We fell upon, literarily speaking, Ijomah Venn Oputa, one of the master minds of FabricSpere. He spoke extensively on getting into the business and the challenges that go with it. Find out in his responses below;
Tell us a bit about yourself – growing up and education:
My name is Ijomah Venn Oputa, son of a beautiful woman and last child of 4. I grew up and spent most of my time in Lagos state. A Petroleum Engineering graduate from The University of Lagos; an entrepreneur, speaker/teacher, tech enthusiast and startup consultant.
How did you get into the fabrics business?
It’s a very relatable story. When you were much younger, did you ever find yourself constantly being forced to go to the market with your mum to buy items? Well, for me it was the norm and I dreaded it all the time. My mother had sisters who weren’t in the country always asking her to help them get fabrics for one event or the other. The market can be tiring especially for those with busy schedules, and trying to slot in market time can seem impossible. When you do find the time, you’re moving up and down with the sun beating down on you, strangers touching you and asking you to buy things you are not really interested in, while trying to bargain for a great price on a particular fabric. All these problems can be very discouraging.
I noticed a gap and on further thinking I asked myself, wouldn’t it be better to provide not just mothers but also fashion designers and people that deal with fabrics a direct and convenient medium online to find and shop for whatever fabrics they desired? That’s really why I got into the fabrics business.
What do you love best about fabric sales?
Fabric is majorly clothing, so to be able to provide people with the right fabric for them to create beautiful pieces and attires is our joy at Fabricsphere.
Which of the fabrics do you find most fascinating?
Ankara! It’s amazing how creative the patterns you see on Ankara fabrics are. It’s an expression of art that you’ll seldom find anywhere else.
How do you go about collecting your fabrics, are there specific types you prefer?
Well, our business model involves dealing with third party vendors to meet our customers’ needs. That means we don’t really go around collecting fabrics but make sure our customers’ fabric needs are met on demand.
Being an online store in a somewhat slow economy, how are you guys doing?
Well, to be honest we are thankful to our customers/clients (which are popularly known as Fabricspherians) for the continuous increase in sales regardless of the present economic situation. I guess this means we are doing something right.
What are the prospects of e-commerce in Nigeria, using your experience so far as a case study?
The truth about eCommerce in Nigeria is that it’s a long shot, meaning that; the big players that’ll be around in the next 5 years would have withstood the challenges of trust (in terms of payments), logistics and government regulations. eCommerce is necessary for the growth of Nigeria especially in terms of sales and distributions. It’s going to force the hands of the common trader into using digital mediums to generate massive sales and for those who ignore the potential of eCommerce within a nation with over 183 million indigenes! they stand to lose out massively.
Any particular challenges whatsoever?
Trust. It’s very difficult building trust with potential customers when you run an online business especially one that deals with products. Customers find it difficult to trust online retail because of known cases of counterfeit items being sold as authentic ones. We try to design for trust, quality check and assure all items before they are dispatched in order to guarantee customer satisfaction.
Where do you see FabricSphere in another five years?
Five years from now, we want to have helped over 100,000 fabric merchants, manufacturers and suppliers make above 20 billion naira in annual revenue/sales, create more third party jobs via our services and marketplace and also become the go-to platform for all kinds of fabrics in Africa.
If you were to advise the government as an entrepreneur, what would you say regarding the fashion industry?
It’s evident that our economy will have to shift from a resource based economy to an innovative economy driven by the ideas of the people. This innovation is going to affect how we interact with our basic needs such as clothing, education, shelter, transportation and food. So fashion being a subcategory of both, education and clothing will have to be endorsed under any government to further create a robust economy. We cannot run from change we can only adapt and promote it.