgina. “And we have not looked back since.”

Iterating from the original concept of once a month pop-up in Georgina’s apartment, the duo began experimenting with different locations, from a spa to a gallery.

“And we started building our customer base at the same time,” Georgina is quick to point out. “Singaporeans were ready for a different retail experience, apart from department stores and malls, and we had great feedback on the experience of such a personal shopping experience – since they are literally shopping in a friend’s closet!”

And when you have a good thing, it doesn’t take long for others to catch on.

“About a year after we started, we felt that were ready to open a physical retail store in Chay Yan Street in Tiong Bahru,” says Georgina.

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Where it’s going.

Since opening their first physical store in 2011, the team have opened another concept store, two.or.i, and will soon be launching a 3rd retail space, another Nana & Bird boutique.

“Our goal is to bring the Nana & Bird brand overseas and to extend our retail presence to other cities around Asia and the rest of the world,” says Georgina. “We want to be known as a leading multi-label boutique alongside the big boys like Bird in Brooklyn, Opening Ceremony, Dover Street Market.”


How they’ll get there.

Having the right tools can make or break you when running and growing a business. Using Vend POS allows Georgina and Chiew Ling to streamline their operations, save time, and focus on their growth. Not slave away on day-to-day admin.

“Vend is a great inventory management system. As a multi-label store, managing inventory across different product types and brands can be quite challenging without a proper system,” Georgina says.

“With Vend, the inventory management that is synced up with the POS is a godsend to us. It helped save time reconciling inventory levels, where the time could be better spent in other areas of our work like marketing, CRM etc,” says Georgina of running her store with Vend.

With built-in loyalty, it’s easy to keep customers coming back. “We are also using Vend as a customer database management system to keep track of regular customers.”

But it’s when the tools scale with you that you know you’re really onto something. “The integration with Shopify is a great feature as we build our online retail presence,” Georgina elaborates.

And you don’t have to been an IT expert to do any of it.

“It is a very easy, simple to use system.”

About Sim Ahmed

Sim was a writer and technology journalist in a former life, before coming on board at Vend to help us communicate with our amazing community of retailers, partners and developers. Feel free to get in touch with Sim on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.