Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – 15 Questions with the CEO.
1. Can you give a brief introduction about yourself for Whoot Africa Readers
My name is Ogochukwu Agu, a trained pharmacist with experience in hospital, community and production practices, an ex-banker in one of Nigeria’s leading banks and an entrepreneur. I own and run the brand Beddings ‘n’ Beyond. I am a Wife, mother and friend, in my spare time, I blog at 21stCenturyCareerMom.
2. How did you get started in business and what did it take to get to where you are today?
When I started out in 2009, selling sheets wasn’t even a hobby. It was just something I did to earn some extra cash. My start-up capital was well below N20, 000. I loved my products. The sight of them just excited me but the passion was lacking. However, when the demand became a little more than I could wave off, and so I dug in.
2010 saw me registering the business, re-investing in it and going beyond bedding to include bath, home accessories, furniture and interior designing.
The quality of our products, the numerous referrals, the tremendous amount of positive feedbacks, and the renewed love, passion and commitment to the job, has brought us this far.
3. Do you have a history of business and entrepreneurship in your family?
My Dad was a civil servant and my Mom a teacher. But as is with most mothers (kids are so expensive), my Mom dabbled a bit in the business world. Gold, print fabrics, catering, she did all that. I really didn’t have that much interest in her entrepreneurial endeavours because I felt it was too much work. Look at me now…totally my mother’s daughter!
4. Are you a full time entrepreneur or do you work for a corporation on the side?
Beddings ‘n’ Beyond was a side passion but not anymore. With the launch of our new web store and the numerous design projects we’ve secured, I feel like there was a need to dedicate more time to it. Excellent customer service delivery and customer satisfaction remains our priority; hence a more hands on approach, which meant more time. I do this full time now.
5. What do you love most about your business?
What I love most about Beddings ‘n’ Beyond? The freedom to be innovative and creative! To take on a drab space and turning it to fabulous and seeing clients’ faces light up at the end product, that’s totally exhilarating!
6. What keeps you (and your team) motivated?
Our vision! We are highly motivated by our vision to succeed and impact greatly on the Home decor industry in Nigeria.
7. What are your expectations for Beddings ‘n’ Beyond in 5-10years?
Think US’ “Bed, Bath &Beyond”. That’s my vision for this business and my team and I are counting on God to come through for us at the right time.
8. What are some of the obstacles you encountered in your business journey and how did you overcome it?
Because the mainstay of the business has always been the bedding collections, mostly assembled and tailored in-house, one of the major obstacles encountered earlier in the business was finding tailors that were creative and committed.
When I first started, I had this tailor that made me scream out one too many times in frustration! Late deliveries, mismatched threading, uneven tailoring, zero creativity, the list was endless! Thankfully, we’ve been able to overcome that, there’s obviously room for improvement but ultimately, we are on the right part.
9. What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?
My Biggest risk? Without a doubt would be quitting my steady, comfortable, 9-5 (make that 7-6) bank job…to find me!
Obviously, some friends thought I was crazy and I’m sure their misgivings were birth out of genuine concern. Some days prior to quitting, I actually agreed with them. But quitting at that point felt right. It didn’t feel right a couple of years back. It didn’t even feel right last year. It felt right…now.
That being said, the support thus far has been overwhelming! Family, friends, strangers…
I didn’t want to have to look back at my life and think I would’ve done better “IF…”
10. Why did you choose this service/product and when did you KNOW it was it?
It chose me. I wasn’t thinking of a business when it came along. I had gone to visit my Sister-in-law and the first thing I noticed as soon as I walked into her bedroom was her beddings. Gorgeous, fabulous beddings, they literally transformed that space.
Her lament on how she had had to make do with the available slim picks (albeit expensive) that pilled on first use and how long it took her to finally access quality bedding at really affordable pricing advised this business move.
The bedroom, with special reference to bedding, serves as a retreat, a sanctuary for when we ache or we need to be rejuvenated.
People should have access to good quality, affordable, stylish bedding regardless of where they are; one of the major reasons we launched the Web store.
As to when I KNEW this was it? It was right after my very first meet with my suppliers.
When I sighted the fabrics, the excitement was palpable, almost like the first time I met my husband.
Almost…but not quite!
11. What is the best way that you have found to market your product?
The social media…Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Instagram and the Referrals have been simply Amazing!
12. If someone turned up tomorrow and made me you an offer you can’t refuse, would you sell Beddings ‘n’ Beyond? And how do you feel about joint venturing and partnership?
Would I sell one of my kids to the highest bidder? No. Would I welcome help in maxing said kid’s potential? A definite YES! This is exactly how I feel about Beddings ‘n’ Beyond.
13. Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life? Business inspiration?
My husband would be the most influential person in my life. I always ask his opinion and even though I end up not implementing most of his views (which really irks him), it feels good bouncing ideas off him. He’s been amazingly supportive, through the tears and gore and whining and questioning. But most especially when the business started taking on home makeover/decor jobs and I had to be away most weekends. Amazingly supportive he is!!!
Funke Bucknor-Obruthe of Zapphire Events inspires me a great deal, business-wise; her passion and her unwavering belief in her brand, even when no one thought there was a market for her kind of business.
14. What is the one thing you know about business that you wished someone had told you before you started your own?
The retail business is plagued by a lot of uncertainties and some times, even with unbelievable hard work thrown in; the expected results don’t always come forth.
The second- guessing of oneself, the questioning of every sound decision made, it’s enough to make one want to throw in the towel. So yeah, I wish someone really took their time to explain that businesses and their owners do get the blues sometimes.
15. What would be the most important piece of advice you would offer anyone who is planning on running his or her own business?
If it feels absolutely right to you, just do it. Start small, test the waters, listen to; but don’t overly worry about what people would say or think.
And truly with God, impossible is nothing!
Visit Beddings’n’Beyond website and see things for yourself