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. Outside of the write-up and business journals about Raphael Afeador, can you tell Whoot Africa a little about Raphael Afeador the businessperson and individual that you’d like to share with Whoot Africa? As well, as your new venture Supermart?
I am extremely passionate about Africa and its development. I also do believe strongly in the power of enterprises as a tool for enhancing the well being of the society. So I am lucky to be doing what I do, building companies on the continent that I am passionate about and hopefully effecting positive change.
Supermart.ng is an online grocery delivery service where we partner with favorite local stores to upload their inventory online and deliver to customers everyday items like vegetables, meat, milk, bestseller books, stationeries etc. We partner with stores such as Park ‘n’ Shop, SPAR, Laterna Books and Office R Us.
Our customer base tend to be busy professionals and/or homemakers who appreciate the 6 hours they spend doing grocery shopping which our service saves them.
2. Did you know you were going to be an Entrepreneur all along, or did it happen by chance?
No, I did not know initially. I went through my fair share of deciding what I want to be when I grow up. At business school though, I took time off to ask myself what I really want to do with my life. I realized I could be decently good at anything, and with the right attitude I would make a decent career out of it. But would I be fulfilled? The answer in my case was more No, than Yes.
At this point, it dawned on me that what I really needed to be fulfilled was to apply myself to something I am deeply passionate about that will make me proud when I look back at my life on my dying bed. Something I could wake up to for the rest of my life and push for 16 hours a day. I realized that passion for me was Africa and what my generation could contribute to move the continent from where it is to where it truly deserves to be.
I also realized, I always get things started. I enjoy charting new territories, taking charge and leading when a sense of direction is needed. I have also always found business as a powerful tool to move society forward. It mobilizes resources, allocates them, creates jobs, services and products, all of which when properly done move society forward.
I realized at that point, that building and growing African enterprises that will provide solutions to people’s problems as well as jobs is that intersection where my passion, my natural abilities and my professional skills collide.
3. You are an award winning and celebrated businessperson in the African business scene; can you share with Whoot Africa and young budding entrepreneurs across Africa some of your business success secrets?
Thank you for the kind words.
I think the first question to answer is who concretely is the customer for your product? And then design a concrete solution for that customers’ problem. If you design for many people you end up designing for no one. Have a clear customer in mind and solve his problem.
The immediate next thing is to get your customer to pay for your product. If the customer won’t pay today, he probably will not pay a year later. Monetize as soon as possible.
And finally, persevere. I have come to conclude that Entrepreneurship is all about perseverance.
4. Yourself and your former Co-founder Tunde Kehinde single- handedly grew Jumia Nigeria from a 3 employee business to a 500 strong workforce e-commerce business and were able to attract FDI’s, can you share with upcoming businesses and already established small businesses struggling with funding on steps they need to take in order to attract investors for their businesses?
I would rephrase that somewhat. Tunde and I, alongside my current partner Gbolahan, were at the forefront from day one setting direction, giving guidance, motivating etc. But, we also had a great team that helped build the business. It’s the team that confirmed orders, picked up products, delivered to customers, did the marketing, talked to suppliers etc. We were the leaders of the team for sure but the team deserves a significant part of the honor ultimately for what was achieved.
There are local and international investors that are taking a keen interest in the entrepreneurial space, and that is good for everyone. Entrepreneurs need to show some traction though, whatever the idea, start small. Start somewhere, get your product to the market and above all get paying customers. Once you have that, you will have investors willing to talk to you. Whatever it is, keep trying to go small and grow organically from internally generated funds, your savings, family and friends etc. At one point, external investors will take you seriously.
5. Your exit from Jumia Nigeria took the African start-up scene by surprise and many are still puzzled by your exit, especially considering the level of success attained under your leadership. What was your experience like at Jumia Nigeria, its impact and how has it been so far working with your new co-founder Gbolahan Fagbure at Supermart now?
There is a Yoruba proverb that says 20 children cannot play together for 20 years. And on that note we moved on to do something new. Jumia was a great stage in my life. I made a lot of friends for life. We built something that is standing on its feet now and one can only look back and be proud. I am happy that these phenomenal people who made up the team have jobs they can wake up to everyday and a place to pursue their careers.
Working with Gbolahan has been good. I recall we worked closely together over the last 2 years, and we have known each other even longer.
6. Raphael Afaedor is not new to the Nigerian business scene; in fact you are a serial entrepreneur. One would ask, why Supermart? Considering the fact that the supermarket retail business has to be one of the most challenging and stressful businesses?
