Meet Ijomah Venn Oputa of Fabricshphere, Nigeria’s Largest Online Fabric Marketplace

The story of Ijomah Venn Oputa is the story of a typical Nigerian and the serious challenges they face in their attempt to establish and run a successful startup. Oputa’s case is more interesting because he has never stepped outside the shores of Nigeria. But his determination, perseverance and doing the needful makes him unique. One of his bold moves is selling his car to raise money for his startup. Read to discover how Oputa was able to overcome this challenge and more to own the largest online fabric marketplace in Nigeria.

Tell Us A Little About Yourself?

My name is Ijomah Venn Oputa, I grew up in Lagos; spent most of my childhood at Ikeja/Allen. I’ve never stepped out of Nigeria so you can say I am a full Nigerian breed, I studied petroleum Engr at the University of Lagos & graduated with honours. I am currently the Ceo of Fabricsphere Nigeria full time and part time, I teach and speak about self-development and startups.

Tell Us About Fabricsphere And What You’re Offering?

Fabricsphere has built on two models. The first one is an on demand fabric sourcing platform for fashion & ceremonial fabrics (atiku, lace, ankara, isiagu, and adire etc), where clients can directly source for what they need and have it delivered to their doorsteps. It’s as simple as seeing something you like online, on a friend or anywhere, taking a picture(screen grabbing one) and uploading it on our web platform and be responded to within 24hrs. “No more market waka”.

Second is an eCommerce model for customers who love shopping for fabrics: they can shop online for whatever fabric they need. With this approach, Fabricsphere is passionate about making the shopping experience seamless and convenient while offering different kinds of fabrics at the best prices online What Motivated You To Create A Nigerian Or  Gaming Platform?

What Motivated You To Start Fabricsphere?

My motivation is based on my past experiences when you were much younger, did you ever find yourself constantly being forced to go to the market with your mum to buy items? Well, for me it was the norm and I dreaded it all the time. My mother had sisters who weren’t in the country always asking her to help them get fabrics for one event or the other. The market can be tiring especially for those with busy schedules, and trying to slot in market time can seem impossible. When you do find the time, you’re moving up and down with the sun beating down on you, strangers touching you and asking you to buy things you are not really interested in while trying to bargain for a great price on a particular fabric. All these problems can be very discouraging.

I noticed a gap and on further thinking I asked myself, wouldn’t it be better to provide not just mothers but also fashion designers and people that deal with fabrics a direct and convenient medium online to find and shop for whatever fabrics they desired? That’s really what motivated me to get into this business, I want to lift that burden off as many people as I can.

What Was Kicking-Off Like? How Were You Able To Secure Funds To Set The Business Rolling?

it wasn’t easy. I had to do a couple of web development jobs, sell my car and get a loan from family members. also, partners played their part. so it was basically doing anything and asking anybody for help to get the business up and running.

How Were You Able To Deal With Finance?

The business has been self-sufficient so far, it handles all the operational expenses which make it a good business. Right now we are focusing on how to scale, which means we will need to raise funds to improve operations.

Tell Us A Little About Your Entrepreneurship Experience So Far?

It’s tough! It’s not as easy as the media paints it and if you don’t really understand why you are going into it, you’ll give up. Because it’s built on sacrifice, discipline and faith.

It’s stepping into uncertainty and making the uncertain certain. it’s stepping into all your fears and conquering them. and being ok with rejection. During my initial market research and trying to get merchants to build a supply for the business, I can’t how many times we were chased out of shops in Balogun Market. but we kept on going back! rejection didn’t stop us rather it motivated us, and right now I think we have too many merchants than we can handle at our present capacity (haha).

What Do You Consider The Gains And Challenges Of Being An Entrepreneur?

The great thing about entrepreneurship is that it’s the fastest way to develop yourself. It lets you understand that you are in charge of your life and there is nothing better than living life on your terms. It also increases your earning potential because it builds your confidence and you become a versatile individual with a lot of value to offer. The challenges vary in the different parts of the world, could be access to infrastructure or social bias. But ultimately the greatest entrepreneurs have accomplished great feats regardless of these challenges, so what’s your excuse?

Advice For People Who Are Considering Going Into Entrepreneurship?

Don’t do it (haha) just kidding. start now with what you have and where you are. make mistakes and don’t be afraid to break things and fail. You’ll learn a lot fast this way. stick to one Goal but be flexible with your approach/plan for achieving the stated goal.

Don’t go in alone, get a partner so the risks can be shared, but in doing this make sure you have a track record of whoever you intend on partnering with. do you compliment your strengths and weaknesses? can you work together amicably ? are they reliable absent of pay in the initial stages? questions like these are very important. The partnerships you build in the early stages of your business will determine the strength of your foundation as you grow and if it is weak, your building will fall.

Secondly, it’s the hardest process you will go through in your life. Everything within you will be tested and you might lose everyone around you at the beginning because nobody believes in what you are doing until it starts making money. But don’t be discouraged by this. It’ll be worth it in the end.

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About the Author: Adeniyi Ogunfowoke