Can you give a brief detail about yourself and your inspiration to build your brand?
My name is Omotiafe Otuogbai. I’m from Edo State. I’m an entrepreneur. I consider myself to be a creative person. I love creativity a lot and I feel creativity is endless. I started my business officially in February 2019.
Before starting my business officially in 2019, I worked for 3 years in an entertainment company until we all got laid off. As a result, I had to leave my house to afford the rent. Coupled with these and a terrible break-up, I caved in to depression.
I picked up a reading habit during this period after some experiences with suicidal thoughts. As a suggestion from one of my favorite books, I also started visiting the gym to take my mind off things. And at that time, these were among the few things I felt like I had control over.
While working out, I started to feel like my old self again. I had become so committed to working out that it became the only thing I would think about. I started to feel the creative juice flowing once again *laughs* and so I started my business, Wox Collections.
Was Footwox your first start-up?
What are the products currently sold by Footwox?
We initially started with shoes and then branched out to other fashion items such as outfits, sport wears, bags, etc. I wanted Footwox to stay true to the shoe business alone so I created a division called Bodywox and renamed the company Wox Collections.
It could not have been all roses and rainbows while starting, especially with your state of mind at that time. Were there any challenges you experienced while starting the business? If yes, can you tell us about them?
In the beginning, the most tasking issue was my limited financial abilities. As I mentioned earlier, I was laid off and so I was basically jobless at this point. It was so bad that I had to borrow N22,500 from a friend just to start up my idea for the business. I was partly lucky to accumulate a good amount of customers for a beginner, but it proved difficult to increase production to meet our growing customer’s needs. This was because we tried to balance cost production with our limited finance. And if you’re wondering why we couldn’t have just gotten a loan, it is because of the almost unattainable requirements for a loan in the country.
Even when we were able to significantly increase production, we faced difficulties maintaining our initial quality as we started employing the services of more than one manufacturer.
One of the company’s steps forward is investments. We realize we need more funds to scale up and make more profits. And with our book-keeping records up to date, we’re working towards opening the business up to investors.
I will also say the limited resources in the country for production proved difficult. The company is a Nigerian-based company aimed at increasing the nation’s GDP and we all know how difficult it is to get things done in Nigeria *laughs*. It was difficult to get the exact same raw materials used in production because of the high demand in contrast to the low supply in the country, and there was almost no machinery to produce. So, you can imagine how hard it was to keep up with the customers’ demands.
I have sadly come to the conclusion that the country Nigeria, does not support small businesses.
From the previous mention of your ability to finally increase production, it is safe to say you were able to overcome some challenges. What are the ways you have overcome these challenges?
Yes, I was able to overcome that challenge and the business did grow, but so did the challenges. As a businessman or woman, it is unrealistic to expect your struggles to end. In fact, the struggles are what make running a business so enjoyable to me.
As I said, we were partially lucky enough to acquire a good amount of customers in the beginning. I say “partially” because I don’t owe it all to luck. I still had to invest in marketing my products heavily. I used the likes of Facebook and Instagram to promote my products. Even to this day, I rely strongly on social media marketing to grow my business.
I already had a handful of human networks from the experience of my old job and so I was able to sell my first batch without extensive use of social media. But when I ordered my second batch, I started using social media extensively.
I find management of finance very important as well as the use of social media as a marketing tool.
Pertaining to the issue with the multiple artisans, we assigned production to our manufacturers based on their strengths and weaknesses. This way, we were able to achieve maximum output to better our quality. For instance, we assigned each artisan individual tasks for making our products based on their strengths. One problem that stems from this is the inability of the company to get creative with our production, but I’m sure that will be resolved with time. We take pride in our quality maintenance and only hope to improve. So until we find new artisans that allow us room to be more creative while maintaining our quality, we will continue to slowly expand our production.
Unfortunately, there is little to be done to solve the problem with the limited resources. We can only advocate for better management and distribution by the government. Right now, we source unavailable raw materials abroad to meet international standards. We also look forward to more capital in order to procure more machinery for the company.
Another way we have managed to distribute our limited resources is through our marketing tactics. We tend to promote products that are more readily available to our consumers.
I respect if you are unwilling to mention but if not, can you let us in on some of the marketing strategies you adopted?
Yes, of course. Like I said earlier, I had to rely on the most traditional mode of awareness creation at the start of the business; words of the mouth. I made sure to let everyone I knew about what I had to offer. We all know how words travel fast, whether it’s in the form of gossip or just a random topic of discussion, all is good for business. In fact, my first batch of products was bought out by people I knew.
Later on, when I was able to afford social media marketing, I started investing in platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook. I don’t think you have to spend so much money to reap the fruits of social media marketing. All you need is to research your niche and create content in the form of ads you know will captivate your niche audience, while keeping it professional.
Also, don’t try to employ all the social platforms at once. It is better to master each platform one after the other because, for example, Instagram differs from Facebook so using the same tactics won’t work for both. There is, however, no doubt of the importance of social media in today’s world of business. We have been able to grow our company without the need for any offline store as a result, which is great in terms of cost management.
Earlier in the interview, you mentioned that you picked up a reading habit which you credit to getting inspired again. What books can you recommend to the readers?
Another one is “The Rules of Management” by Richard Templar.
I’m going to mention that there are so many other books I would love to recommend but I feel you can never go wrong with the three I mentioned. They are just so mentally refreshing and very inspiring.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Firstly, I would say self-development is key. You need to pick up new hobbies that influence you positively. For me, it was reading and working out. It is very important to possess self-awareness in order to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Without self-awareness, you won’t know what you need to improve on.
Also, don’t let your fears hold you back. Huge capital is not needed to start your business. From experience, the key thing is your strong passion and constant update to your knowledge. Even if your first idea doesn’t pan out as you’d expect, there is always a lesson to be learned. Therefore, do not be afraid to take a calculated risk, and even when they fail, take it as a lesson rather than defeat.
Albert Einstein once said,
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.