Abu Dhabi-based entrepreneur and Lucky Charms Closet owner Tess Ramirez.


Abu Dhabi expat finds fortune in lucky charms

Luck? Perhaps. It was that and certainly more that helped Tess Ramirez, owner of Lucky Charms Closet, carve a path to success in the UAE in the last 28 years.

The Abu Dhabi-based Filipina entrepreneur with a charming personality runs her popular lucky charms store in Al Mariah Mall in the capital. Charms, figurines and trinkets are fast sellers, Tess tells She says her clients are mostly Filipinos and Indians who patronize the items, believing these will bring them fortune and better luck in life.

“My most memorable sale was from a woman who worked in a beauty salon. She looked desperate when she told me she was nearly broke and needed a lucky charm. I told her to buy the black obsidian bracelet with Pi Yao for good income and opportunities. After two days, she came back with a big smile. She told me that she received a Dh600 tip,” Tess recalls.

She says she quickly found a niche in the market. “My clients say my products are cheaper but better quality than what they bought elsewhere. The obsidian, for example, is made of natural stones, and its Pi Yao is made of real gold. I patronize my own products, so I make sure they’re the real deal,” she says.

Her items range from under Dh200 to thousands of dirhams. The most expensive item in her shop is an all-gold Pi Yao that costs Dh6,500. “I also get a lot of customers looking to improve their love life. I have just the bracelet for it,” she says with a grin. It’s the law of attraction, she says. “If you believe, then lucky charms will help push your luck,” she adds.

Tess has been studying lucky charms for years. “I was already using them back in the Philippines. I got the idea to open my own store in the UAE when I saw a post on Facebook Market. I ordered the item. It was quite expensive that time yet the materials were subpar. So I started to source quality products from suppliers around the world and then opened my shop in Abu Dhabi. My friends were my first customers,” she says.

Her favourite lucky charm? “The black obsidian with Pi Yao. It’s a prayer mantra for health, wealth and success. It’s proven to work,” she says, touching the bracelet on her wrist.

From island girl to desert queen

Looking back, Tess says luck has always been on her side since she landed in the UAE in 1994. She was only 21 then and freshly hired from the Philippines. “I didn’t have to pay a job placement fee, but my father was still opposed to me coming here. He thought the UAE was an endless desert,” she recalls. Tess comes from Sulangan in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, a picturesque island surrounded by pristine waters and stunning landscape in the Philippines. “But I wasn’t an island girl for long. I worked in Manila, and that helped me adapt to life in the UAE,” she says.

She stayed in touch with her family though phone calls via a payphone in the villa where she lived.  “We didn’t have mobile phones or internet back then. We had to buy a phone card for Dh30 or feed coins to the payphone to call home,” she recalls. She would also write them letters. “It would take a month for it to reach them, and then I’d have to wait another month to receive their reply.”

Remittances were also old school. “There was no money exchange then, and we had to send money through the post office. My family would receive the money within 15 days up to a month,” she recalls. “You could buy a lot of things with your dirham, and the gold that time was just Dh18 per gram.”

She kept herself busy working as a sales agent for a store in Sharjah. “I thought I was just going to stay here for two years, just to send my siblings to school. But I got promoted several times so I ended up staying here for a bit longer,” says the Filipina eldest among four siblings.

Impressing her bosses with her strong sales skills and interpersonal skills, Tess was promoted to store manager, area manager and finally brand manager for big brands such as G2000, Kenneth Cole, Anne Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Basler and Escada. She got sent to countries like the US and Germany, and cities such as London, Milan, Hongkong, Singapore and Amsterdam, for training.

Her secret? “Serve everyone with a smile, even if they look like they can’t afford to buy your product,” she says. “I once served a customer who came into the store wearing a pair of slippers that looked like they only cost Dh5,” she recalls, “And guess what? That customer bought items worth Dh25,000!”

“If you are respectful and know how to get along with people, you’ll receive it back,” she says. Don’t stress, she adds. “Laugh often. Don’t take your problems too seriously. Pray. Know that nothing is impossible,” she advises.

Save whenever possible, too, she says. Tess says she has always made it a point to save a minimum of 30 percent of what she earns every month. This has helped her boost her bank account over the years and helped her make smart investments in real estate and others.

Right now, she is invested in expanding her business venture, Lucky Charms Closet, in the UAE. “I want to open a standalone shop and have ten more branches in Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and other emirates,” she says. PIA/Expat Media

This story also appears in the Expat Media Special Edition magazine

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