Small business corner with Mary Olushoga
Guardian Woman connected with Saudat Salami at the Bridge Leadership Foundation event in Calabar where she was an invited speaker. Recognised as one of the pioneers of the online grocery business in Nigeria, Salami’s company Easyshop Easycook delivers fresh groceries to your doorstep. Salami is a passionate and innovative entrepreneur who has worked hard to keep her business going for the past 10 years. To date, she has employed over 25 people. Despite the tough economy, she only has plans to retain her staff. The AWP Network meets with Saudat to learn more about her business and what is next for her company.
How did you come about your business name?
I arrieved at the name – Easyshop Easycook – as a result of the service we provide. My company aims to make purchasing fresh produce easy and accessible.
What inspired you to start this business?
I wanted to solve a problem and that was to provide support to working women who may find it difficult to manage home and work life – think about the stress of going to the market to shop, I wanted to solve that problem.
Who is your target market?
Initially, it was working women living in traffic congested urban areas like Lagos State. However, we find ourselves supporting retired older women who need help with shopping and people living abroad who want to shop for their parents living in Lagos.
How have you financed the idea?
I have financed this idea by bootstrapping. I have also used my personal savings, family networks and very angelic investors.
What is your competitive edge?
My company understands the challenges the working woman living in Lagos faces and how demanding their everyday schedules can be. My company aims to address their needs through this personalised service.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
We are a technology company. We understand that without our agriculture and logistics backend, we cannot provide the exceptional service that we want to our customers, therefore we are heavily invested in our relationship with small-holder farmers and other stakeholders in the agriculture and logistics sectors.
What is the five-year plan for your business?
Our goal is to be at the forefront in the development of the agriculture value chain and food safety standards in Nigeria. At Easyshop Easycook, we believe that food waste could be reduced and food prices can be far cheaper than it is now if we have pack houses, cold chain storage and delivery infrastructure spread across the country.
What challenges have you faced thus far?
The challenges we face gave us the business case for expansion and backend integration. Food waste in farms; lack of cold chain and storage infrastructure; lack of pack houses to sort and process farm produce; power to maintain the cold storage; these are a few examples of challenges that we face.
What five key things have you learnt since starting your business?
• If you take feedback from customers, you cannot go wrong;
• The reality is that a lot of Nigerians are still very cautious about e-commerce and using their debit cards online;
• Technology is a tool to ease my business process – it is not the business in itself;
• Everything we do is about social impact; on one end we are helping working women take care of their domestic responsibilities and on the other end, we provide access to market for small farm holders and processors;
• Your idea will not work until you work it. The universe conspires to help you realise your dream once you put in the work.
What five things do startup entrepreneurs need to know?
• Always remember that you are a solution provider.
• They say failure is part of the process but remember to give it everything you have before you accept that you have failed. Know that failure is painful, embarrassing and stressful. If you are doing it well, failure can’t feel good.
• Have your own money invested in your business before you look for investors. There is always a small way to start any business.
• Partner with one or more co-founders that believe in your idea. The entrepreneurial journey is stressful and demanding, you need good company to make it a success.
• Read books and attend programmes to stay abreast of your industry.
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’? There is always a way to start any business, find it and start. Beginning is half the journey.
How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
For now, we should look to collaboration and not competition. There is so much to do in Africa that small businesses cannot afford to compete.
How many jobs have you created so far?
We have created employment for about 25 people and indirectly created employment for the small holder farmers we have engaged as suppliers for over ten (10) years.
How has technology enhanced your business idea?
We are an online fresh farm produce delivery company. Technology is our main source of reaching our suppliers and customers. Without the internet and mobile phones, Easyshop Easycook would not be in business.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
Innovation should not be limited to web-enabled applications, we should encourage innovations in other areas as well. Secondly, wealthy people from our continent need to do more to support young people. We should not keep waiting on international aid, Silicon Valley or Bill Gates. Let Africans save Africa. Whether in health, technology, agriculture, and business – we have enough rich men and women that can fund innovation hubs, accelerators and pitch competitions to help solve the problems of Africa. What are we waiting for?
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