In a world where women are not given the most of attentions, this woman have crafted a niche for herself. With the launch of The5kShop, she has leveraged technology to improve the retail sector, a trait mostly found in men. Sophia Ike-Onu is the CEO and founder of The5kShop, which is an online shop for fashion materials below N5000. Yes, you heard right, every item on the online mall sells for N5000 or less.
TechMoran did had a long chat with this lady whose startup is obviously doing well, and she shares almost all about her and The5kShop. Read on fams.
In a few words, introduce us to your startup, the5kshop.
The5kShop is an online fashion retailer. We stock trendy pieces ranging from our own label ‘T5S’ to other brands all under 5000 Naira ($17)
The maximum price of any item on the5kshop is N5000. What was the basis for selecting this particular price?
The business model was to find a sweet price spot where people feel comfortable enough to shop considering the average Nigerian’s income. The decision to have a N5000 cap was based on considering other factors which include identifying our target market, the average disposable income of this market, the fraction of that income they would be willing to spend on fashion monthly, economics amongst others.
Tell us about the early days of your startup. How it was funded and how well it has grown.
I started The5kShop about 3 years ago, At the time, I was completing my masters degree in Architecture in the UK and was fascinated with the European fashion scene.The typical UK highstreet features a wide range of fashion , from really affordable to high end fashion, there is something for every budget without compromising on quality. I was gearing to make the move back to Nigeria and one of the thoughts that came to mind was where to shop quality fashion at prices friendly to a new grad’s pocket.
Now don’t get me wrong, Africans are very fashionable people and my home country, Nigeria is no different. At the time, there were quite a number of fashion retailers but growing up in Nigeria, I knew quality fashion often came with exorbitant price tags and as a young girl, if you wanted to shop within your means, the open markets were probably your best bet. These markets are saturated with poor infrastructure, substandard goods, very poor customer experience, no return policies and lack of structure. We set out to create a safe space where people could buy quality affordable fashion conveniently delivered to them anywhere in the world without breaking the bank !
I started with investing my savings, although that didn’t seem like a great idea then, now that I think of it, it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. I worked out of my living room with my bedroom serving as warehouse space, I was also the only full-time staff for the first three months. We sold out of 90% of our initial inventory in 1 month, as demand started to grow, I knew I could not keep up with being the customer service representative , PR , operations, accountant , content manager for too long so I made my first full time hire. Now, we have grown to a team of 10, 8 full time and 2 contract staff.
A lot of changes have happened since inception , not sure it can be crammed into this interview but the growth has been phenomenal, i believe I am a big dreamer but in 3 years, we have squashed all my 5 year goals for the company. We have grown from importing international fast fashion brands to producing our own label ‘T5S’ here in Nigeria , the reception has been amazing, revenue and customer strength have increased by 120% year on year.
I have also gone on to receive awards because of my work with The5kShop including the British Council Enterprise Challenge 2016 which allowed me to be privately mentored by Sir Richard Branson, we were featured on CNN this year as well for promoting affordable products made locally, I was listed as one of the 100 most influential women in Africa by Leading Ladies Africa and the highlight of my year so far, being the Brand Ambassador for Virgin Atlantic!
Would you consider the5kshop a tech startup or a fashion company?
The5kShop is a hybrid of both actually, we are pioneering African fast fashion by leveraging on tech to effectively distribute, interact with our existing customers and reach our potential customers at home and around the world.
Does the5kshop have a co-founder or is it just you at the helm of affairs?
I am the sole founder but i have a pretty amazing team, each person with their area of expertise. In business, you must be open to learning from everyone.
I make the major decisions but to be honest, I feed off their ideas and our strategy sessions often help with these decisions.
How big is the team that manages the company? How well have you been able to manage them?
Different people come with different temperaments, so its difficult to say you have achieved 100% managerial status. I manage a small team of 10, it has definitely not been easy coming from a purely Architectural background but being very observant, reading a lot of successful enterpreneurs’ stories and how they deal with situations, asking the right questions have helped me avoid some pitfalls or bounce back better from past mistakes.
Have you ever had to fire anyone? Tell us about the experience
Ah Yes , I have had to fire an operations executive and content manager at the same time. I simply called a meeting and explained my reasons. It was the most difficult thing to do because they were the only core staff I had at the time but I believe it is best to cut off redundant people in your business. Especially as a start up, you really don’t want to be spending your hard earned cash on unproductive people. In most cases, keeping them could cause more damage than good.
True that the society have not been fair to women, not giving them a level playing ground with their male counterparts. How have you been able to achieve success despite all these odds?
FOCUS. I am a firm advocate for inclusion in tech, business and life in general but at the same time, I don’t dwell too much on society and its woes.
I am a hard worker with a vision and everyday I wake up focusing on how to make my business better, it will take more than a hashtag for more women led startups (especially in Africa) to get funded, we just have to keep pushing till we are extremely too good to be ignored.
In the first year of starting The5kShop, I was approached by a couple of investors within the African tech ecosystem but they were either oblivious to my business and it’s needs, did not understand the vision or wanted me to get a male co-founder. I am beyond glad i chose to persist without taking their money under such terms, those experiences fired me up to stick to my vision and continue pushing this dream and it turned out just fine.
Currently, The5kShop has no external investment or debt we have kept re-investing our profits back into the business, building a sustainable , profitable business is at the core of our operations. Sometimes, we underestimate how setbacks can work to our advantage.
The interview continues HERE.