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How To Grow a Start-up in Nigeria, by Ayilara Olatunde

Posted by Admin | 6 years ago | Filed Under Entrepreneurship

So lately, I have been reading a lot of articles around start-ups in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. A major concern for me is the accusation of lack of innovation among entrepreneurs of today. As we all know E-commerce is one sector that is getting over-flooded. I mean virtually everyone is going into E-commerce.

You would find ‘Nigeria’s No 1 online something’; you know the rest of the story. Why is this happening? I might agree to the fact that many entrepreneurs today would rather work on tested business models, as everyone is carving a niche for him/herself today.

Even giants like GTB and MTN have dived into e-commerce and I really have nothing to say about that. Do you think it is wise to now say most of the e-commerce businesses existing today will be MIA in a few years time? Well, if Nokia could be less dominant now, then anything is possible. We live in Africa where raising $10,000 is a big deal.

If you operate an e-commerce store, the chances of you raising money today is close to extinction. Nigeria as a case study has a population of about 180million people, this market is ‘jaw dropping’. ‘Even Ada at the village probably has a Tecno phone and can use 2go’.

The high achievers in entrepreneurship in Nigeria and Africa as a whole today are even becoming Angel Investors, so yes, I think we are getting there. There is still the likelihood a Nigerian investor wants to suck you dry, but can you really blame them? The economy keeps changing overnight, a vast majority of the consumers are not ready for all the new innovations.

What do you do as a young African entrepreneur who probably has no strong financial backing? Would you quit or keep drinking garri and tweaking? Should you really drop that company just because it is e-commerce and they are telling you it can’t scale? My opinion is keep tweaking till you get it. Execution is what matters most.

I would suggest these few ways:

TALK and LISTEN a lot

Take a break from that computer sometimes. You need to surround yourself with people who would love to share their opinions on your company. Even if you feel they are saying ‘rubbish’, be patient and listen. Patience is like a lifeline every entrepreneur must have. We used to face a very big issue at WaraCake, so I was at lunch the other day with some friends and was telling them about the challenges we have been facing. Believe it or not, I tried their opinion the next day and it worked like magic. The solution to that problem you are facing probably lies in the hand of someone outside your team.



If you say you are social and not out to make money, you need to figure out a long term revenue model to sustain that company, except you want it to die, when you are no more.

Instagram has really worked for us at WaraCake. We haven’t spent a dine on marketing via that channel since we launched. I have lost count of how many customers we have acquired via Instagram.

Something in your marketing must be working well than the others you have experimented with, figure that out and do not get your hands off the trigger.



When I started WaraCake, I used to pitch to virtually anyone I felt looks rich, if you catch me at events today talking to someone, I would probably be marketing cakes to them. I have approached an investor who said, ‘I’m hearing cakes too much, come back to me when you have a lot of other products on your catalogue’.

Focus on your product development and helpers will come. You need investors who love your product and not how much money they can make in the long run.



The power of friendships can never be overemphasized. You can generate a lot of organic traffic and referrals. Paid traffic is now overly expensive. Even the giants with the big bucks are cutting down. Organic traffic mediums like SEO are more sustainable long term growth strategies



I recently saw this:  ‘every start-up needs someone behind the laptop and someone in the streets’. I believe in this. If you aren’t outspoken, then get someone on your team who is and is passionate about your solution. If you are an ‘all round’, then that is 100% awesome.



You need to have some competitive edges over anyone else out there. Action plans at the back of your head that would make you confident enough to go head to head with a Rocket Internet company. In the end, let the positive energy surround you, some of the giants you see in the market have probably not even made close to what you have made.

There is no way you can manage millions of dollars efficiently if you haven’t survived with a zero budget. You would not be able to ‘think’ if the money came easy. I think any start-up in Nigeria, no matter what you are into can scale if strategies are well executed and by a good team.

Ayilara Olatunde, is the founder and CEO of WaraCake.

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