‘Having a business plan is key’

They are under twenty-five and still undergraduates at The University of Lagos, yet have come together to set up a joint business venture; Dave Coute; an online fashion store. For young entrepreneurs; Akinwale Akinro, Olusegun Williams and Sola Olumide, having a business plan is key.

You recently set up an online store. What motivated you to go into business?

We are a trio; Akinwale Akinro, Olusegun Williams and Sola Olumide. We decided to chart a new course for ourselves with the help from Suzanne Laidlaw. As youths, the three of us decided to come together to start a business of our own. Two of us are currently 400 level students of Building while the latter studies Quantity Surveying at The University of Lagos. We’ve known ourselves for four years and decided to come together to start an online business of our own.

How does this business work?

We are into clothing and we import and sell them. We discovered that there are only two major online stores in Nigeria, and in our opinion, they are not really doing as much as Asus and other online stores abroad.

Why do you say so?

You find out that most of the stuffs that that they have online could be found in regular stores or markets as it were.

You are students, so how did you source for the start-up capital to fund your business?

That wasn’t an easy thing to do but we had the zeal and that pushed us to get something, even though it wasn’t much. We got something out of the little we could get but it was really challenging because we didn’t have much capital for a start but being together, we were firm in our resolve and with the fact that we had common goals, we were ready to push it.

How do you draw the line between academic work and business?

We agree that it is something that we have to balance, so running our business basically has to do with time management; that’s the word. If you can manage these things well, you are good to go. Our online store is known as Dave Coute and it’s an online Fashion store. First of all, so many people have websites for their online businesses but we don’t have one. People just come to us and ask for the items. Many do not have the patience to open a website and look for items to buy

So, how do your customers have access to you?

We use the social media. For instance, we’ve put some images of our clothes on twitter and we update it from time to time. Clients ask us what we have and those that are interested get in contact with us. However, when we have a major customer base and people now know the name of the brand and have us in mind, we will now open a website.

How long have you been in business?

It became official in July 2013 when we had our first order and official sale. It’s been really impressive and we intend to push it further. In terms of patronage, the challenge is there as young business owners because it is difficult to get customers, but we intend to expand.

Did you parents object when you told them you wanted to start your business while still in school?

For me (Akinwale Akinro), I recall that when we started out, my father was vehemently against it. When I told him that I had started selling shirts with my friends, he bought two from me and made sure that I wore them so that I won’t sell them again. Even my mother told him that if we needed a loan, we should come to them. However, this is not about the loan; we cannot collect a loan of N500, 000 for instance when there are no customers. So why are we then in business? In other words, a solid customer base is very necessary and that’s what we are working on at the moment.

What’s your dream for your business in the next five years?

Our dream is to be like Asus because that is our idea of an online store. We are using them as our model because they even offer delivery services worldwide and that is very important. We just started in July and we are already working on including delivery services to customers in the not-too-distant future. Gradually, from our current base which is The University of Lagos and Akoka Area, some other people contact us via twitter.

How do you intend to handle competition?

We are not in the least intimidated because it depends on our approach to customers. We know that our friends would rather buy stuffs from us than other online portal because they are our friends. From there, the network continues and they would also get their own friends to patronise us; especially young people. By the time we expand, get more people and probably give them a discount, they would appreciate some of the things that we do. For instance, if somebody buys two shirts at once and then buys a third shirt, you could give him another shirt; even if it’s of a lower quality, the person still appreciates it. Thus, they would always want to come back.

What is your general perception about young entrepreneurs?

It’s very impressive and we think that in the next ten years, things will change. We know that a lot of people in our age grade (20-25) would turn out to be highly successful entrepreneurs.

…. and emerging small businesses in Nigeria?

There would definitely be more entrepreneurs in our time because we know other friends and young people that are also trying to come up with one type of business or the other. We pray that there would be support from government and parents. Young people need encouragement and words of advice just to keep them going because they really have the drive and most of them are ready to work unlike those who would want to go into crimes such as internet fraud (yahoo yahoo) and all that. We are really happy that most young people are now going into small scale business, trying to be creative, we pray that it stays that way with the necessary support.

That means you are not thinking of white collar jobs when you graduate?

For me (Akinwale Akinro), when I graduate, I do not plan on working for any organisation, My dream is to own my own corporate organisation. I don’t plan on being employed by anyone. My father is self-employed; he is a medical doctor and owns a private hospital so he employs people. In the same vein, my mother owns two shops and also employs people. I do not like the idea of working for someone. Being independent is key. The idea behind it is to be independent and employ people too.

In my own case (Segun Williams), the basic thing is that we want to be in a position where we can employ people and improve their standard of living. From our ideas and creativity, it is just a matter of time so we are working towards that.

What’s your advice for young people who would like to start a business?

Having an idea is taking the first step, without that, you cannot go anywhere. If you believe in your idea, it would help you. It is one thing to have an idea, it’s another thing to believe in it. You must believe that it can happen, then, have the necessary drive for it.

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