Unlocking endless opportunities in merchandising
Damilare Ogunleye is the MD/CEO of Lasiko Limited, a start-up firm with focus on promotional items, branding, corporate merchandise and brand activation. He spoke to TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA on the opportunities in merchandising and how young Nigerians can wade through the storm of entrepreneurship.
Lasiko came out of frustration when we were trying to register the company. We had sent in four sets of names in pairs to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and all eight names were rejected; though it is better now at CAC, where one can search online for available business name. Out of frustration over name search, I was conversing with someone in Yoruba that these people should answer us on time, which is ‘lasiko’. And it struck me that we could actually enter it as our business name.
Fortunately for us, it was available. It just seems fortuitous that the name seems to align with our services. Our brand name has also turned out to be conversation starters whenever we go to pitch or meet with business people. We are a promotional products company, we help brands create promotional offers, whether it is trade promotion or consumer promotion. We have been around since 2013.
Why did you veered into entrepreneurship?
I used to work with a food-processing firm at Agbara. I just got tired one day of the whole process line routine, as I wasn’t making use of my strengths, which is more of being a marketing-savvy individual. Unfortunately for me, I was in a very remote part of town so as to be close to the company. I just took the decision to quit, I didn’t have a job either and because I was living in the outskirts, it was not easy to get another job.
That was the period of my life I got to know myself and what I could do. I taught school pupils tutorials, sold GNLD products and later on, switched to advertising, where I was exposed to working with some big brands. All that sharpened me until I stumbled on some opportunities in the merchandising space in Africa and I decided to venture into it.
What has been the experience in the last four years?
The journey has been filled with a lot of not sleeping, doubts, pure mistakes, frustrations around governance and policies for a young entrepreneur and also a couple of wins. We have, however, held our ground working with top firms in various industries. Our goal ultimately is to work with the top three businesses in multiple industries. In the last four years, we have done quite a volume; done businesses cumulatively in the region of over $2 million.
You are spearheading a pet project suvenia.com, what is it about?
It is a unique opportunity and platform created to expand the scope of merchandising and its opportunities. For us as a firm, because a lot of our work involves corporate entities, it does not allow us reach out to the larger society, but with suvenia.com, it has afforded us the opportunity to reach the larger consumers one person at a time.
Suvenia.com is a platform created for individuals to celebrate their obsessions, passions and ideas. We believe everybody has an occasion, a milestone or something significant to celebrate in his or her life and we are just there to give expression to such moments.
What this means is that individuals or corporate bodies can create their products. All we just do is to help merchandise it. For instance, you can create ‘I love The Flagship’. You don’t need to make the t-shirts or other souvenir items. We just get it done, create a buzz around it and place it online for people across the world to identify with it.
Any time that shirt or product is sold, The Guardian gets a cut or The Guardian can say I want to donate my share of all merchandise sales to charity or a named NGO. So if for instance, our shirts go for N4,000, for every piece sold, The Guardian gets N500. So when this eventually gets a life of its own, we can begin to push out causes and campaigns.
One of such missed opportunities in merchandising in the country was the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which went viral across the world. Though so much was invested in the BBOG campaign, the merchandise part to sustain the movement through multiple streams of support was lost. Suvenia.com is relatively new but we hope the bug will catch on real soon.
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