I started Jalo from a place of pain – Amadi-Emina
Nkiru Amadi-Emina is the technical Founder/CEO of Jalo. She has a degree in Computer Science/Information Technology with six years work experience in Business Development and IT consulting across the public, private and NGOs sectors. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she talks about her venture into entrepreneurship, the rise of SMEs and how The Ventures Acceleration Program helped her.
You have a degree in computer science/information technology. Did you ever think you were going to be the founder of a tech startup?
I did. I’ve always had a passion for innovation and business. Luckily with computer science, software development allows you express your creativity in code and building software solutions. It was only right that I ventured into a business that gave me the room to express my creativity using technology.
How has your educational background prepared you for this career path?
I believe my course of study prepared me extensively for my career path as it involved a great deal of self-motivation as well as being able to understand and apply a number of processes and procedures. It also involved having a wide range of skills; skills relevant to setting up and running a business which include analytical thinking, the ability to make quick and informed decisions.
Was it entrepreneurship for you right after graduation, or did you have a regular 9-5 job?
No, I started with a regular job. I worked for about six years before eventually setting up my own business. I believe working in a corporate setting gives you a much-needed insight as to how a business should function and operate. The experience teaches you what mistakes to avoid and what decisions or approaches to take in your own business.
Would you say your work experience has helped you in building Jalo?
Most definitely. Over the six years, I learnt a lot, more than I ever imagined I’d be able to learn in that time. I honed my software development and business development skills. I learnt how to build excellent rapport with clients, juggle multiple projects and how to handle the pressure of strict deadlines. All of those lessons and skills have been very valuable to me now as a small business owner and I’m grateful for them. But there was one more lesson I learned: that working a 9-5 wasn’t what I wanted to do in the long run, so I had to ensure that the business I set up would succeed and surpass my expectations of success.
We know you have a passion for entrepreneurship, is Jalo your first business venture?
No it is not. Before Jalo I started Think Hat a software development company focused on delivering innovative technology solutions for corporate entities and government. It still exists and I am proud to say we’ve developed and deployed solutions for a major government body as well as over 60 business clients.
What inspired you to start Jalo?
Believe it or not, it was from a personal pain point. I placed an order for a pair of shoes from an online retailer in a different state. After two days of anxiously waiting for my item, the retailer called me to let me know she couldn’t deliver to Abuja and would have to cancel my order. I imagined that there are a number of other small businesses like her who lose customers because of their inability to deliver their products across the country.
How does Jalo work?
Jalo is the easiest way to send parcels across long distances. We make shipping easy by connecting small businesses and mid-size online retailers to major courier services through our web and mobile application. How it works is simple. Users login to their dashboard, schedule a pickup request and select the courier they want to ship with. The application allows you to compare delivery time, costs and quality rating for each courier. When you submit your request, a Jalo agent picks up the parcel for forwarding to chosen courier who then delivers it to your recipient’s doorstep. We offer the best rates as we get discounts from our courier partner. We are primarily B2B focused for now.
What are your thoughts on the rise in small businesses in Nigeria?
I think it is amazing and a much needed drive towards economic growth. We all know it is the millions of SME’s that fuel the economy in Nigeria; therefore I strongly believe the government needs to do more to support us in every way possible.
You were in the Ventures Platform acceleration program, how has that helped your business?
Being a part of the acceleration program helped my business tremendously; it was an amazing experience to say the least. Ventures Platform is completely profound and they are really out to see that all startups in the acceleration program succeed. The acceleration program provided me with an increased level of grit and focus, two things that pushed our company to experience a 500% growth during the 3 months of the program.
Being in the program, what would you say was the best part of the experience?
For me, it was the emphasis on growth and building traction. No matter what industry you are in, as startups we face one major challenge, and that is attaining growth. Working alongside six different startups gave me the drive to ensure we attained significant growth in the number of deliveries we recorded daily. Before the program, this figure was at six but during the program, we experienced a significant jump to 100 deliveries daily. In addition, if there is one thing Ventures Platform does better than anyone, it’s to accentuate the importance of community in building a start-up. The tremendous support the Ventures Platform team provides you is unlike any other accelerator program. You gain everything from emotional support, technical expertise, fundraising advice, to distribution help and more.
Your company presently only runs in Abuja, are there any plans of expansion?
We have plans to expand to another state by 2018. However, our major focus now is on growing our customer base in Abuja and building a product that creates an amazing experience for the businesses that trust us to handle their shipping. With time, other states would feel our presence.