In May 2012, I met 3 Germans at the Four Points Hotel in Victoria Island around 6:00PM to discuss an email I sent the previous night. This was barely a week after I launched a fashion retail e-commerce website I called divasnblokes.com. At this time, I was working at the leading online travel agency in the country as their Online Marketing Manager, but I was slightly frustrated. The career path I had set for myself was to become the CMO of a leading online company in Nigeria before I was 30 and I was 27 already. My frustration was fueled by the fact that based on my assessment; I was mising one element to prepare me for my goal which was, to understand traditional marketing and public relations management. After 6 years of working as an online marketing guy, I felt this was the next move I needed. So, I decided to build a fashion retail e-commerce website where I could list the products of my friends (male and female fashion wears), then get people to buy them online. By doing so, I felt that I could start practicing some strategies I was already reading about in books and online. I took steps to get a photographer to take the pictures and voila, we were online.
4 days into Divas n’Blokes, I went online to search for people/sponsors/investors interested in the online fashion space in Nigeria. That is when I came across Rocket Internet in South Africa via LinkedIn. I sent an email to the team (as many people as I could find in the company on LinkedIn) and asked them if they were interested in coming to Nigeria? I basically told them that I could share secrets as to why I felt there is potential in the Nigerian market. This was around 4:35 PM on a Sunday and I got a call 3 hours later asking me to come to Four Points Hotel in Lagos for a meeting the next day because the company was in Nigeria to do it’s due diligence whether to start out it’s business or not. I was excited about this and the next day, the meeting held.
When I met Leo, I was quite surprised at how young he looked and how passionately he talked about the Nigerian e-commerce opportunity he was looking to explore. Manuel and another colleague of theirs was seat across the table listening and scanning me (that’s how I felt because I could feel their eyes just watching every time I blinked).
At the end, they wanted me to join them as staff number one from Nigeria, take up the role of Director of Marketing and Partnerships and establish the business focusing on Traditional Marketing and Public Relations – fantastic, what I looked for!
I was excited about this and quickly started resigning in my head from my previous employers. But I didn’t know the whole gist:
1). I was going to get a 30% pay-cut from what I was earning then
2). I was going to let go of the company car and driver I had from my previous employers without the option of another with the new company.
3). Unlike a huge marketing budget I was used to seeing in other heavily funded start-ups, my initial marketing budget for Traditional and PR Marketing was less than N1,000,000.
On top of this, my wife had just given birth to our first son a few months earlier and so I can hear someone say then – Don’t do it! Well, I made the choice and took the offer. Why?
1). I finally had the chance to get the experience I needed to move to a new level in my career
2). As much as I took a pay cut, I was not going home empty handed.
3). I also felt that with such a budget as I did have, I would put myself under pressure to deliver via new ways I may never know. This happened! I will talk about this some other time.
So, I joined the company with no name and then after 1 week, we called ourselves Sabunta.com which was then the fashion e-commerce retailer arm of Rocket Internet’s business in Nigeria. Later on, we merged with a sister company Kasuwa.com to build what is referred to today as Jumia.com.
When I made this decision, there were so many things that could work against it. But I was driven by the desire to do more, plans to grow in my career, seizing opportunities as small as they looked then with a hope that we could become big someday.
Make decisions, you have a choice to make decisions or a choice not to make decisions – either way, you are right and we are all responsible today for the decisions we made yesterday, keep them as positive as you can.
You don’t always have the right answers all the time, you don’t even see the whole picture some times, but pray about it. Listen to your guts, your God-given feelings, then move on what you find peace in your heart for.
People have told me that I am prone to taking risks, while I tell them, I enjoy making new moves that turn out right. In doing so many times, I’m happy at how God has led me to making the choices I’ve made. Not every one of my choices have turned out right, in fact more than 50% of my choices didn’t turn out how I planned them, but they did something to me. They made me a better person, they made me believe more in myself, they gave me the confidence to trust God in the few decisions or choices that worked-out right and have paved the way for me and my family to live today. You may not see the end of the tunnel until you have walked half way through the journey… don’t give up, make decisions, the choice is yours and find peace in your heart do something new today.