HOW WE BUILT AN E-COMMERCE START UP WITH A FAULTY SAMSUNG TAB WHOSE BATTERY LASTS ONLY 30 MINUTES

It all started as an idea to set up an online food store with a simple mission of helping small businesses succeed and to put a smile of the faces of our customers by bridging the gap from farm to table at the same time providing the customer the opportunity to shop online with a promise of speedy delivery.

We managed to build the website www.ojireh.com with no funding, no laptop or desktop, no delivery bike or bag and not even an office address, all we had was just a faulty Samsung tab who’s battery last 30 mins no matter how long you charge it and as long as we were concerned, all was set to build a company with a vision to become the most valuable African brand.

The first major question we needed to answer was:

How do we start an e-commerce company with no funds for marketing? Necessity they say is the mother of invention. Because we had no funds to run the handbills, postal, TV/radio adverts, we built a marketing model that depends solely on social media and a strong customer service approach which we call “NOHAPOBI” meaning “No handbill, no postal and no billboards”. We leveraged the power of social media and a strong customer service approach.

This has made our customers so loyal to us that statistics show our leading customers live next to major markets or superstores yet they prefer shopping online. Furthermore, as a startup, we had no funds to run the business so we had found a way to convince customers to pay before delivery and this was how our payment before the delivery model was birthed which has worked perfectly well so far. Running a startup in this part of the world can be likened to walking through hell, dining with the devil, laying on his bed for a short nap and still believing you will wake up alive

OUR FIRST ORDER

The first order came in on the 5th of December 2016 (six days after our take off) with no computer, the only way I could tell if there was order was a bank alert since the customer had to pay up front. I was on transit to Ikeja, and somewhere around Victoria island, I received a bank notification of N16,500. For a moment i was trying to think through who sent money to my account then all of a sudden i looked at the details and it downed on me that it was a request from a customer. I guess you can imagine the speed to which I got off the bus, rushed to a business centre, extracted the order details and everything was happening with pressure to meet up, but eventually, we got it delivered.

OUR FIRST TEAM

At this point, I had a short conversation with a friend Chinedu Atasie who offered to give me a space in his office to operate from, so immediately I called for volunteer staff and to my amazement, Abiodun and Gabriel opted to support the dream and a month later Abiodun left and convinced Motunrayo to join us. These folks were truly amazing and I just can’t forget their commitment and believe in Ojireh. By February 2017 we then requested for coppers and the journey of monthly salary headache started. (someday in the future I will talk about how some other amazing folks joined us with so much sacrificed and commitment to work)

MY FIRST ROUND VALLEY OF DEATH

No matter how brilliant your ideas are, without funds to propel your operations your chances of survival will be slim. I might not have the time to touch much on this phase of my journey but it was a horrible experience but the pressure of the challenge we faced grew us to a point where we had to build a culture of innovation across all our operation and this new way of thinking lead to the birth of OjirehPrime card. From the month of April 2017, it became a game of survival by innovation for us. From site crashing to hosting expiring, to betrayal, to office rent expiring it was a season of hell we knew to stay alive we needed to trust God for an investor or we keep innovating our way to the top, the latter option seems to be working well in the absence of an investor. I’ll surely write more on this phase in the future……..to be continued