Entrepreneurs · Interview

SHOPPING MADE EASY

If you are anything like me, you love to send gifts to friends and family all year round but sometimes, distance can be a problem. You may have relatives overseas and don’t have a way to get through to them at that time or there is this beautiful item you have seen online but they won’t ship it to Nigeria.

Well, there is a solution to such a problem – a personal shopping /online order website, Ayeka’s Shopology (AS). They help to source and deliver everything from sports equipment to skincare products; cakes, flowers and a variety of wedding accessories and gifts. A unique touch is their Gift Hamper Ideas, which cater to 4 different budgets (Aje Paco, Jara, Big Don and Oga Pata Pata).

Ayeka’s Shopology is committed to providing greater access to goods and services to all Nigerians, regardless of where they live or what payments instruments they have. In addition, they want to boost the local economy by enabling local businesses to tap into a larger overseas market.

I caught up with the Managing Director of AS, Omoneka Musa Oyier to find out more about how it works and the appeal of the Internet to many young entrepreneurs.

Omoneka Musa Oyier, MD Ayeka's Shopology

Who is Omoneka Musa Oyier?

In two words, Consummate Professional.

What is the story behind Ayeka’s Shopology? How did you create and develop it?

When my [younger] brother was still a baby, he couldn’t pronounce my name so he started calling me Ayeka and soon everyone picked it up.  The “-logy” suffix in Shopology refers to a theory or way of thinking so basically, it’s my theory of online shopping.

The premise behind Ayeka’s Shopology (AS) is that online shopping should be a seamless experience for Nigerian shoppers.  In addition, I wanted to make it possible for local, Nigeria-based businesses to participate.  Therefore, our core product “Order-It!” allows Nigerians anywhere in the world to actually buy goods and services from local businesses, thereby benefitting the local economy.

Of all the business ventures you could have pursued, why a personal shopping/online-order website?

Well, as a young person with limited capital, I wanted to establish something that didn’t require significant financial resources to set up. I also wanted to be able to access the business from anywhere in the world because I travel a lot.

Also, I was frustrated on two fronts:

  1. When I was in Nigeria and wanted to buy something from outside Nigeria, it was a mission. Even when you have a credit card or PayPal account, many online stores overseas do not ship to Nigeria.
  2. When I was outside Nigeria and wanted to send something to my friends or family back home for instance, to wish them “Happy Birthday”, there was no way of doing it in a secure manner. And what was available was often too expensive.

So these were my main motivations.

How many countries do you operate in?

Ayeka’s Shopology is registered only in Nigeria. We however procure goods from the US, South Africa and occasionally the UK on behalf of Nigeria-based customers.

Do you have a physical office location or is it web-based only?

At the moment, I run AS as a home-based business so it is strictly web-based for now. In addition, I have three individual agents based in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt tasked with sales and order fulfillment (deliveries).

Where is your headquarters?

At my home in Port Harcourt.

Do you have plans to expand to other cities and towns?

Of course, but based on demand and resources.

It is not unusual to find Nigerians sending packages overseas through relatives and friends. Do you think Ayeka’s Shopology will catch on?

Yes, I certainly think so, especially for online purchases, as opposed to in-store purchases.  I do think though that people will continue to rely on relatives and friends to a certain extent and AS does not seek to replace that. It’s simply an alternative for those who don’t want to wait or who are looking for something really specific.

You go to great lengths to make the shopping experience ‘wahala’ – free for your clients. In doing so, you must have experienced a lot of ‘wahala’ yourself. What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Some customers want help bidding online for a product, which requires a lot of time and attention and is not a guaranteed purchase. So that is somewhat challenging but not difficult or bothersome really.

Many entrepreneurs go through a succession of failures before finding a business model that finally works. Has this been your experience?

This is my first venture into the business world. I hope it doesn’t fail but if it does, I will take my lessons and resurrect it in a better form.  When one of my agents reports to me about how happy a recipient was to receive a hamper or a cake, it motivates me to make the service even better because it actually makes people happy. So I am completely invested in making it work, regardless of the challenges ahead.

A growing number of young entrepreneurs are embracing the Internet as a way of doing business. Have you any words of wisdom to share?

Yes, I think many young Nigerians should set up online businesses. The main thing to remember is that it requires the same level of attention and education as a brick-and-mortar business. You need to know about marketing, draft business plans and financial plans and advertise. Luckily, there are many free resources online to help you do these things.

The holiday season must be a very profitable but hectic one for you. How do you combine work with family responsibilities?

Well, AS is still a young business – only three months old, so we have not gotten to that hectic stage yet. However, even in this early stage there is a lot to do and I can spend 24 hours working on the business. Luckily, early on my husband and I agreed to a set schedule: after 5p.m. and on weekends, no more work.

I am still stumped as to what Christmas/New Year gifts to send to my relatives and friends abroad. I want something unique. Any suggestions?

If these friends are Nigerian and live outside Nigeria, then I would suggest you send them a traditional Nigerian Christmas hamper*. When I was a student overseas, I really missed unpacking hampers at Christmas time. It’s like a tradition and it’ll make them feel closer to home.

* These hampers are versatile and can be sent all year round.

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