Starting a business can be daunting, especially in uncertain times like during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, IBK, the lockdown provided the push she needed to start her perfume business.
In this article, the IBK shares her inspiration for starting her business, the challenges she faced during the pandemic, and her moments of growth and pride.
What inspired you to start your own business, and how did you get started?
One of the main reasons I started my own business was that I never envisioned myself working a traditional nine-to-five and always wanted an additional income stream. Even when I was not working a typical job, I was still keen on doing something on my own.
The lockdown actually inspired me to take the plunge. It was the push I needed to start what I wanted. During the lockdown, there wasn’t much cash flow, and I had to put in the effort to make ends meet. I had 60,000 Naira saved up, so I thought of starting a perfume business with it.
I love perfumes a lot. I remember when I was in school, I would always buy perfume. It was a no-brainer for me to choose perfume as a business to start. Why not? I already love this thing, and learning more about it would be even better.
Before this, I had experience selling things like jewellery and snacks in school, which made it easier for me to transition into entrepreneurship. However, this time, I knew I had to be more influential with my audience, which was daunting.
My biggest fear was whether or not I could pull it off, but on December 4, 2020, I decided to take the bold step. I reached out to my circle, asking for their support, and the response was overwhelming. Since then, my business has grown, and I am grateful for the support and the opportunities that have come my way.
How were you able to manage the business during the lockdown with people not being able to move around? How did you handle things like delivering to your customers?
I started, like I said, in December. At that time, things were more mobile, and people were moving around freely. Although people were taking precautions, there was still movement. I began my sales at my place of worship and then started selling my products. Since it was a small business, I could carry everything with me. I sold out everything I had in one day when I started because it was the new year, and I already knew a few people who helped me network with others. That was how I made my first-ever sales, which was not too much of a bother since there was already some movement.
In January, when I started working full-time, there was still physical contact with people I knew, such as family and friends. It wasn’t until February 2021 that I took a step further by opening my page, and that’s when I started receiving inquiries. It was even bigger than my imagination, and I exceeded the number of orders I had anticipated. I had to figure out how to meet up with the orders and arrange for delivery. On February 21, I started delivering fully. My dad was actually very helpful since I was new to all of these logistics, and he put me through them.
What challenges have been in your entrepreneurial journey, and how did you overcome or navigate them?
My biggest challenge so far is logistics and not having enough capital. When I say logistics, I am referring to how unreliable riders are. There is this funny saying that after you fear women, fear dispatch riders because these guys can be unreliable. Dispatch riders and logistics, in general, make me feel very uncomfortable with how my business is being run. It makes me unhappy when I see things like a rider telling the recipient that he’s 10 minutes away while he has not even left yet.
Regarding capital, I can fulfil almost any perfume request, ranging from original to niche perfumes and Arabian fragrances. However, I don’t have the capacity to buy a lot of perfumes yet. It’s always challenging when I have to wait for a customer to order a particular amount, say 100 000 Naira and up, because I can’t buy them down since it ties my money down. I have to manage my time cap and buy petty things first. This is a challenge that I face.
Another challenge I’ve faced is social media, particularly Instagram. While I don’t have issues with marketing or generating sales, Instagram has proven to be a problem for me. Many of my customers prefer to interact with me through the platform rather than using other means of communication, such as WhatsApp. However, my page has been disabled four times, which has caused me to lose customers and is incredibly frustrating. I’m currently struggling to regain my momentum and energy after the most recent disabling.
What are some of the achievements and moments of growth that make you proud as an entrepreneur?
I never imagined that within two years, I would grow this much. I didn’t really keep track of how I started or where I am now. But I’m now six times larger than when I began. And to think that six times is just a small measurement of my progress! I now sell in bulk to other entrepreneurs who want to start their businesses. I work with trusted suppliers, and though I’m not where I aspire to be, I’m truly proud of how far I’ve come.
Whenever I gaze around the space I occupy now, it amazes me. There was a time when a small table was sufficient for me, but now it’s a struggle to fit all my things on it. There are boxes and cartons everywhere due to space constraints, which makes me happy. Having more customers and the many times things are sold out also make me happy.
One thing that brings me immense joy is recommending something to a customer, and they end up liking it. It makes me feel like I know what I’m doing. So when someone asks me, “What should I get?” I take their personality and preferences into account and suggest something suitable. It’s rewarding when they end up loving it.
How did you achieve your goals, and what marketing strategies did you use to grow your business?
It’s been a combination of factors that have contributed to my success. One of the most important of these is the divine help I’ve received from God. I’m backed by an able God who has given me the grace and wisdom to navigate difficult situations and make the right decisions.
Regarding my suppliers, things have also played out in a way that I can only attribute to divine intervention. While my original supplier wasn’t necessarily bad, I knew I needed to find a cheaper option to make more profit. That’s when I found a third-party supplier who offered me a better price – it was like hitting the jackpot. By buying at a lower price, I could sell my products more reasonably and still make a profit.
All of this has been made possible because of the right connections and networking opportunities I’ve had. And once again, I feel like I have God to thank for this.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business, whether it’s a perfume business or not?
My advice to anyone starting a business is to trust in God and yourself. You can achieve whatever you desire if you truly believe in your abilities. Sometimes, success may come even faster than you could have imagined.
Looking back on my own experiences, I realise there were moments when I should have enjoyed the journey, even when my sales were not moving as quickly as I had hoped. However, now that I have a loyal customer base, I no longer need to post to get orders. It’s a testament to the power of patience and perseverance.
As a business owner in Nigeria, I want to emphasise the importance of never compromising. By maintaining a commitment to quality and refusing to settle for cheap alternatives, I have built a business that stands out. I always prioritise quality over cost because customers who want a certain product or service will pay for it if it is truly worth it.
What are your future goals for your business?
My long-term goal is to start my own perfume line. I already have ideas of how the scent, the cologne, the bottles, and the packaging would be. That’s a major goal for me, and eventually, when I leave retail and wholesale, I know that I’m not stopping the perfume business entirely because I have a goal of starting my own perfume line. I want it to be unique and cater to the needs of the new generation, creating a niche. When I talk about the new generation, I also mean children who can use very classy and safe perfumes. I also want to create something for young adults.
I want to own a store, definitely, and have branches in Nigeria and outside the country. These are long-term goals, but for a start, I genuinely want to own a store in Nigeria, especially in Lagos. I owe it to my customers to have that walk-in store because I love that they trust and blindly buy. I also want them to walk in and enjoy the perfume.
I also want to have a perfume school. There are many things about perfume that are not just about spraying it. I would like to take classes and explain what perfumes are about, how they affect your personality, and explain the business of perfume to people. I want to have a place in the store where you can come to learn about perfumes.
I would also consult and recommend the best fragrances for different spaces, whether a bakery, a coffee shop, or a corporate office.