Lifeline for entrepreneurs, as the cooperative warehouse opens
Leads Buy Made In Nigeria Campaign
In line with the resolve to diversify the country’s economy away from oil, the current administration has initiated different schemes and programmes aimed at supporting entrepreneurs and small business to boost production. While some come in form of grants, other come as loans, most times with one digit interest rate.
However, one of the greatest challenges faced by small businesses, especially in the consumer-products segment, is overcoming the existing brand loyalties in the marketplace. Large, entrenched competitors spend millions of dollars over many years to etch their brand identities in consumers’ minds, leading to self-reinforcing cycles of repeat purchase behavior that can be difficult to overcome. Therefore, convincing consumers to try new products, especially when they are made in Nigeria, is a key to overcoming this challenge.
In a bid to provide a viable platform for Nigerian entrepreneurs and small businesses to market their products, a group of young Nigerians have teamed up to set up The Cooperative Warehouse (TCW). Located in Alausa area of Ikeja, Lagos, the store, with online presence, creates opportunity for entrepreneurs to subscribe and display their products.
According to Deji Soyemi, a Director in the organisation, “the idea behind The Cooperative Warehouse, like the name implies, is bringing together entrepreneurs, people that have products to sell, people that are looking for a platform to display their products. Maybe you are farmer and you want to bring your product in a controlled environment, in a market place. So, it’s a cooperative of entrepreneurs that bring in their products to display,” he said.
Though TCW takes inventory as well, the approach is entirely different from that of a retail store like Shoprite and the rest.
“It’s a bit different from the retail that we normally know. For instance, in a retail environment like Shoprite or other ones you know, they are the ones that control their inventory, so, they order what they want and they are the ones that kind of own their store. But with TCW, we have people that actually subscribe to a space in the shop and have the right to bring in their products, so, they are kind of in partnership with us. So, they supply and we manage the products for them at obviously a controlled price; because we are getting wholesale, we pass that to our customers,” Soyemi hinted.
Arranged in different categories such as clothing, fashion and others, the store allows individuals or cooperatives to subscribe for a space in the shop and display their products, while TCW staff handles the actual sales and remit to the suppliers.
“The good thing is that this platform is not just for people here in Nigeria; people in diaspora can also take advantage of this platform. A lot of them are looking at business to do in Nigeria and they don’t want to be sending good to relations and family friends; we’ve heard stories of people mismanaging their funds. They don’t have a platform here because they stay abroad, but this is an opportunity for them to sell their products by partnering with us. We have a system here that notifies the supplier when a product goes off the counter; it’s very transparent,” he said.
Aside from helping entrepreneurs market their products, the bigger picture for the platform is to help promote made in Nigeria brands.
“Of course, we want to promote made in Nigeria goods; that’s one of the ways to get our of the present economic situation. We’ve put in so much in IT cost; we’ve put in so much in getting the right location and right price. We’ve put in so much in marketing, digital and everything and we are just telling you, ‘look, you don’t have to worry, we will manage your products for you.’ You might be someone having a small farm in Ota, Ogun State, you do snails and you want to market it, you can speak with us,” he said.
Though the store is open to all entrepreneurs, there are rules and regulations for subscription.
“We obviously have rules and regulation; if you are bringing edible products, of course you need to have NAFDAC registration. But what we are saying is that we are going to give you a platform where you can display your goods and we do the marketing. I know the government is also empowering different cooperatives and team funding groups. As a unit, they may not be able to affords a store, but they can come together as a group and say, ‘we want to start selling garri in bulk. Now, we are talking about volumes; we are giving something back to the supplier in terms of volume and we are giving something back to the consumers,” he noted.