The last couple of years of doing ecommerce in Nigeria made us come to appreciate how much value we can add by creating a service like Supermart that enables people to shop more conveniently for basic groceries and every day essentials that they need, and have it delivered to them. It is a solution tailored to our busy customers needs: order online for everyday essentials, select a 3 hour delivery window, delivery is made in as early as 3 hours.
7. With the ever growing demand for easy click and delivery services like Supermart offers, are there plans to expand the current reach to other parts of Lagos? Plus, should customers be expecting Supermart as an Extra supermarket with branded products anytime soon or is the vision of the business to continue as personal shoppers from other favourite supermarkets?
There are lots of busy professionals who could use the 6 hours we save them every week by doing their grocery shopping for them. It is a formidable task but we believe we are up to it. First thing, we need to deliver a phenomenal service to those people and pick it up from there.
8. What do you love most about your business and your life as an Entrepreneur? What keeps you and the Supermart team motivated? How do you envision Supermart in 5-10years from now?
The Supermart team is all about delivering a phenomenal experience to customers. That is really what makes us happy. That delights us.
Yesterday we got this feedback, and I quote verbatim, “Quick feedback on the service yesterday. It was good, very professional. 2 items needed to be substituted, and I got a call that was handled very professionally. The guy who called had found items that made sense to substitute, and called back to clarify when I had a question about one of them. The delivery was also very efficiently, courteously and professionally handled, and I was happy with the packaging. Delivery guy smiled – always a bonusJ. Good job.”
This warms our heart, and keeps us pushing to ensure all busy homemakers experience our service and have this to say. It puts real meaning to what we do.
5 – 10 years is a very long time in the life of an internet business. Today we are just focused on building Supermart. There are lots of people who need a service like ours. We are focused on serving them well.
9. What excites you about the E-commerce business? And what is it about Supermart that made you realize this was it for you?
People have to battle with massive traffic jams in order to get from one place to the other. To do their grocery shopping, they have to spend three to four hours hopping from one shop to the other. They get stuck in traffic, and on getting to the shop, they spend at least 20 to 30 minutes looking for parking space and spend about another 30 minutes at the shop waiting to pay. With Supermart we are able to bring them exactly what they were going to shop for, at the price points that they would have gotten in the stores, while saving them those 6 hours they would have spent running around.
I believe an entrepreneurial venture has to start first by identifying a concrete customer and solving their problem. In our case, that concrete customer is the busy professional, who is also a homemaker. If we can save this person the 6 hours a week, they can spend it with their partners, or at the spa, reading or whatever else they prefer. And they will appreciate our service for that.
10. The African business scene is not for the faint hearted, if you had to sell doing business in Nigeria and Africa as a whole in a few words to an investor, what would they be?
It’s a beautiful thing to see the impact one is able to make by waking up daily and persevering against all the odds inherent in the African business scene. It’s very motivating to look back at the successes. I think this should be enough of a motivator for all.
11. What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business?
You can’t do it all alone. People are all you have. You must learn to work with people to give you their business, to keep them motivated as employees, to keep them engaged as partners etc.
12. Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
My mother! I owe most of what I am today to her.
13. What was the BIGGEST risk you’ve taken?
I do take calculated risks all the time with increasing audacity. There are elements of risk involved but I also make sure I make choices that minimize what can go wrong and maximize what I desire to achieve. I also always have a plan B. I prefer to focus fully on the one thing I am doing to increase its chances of succeeding because ideally, I do not want to resort to the plan B. My full focus now is on growing Supermart to provide the best service to all customers within our target market.
14. What do you think about college education? Should kids go to college now or get into business if they feel it’s a better choice? Considering some of the world’s greatest never had college education, your thoughts?
That’s a very good follow on question. To not go to college is to take a risk without a plan B or C. If you fail, then you don’t have anything to fall back on. As you grow older, your responsibilities increase which means it is more difficult to go back to college. Also your parents will be less likely to pay for your college education when you are 30 than they were when you were 18. So I think kids should go to college.
Should kids focus only on college work? I think the answer is no. Kids should give themselves the opportunity to grow while in college. Get a job. Get some experience. Yes, start a startup. If it picks up steam, then you can quit and focus on it, and defer the remaining years of college.
But as much as possible and as a far as possible; get the schoolwork done. It is the one thing that will make a huge difference in what economic opportunities come your way in the future.
15. What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
Solve a particular customer’s problem
Get him to pay for the service as soon as possible because that is the only true validation
Provide phenomenal customer service.
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here