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Digital Transformation: How FCT women are expanding their businesses

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By Emiene Odaudu-Erameh

“Crayfish is for the local women out there, Crayfish smells,” is what Augustina Onoriode’s close friends told her when she was about to venture into her business of selling local groceries online.

Augustina said she was not surprised by the reaction of her friends because traditionally the line of business she was about to go into to was usually labelled as petty trading.

“You are way above that” her friends insisted. “Why not go into the sale of clothing and hair extensions, they said.

Augustina’s friends were only reacting to public perception which sees women involved in that line of trade as petty traders a category which they did not want their friend to fall under.

A large number of women in Nigeria work in the informal sector according to a World Bank Study. The study puts the number of women in the informal sector at over 50%. 

One disadvantage of working in the informal sector according to the report is poor access to market information, technology and finance, poor linkages with support services and an unfavourable policy and regulatory environment.

These issues are perhaps what Augustina’s friends feared might be her lot if she were to go into the line of business she was thinking of. 

A UNIDO study in 2001 said although many of the constraints in running a business are shared by both female and male entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs face additional obstacles. 

This according to the study is due to deeply rooted discriminatory socio-cultural values and traditions, embedded particularly in the policy and legal environment, and in institutional support mechanisms. In many instances women are unable to benefit from services, and must struggle to overcome or circumvent discriminations in business circles. 

While the study was conducted long ago in 2001, not much progress has been made 20 years later in 2021.

Augustina however said she refused to heed the advice of her friends because she knew she was not going to approach the business the traditional way.  

And so she opened her store, but it was not the traditional table and chair arrangement with wares arranged and displayed on small rafia trays, Augustina started an online store on facebook and the rest as they say is history.

Named Twinny Kitchen, Augustina who said she is a serial entrepreneur said from the very beginning she set a target. Because she wanted to break into the international market, she said she had her business properly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and had her adverts targeted at the international market,. Although it was rough in the beginning, it was not too long before she broke even and was reaching customers outside Nigeria.

What was the deciding factor which made her grow so fast in an industry where women were struggling to eke out a living from and pay their bills?

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Augustina credits social media for the growth of her business. She said no week goes by without her placing adverts on facebook or Instagram. This, the Chief Executive officer of Twinny Kitchen says is responsible for her fast growth as there are no boundary’s to the people she can reach online.   

Bella Ndidikanma Aghaeze Momoh happened into the business by chance in 2017 after a long stint being employed without being paid a salary. And another stint hawking polythene bags. Bella who is known as Bella Market Woman on WhatsApp said she started by selling milk to her friends. They would pay for the milk and share a bag or more of milk.

When she saw that this was moving very fast, she decided to branch into selling other foodstuff such as tomato, egusi, ogbono etc in 2018. Market Woman said social media exposed her to a wide audience and she was able to expand way beyond her wildest imagination in a very short time. From one group on WhatsApp comprising of at least 250 people, Market woman says she now has three market groups on the WhatsApp platform in addition to her Facebook page and targeted adverts.

“I opened the first group on WhatsApp and before you know I have 3 groups now. I used 3 social media platforms in 2019 and joined many market groups and started making myself known”. She said.

“I also run adverts on Facebook and Instagram and this has helped me a lot.” She added.

She stays in Nyanya and supplies to people in Lugbe, Lokogoma, Kubwa Gwarinpa and Dawaki in addition to those she supplies to in Nyanya.

Another enterprenuer is Sherifa Amira Shuiabu who runs Sheris foodmart. She started selling fruits and fresh vegetables online and was supplying to people on a small scale before she started bulk supplies. Her target when she started was the few people who wanted fresh food and did not have the time to source for it. she  said when started getting encouragement from people she started to place adverts online because according to her “it was easier to reach people on social media because you can reach many people at the same time’. In no time she said she was able to employ someone to manage her social media handles and open a physical store in September 2020 for people who wanted to do pick up themselves.

HOW DOES IT WORK

A typical day for Twinny’s kitchen begins with phone calls of customers who want to place orders. After getting her number from her page or from adverts she has placed online. “Every day is a market day”, says Augustina who uses the front corridor of her house to store her goods. She says calls come in at all times. Customers call, place their order and the order is completed when they pick up or when a dispatch rider delivers. She said some customers like to pick up while she has a dispatch rider who delivers to those who cannot pick up by themselves. INSERT PICTURE

A typical day for Market Woman starts on Monday across her WhatsApp groups with a price list.

And a call for members to place their orders.

Orders continue to come in till Friday when orders are rounded up as Saturday is delivery day. 

Saturday begins around 6-7m on WhatsApp with the designated route market woman will start with.

Customers usually pay a flat rate of N300 naira in order to pick up at the bus stop nearest to them. 

As for Sheri’s food mart her numbers are listed on her page and customers can order what they want by placing a call and deciding of they want the products delivered or if they will pick up.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Facebook in a study analyzed some of this year’s strongest campaigns on its platforms to uncover the ways marketers are leveraging creative strategies to build connections and drive results. The analysis identified 6 strategies such as opening a dialogue, cultivating culture and serving others, astounding communities, breaking the mold and pushing the purpose. 

The Facebook analysis also found that the more behaviors advertisers employ, the stronger the business impact. 

Facebook also offers tips to businesses to get started this includes a step-by-step guide to creating a DIY studio in order to start producing high quality content from anywhere.

Some of the strategies listed above are what Bella employs in her adverts her tag line across the groups she manages on WhatsApp is “we help you manage your pocket”. This hopes to cultivate a culture of buying in bulk among women.

Ayodutun Akinfenwa a Brand and Marketing Consultant with Lifestyle Hues a page with over 17, 000 followers on Instagram said the best way to get attention is to use visual content and then be prepared to spend money depending on how much money a business has to spend in order to reach as many people as possible. 

HOW DO THEY BUILD TRUST WITH CUSTOMERS?

“The food items I buy are quite affordable and sometimes the quantity is more than what I get in the market”, said Ogechukwu Ikwueme.

Ogechukwu who said she is on weight loss journey said some of the food items she needs such as oatmeal are not so easy to source for. And so she had to resort to online marketers who always seem to have it.

Another customer Josephine Obojiagbe, said she enjoys buying from online vendors because of the fact that there is room for feedback. “If I am not satisfied with a product, I can always reach out to the seller to say look, this crayfish or okpehe I did not like it.” This she is said is unlike what obtains in the market where you buy a good and the sale is final with little room for feedback about the quality of the product.

Adesuwa Tsan said she discovered online trade of stuff during the pandemic when she was trying to avoid contact with people. She said she has since continued as it quite convenient since she has the option of delivery at home.

HOW DO THEY DEAL WITH GOVERNMENT REGULATION

The managing Director of the Abuja Enterprise Agency Muhammad Arabi Tukur said the Agency provides support such as payment of tax dues for these category of businesses as they fall under Micro Small and Medium Enterprises in order to help them grow.   

WHAT LESSONS CAN SIMILAR BUSINESSES LEARN FROM THIS?

Mrs Angela Eze and Mrs Philomena Odenigbo both have stalls in the market where they sell groceries, they both say they would love to have their business expand to serve the online community but do not know how to go about it. They appealed for training in order to understand how online businesses work so they can benefit from the opportunities that exist.


This article was developed with support by the African
Women in the Media, through the AWiM2020 Awards organised in partnership with the European Union
Delegation to the African Union and the African Union
.

Its contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of African Women in Media, the European Union and the African Union.

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