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.
- Can you tell us a little about Honey Ogundeyi and Fashpa as a brand you represent?
I am CEO and Founder of Fashpa.com. I was grew up in Nigeria, was educated in Nigeria and Europe and have worked for some great companies like UBA, McKinsey & Co and Google.
I have a passion for fashion and technology, particularly on increasing the number of women in technology in Africa. I am currently focused on building an awesome fashion business in Nigeria.
Fashpa.com is a leading fashion online retailer based in Nigeria. It retails a mix of high street fashion from international and local brands as well as our own fashpa.com label. We deliver to consumers in Nigeria in 1-3 days. We are known for the latest trends, hottest brands and the best price.
- How did you get started in Business and what did it take you to get to where you are today? Why did you decide to start Fashpa?
By profession, I would call myself a Management Consultant with experience across different industries ranging from Banking, Brand Management, Technology and Telecoms. I started Fashpa.com out of a frustration of not being able to easily access good fashion at a great price in Nigeria and built the site for myself. I saw a clear opportunity to leverage on technology and create an online platform that would be a one-stop shop for fashion especially in a market that is extremely fragmented. The response has been amazing; in a short amount of time Fashpa.com has taken a leadership position in Fashion Online Retail in the Country.
- The fashion e-commerce industry is saturated, with many foreign platforms such as ASOS, River Island et.al tapping into the market out here with perks such as free delivery, direct card acceptance and massive discounts. How do you manage to stay competitive and still deliver quality products at affordable prices to your Nigerian shoppers?
I don’t believe the fashion ecommerce industry in Nigeria is saturated, in fact I think the opposite -that is underserved. Nigeria has a population of 170 million and one of the fastest growing populations of Internet users in the world and an extremely undeveloped formal retail structure. Distribution is a major problem, because of high real estate costs and lack of space. Modern retail is all very recent in Nigeria. Most people don’t have access to most fashion. At Fashpa.com, we stay competitive by going after a clear opportunity to serve a “youth” customer who wants to be able to access the best fashion and lifestyle brands. We focus on providing access to the best fashion retail brands international or local, the latest trends and all at great prices. On international players, we offer a lot of things they are not able to such as cash on delivery, free returns, fashion advisory and fashion content and products that is tailored to Nigerian fashion needs at a great price. We want to be No1 Fashion destination in Nigeria.
- Your business has grown in a considerable short time and remarkably too, what are some of those things that you think are critical success factors to pushing Fashpa to where it is right now?
We are very focused on the customer and the experience. That drives everything we do, right from the buying, logistics, customer service and our strong focus on social media. We have a unique understanding of the customer, selling fashion is very different from selling general merchandise or electronics, there are a lot of cultural and psychological factors at play that are equally as important for your success. We are obsessed with exceeding our customers’ expectations, both on product and overall shopping experience.
- Nigerian fashion designers are said to offer some of the most expensive outfits in this region, as a result of overhead cost and other variables, as well as the lack of bulk retail buyers. Does Fashpa stock from local designers? If yes, how do you deal with cost?
There is a real market for Nigerian brands as Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora are interested in wearing Nigerian brands, however most brands are still inaccessible to the general public either due to price point or distribution structure. At Fashpa.com, we stock local brands from Nigeria and Africa but we are interested in brands that focus on a high street opportunity, by that we mean ready to wear clothing at affordable prices. We look forward to working and building out our local brand category and seeing many of our local brands growing and expand their business by working with us.
- Are there any plans for Fashpa branded clothing and accessories in the near future?
We already have a Fashpa.com own label, it is core part of our strategy. It became even more popular after American Singer Kelly Rowland was spotted wearing a Fashpa.com own label dress. In the future, we plan to expand the line and offer broader categories under our own label.
- With your knowledge and practice of entrepreneurship today, what are some of those things you’d do differently if you had the chance to start all over again, also what are those things you need young aspiring entrepreneurs to know about doing business and finding funding?
It’s probably still too early for me to answer that question, However, I would say to young aspiring entrepreneurs, plan, plan and plan. It’s super important to have a vision but a plan can be just as important. On funding, there is still a funding gap for start-ups in Africa. The key is to start small and reach out for funding within your personal network, family and friends. If you build an interesting business, it increases your chances of being able to raise funds from an angel network or institutional sources.
- From previous interviews, you mentioned starting out from a small room; how has it been so far formally, and how do you keep your team motivated and aligned with the vision you have for the Fashpa brand?
It’s been a great journey at Fashpa.com to date, we have shipped products to over 26 states in Nigeria and we are growing rapidly across all our metrics. On building a culture and vision, my approach is just to share as much of the vision throughout the company and be very transparent and open with our plans. That is actually counter intuitive in most Nigerian businesses who are generally more secretive but I think it is really important to carry the team along with you, and to do that, they need to know where as a company you are going, and be signed on to come on this journey.
- Before Fashpa, you worked with Dr Tony Elumelu’s Heirs Holdings, Dr Tony Elumelu is a man whose success is inspirational and has birth several businesses across Africa and a true definition of the African success. What are some of those qualities and business lessons you learnt whilst working with him?
Dr Tony Elumelu ís one of my Mentors and I am grateful to have had a chance to work with him at Heirs Alliance and UBA. I think what really stood out for me is that he is a visionary leader; he challenges you to work with imagination, insight and boldness. Critically, he focuses on the big picture and is able to bring about the best in people to realise that vision.
10. Doing business in Nigeria is not for the faint hearted, if you had to sell doing business in Nigeria in a few words to an investor, what would they be?
High Risk, High Rewards.
11. How would you describe your leadership style, and where do you see Fashpa in 5-10 years from now?
My leadership style is open, communicative, leadership by doing; we have a really flat structure at Fashpa.com which I think is great to cultivate especially for a fashion and tech company. In the future, I see us as a leading Fashion Destination in NIgeria. We would have launched new categories and offer more collections that our customers love. Along the way we would have changed the way the African consumer accesses fashion, built a great team and be one of the best workplaces in the world.
12. Looking at the Nigerian fashion industry, what are some of those things you have observed that needs to change for Nigeria to really experience a boom in the fashion industry like it does in Italy, United Kingdom and the US?
The key issue for the Nigerian Fashion Industry is around access, production and distribution. There is no lack of creativity from our brands, and almost everyone is a fashion buyer here! To really scale and build a sustainable industry we need to focus on building structures that allow better access to brands, allow production at scale and platforms and brands that can get these products out there to the customer.
13. What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business? What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
I think you need to have tenacity and a really strong vision and passion to be successful.
For young entrepreneurs, I would say start small and dream big.
14. Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
I have several Mentors and they have all being very influential at various points. It is hard to narrow it down to just one individual.
15. 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?
I think it’s important to get some kind of education formal or even informal, not necessarily because you need to be successful but it provides a good backbone to be able to fall back on.
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here