MEET ADA OPUROZOR: A PIONEER OF E-COMMERCE IN NIGERIA AND CEO OF TWO MAJOR ONLINE STORES

Ada 1
Ada Opurozor

Editor’s Note:
When I learned I would be interviewing Ada, I was pleasantly surprised because I had thought that with the level of success she has attained, she should be interviewed by Forbes, not me. CEO of Da-Funshop and Wholesaleng, Ada started offering goods for sale online when many Nigerians still thought Facebook was all there was to the internet. E-commere wasn’t Ada’s first venture into entrepreneurship. As a child, Ada displayed steamed groundnuts for sale in front of her parents’ home, to make her “own” money, much to the embarrassment of her blue-blooded father who graduated with a first class in Statistics.

After graduating from university, Ada worked with her father’s advertising company. Not one to be complacent because of her father’s success, Ada opened a brick-and-mortar kids’ store. Thereafter, seeing the need to serve customers outside Lagos, Ada ventured into e-commerce. Today, drawing from her experience in running Nigeria’s favorite online kids’store and Nigeria’s No.1 wholesale mart, Ada now also runs a company that offers digital marketing and website designing. In this interview, Ada gives us an insight into how she came to be a serial entrepreneur.

Let’s Get to Know You.
A: My name is Princess Ada Opurozor, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of three Companies: www.dafunshop.com-Nigeria’s favourite online kids store and www.wholesaleng.com- Nigeria’s number 1 online wholesale mart and Big Ideas Communications Limited- A web design/digital marketing Communications Company.
I do not believe in Impossibility, everything is possible.

You are one of the pioneers of e-commerce in Nigeria, an exceptional feat. Do you have a background in technology?
A: I have no background in Technology. I had my first degree in Mass Communication and started my work career in the Advertising/marketing Communications Industry as a Client Service Executive. I had always loved business so I started a Kids Store even while I was still working. I had to resign my job after 6 years to run the kids store as I needed it to succeed.

What motivated you to transition from a brick-and-mortar store to online business? Do you still have physical stores?
A: The Motivation was the desire to succeed. The business wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped and I was thinking of ways to reach more people than those within my store location. Going the e-commerce route was me being innovative. At that time, online stores weren’t so popular in Nigeria but I had shopped online from stores abroad and one day I said to myself, if I, being I Nigeria, can buy from stores in UK and China, without even meeting these people or stepping my foot in these countries, then people from far and near can also buy from me if I take my business to the world-wide web. That gave birth to http://www.dafunshop.com (Nigeria’s favourite online kids store).

Going Online really helped grow the business beyond my expectations. We still have a walk-in Store where customers can walk in to buy if they do not want to shop online.

How have you succeeded in ensuring goods are delivered to your customers without getting lost in transit? Are the goods insured?
A: We work in partnership with some reputable Courier and logistics company who ensure delivery of orders to our customers nationwide. The Courier Companies insure these items so they get to replace any item lost in transit although this has never happened in our years of doing business. The worst that has happened is that an item got damaged in transit and in such cases, we replace the item and charge the courier company for it.

What’s your return policy?
A: We have a three-day return policy within Lagos and a seven-day return policy for outside Lagos orders. However, items on SALE/Clearance are not eligible for returns.

How do you ensure customer satisfaction?
A : We encourage customer feedback as that is the only way we can improve. Customers drop feedback on our website, Facebook page or in –store and we are always ready to look into areas of concern.

Many Nigerian entrepreneurs complain that though there are many unemployed graduates in Nigeria, it is difficult to find skilled employees with good work ethic. What has been your experience with finding skilled employees with integrity for your business?
A: This is a problem that we face regularly. Getting the right people with the right attitude is like looking for a needle in a haystack really. I always say, there are lots of people looking for jobs but very few willing to work. I have had dedicated serious staff as well so all hope isn’t lost, we are always on the lookout for such people who can bring something to the table.

Nigeria has a reputation for fraud. Your success shows one can achieve any goal the put their mind to. How have you been able to ensure your customers’ financial information do not get into wrong hands? I understand your sites are 100% secure.
A: I always tell people that Nigerians are not the only fraudulent people in the world. There are fraudulent people everywhere. A friend of mine got duped trying to do business with some Chinese guys so this fear applies everywhere. We have been successful because we do our best to fulfill customers’ orders as timely as possible. My happiness and satisfaction comes when I read messages from customers on how happy they are with goods purchased or our services etc.

Let me say something here, we are currently the only online store now in Nigeria that doesn’t offer pay-on-delivery service anymore. Initially when we started, we did pay-on-delivery for the first two years, it wasn’t an easy ride. Some customers are not really serious and just want to play on the website, when you go to deliver, they switch off their phones on you or blatantly reject the item for flimsy reasons. They even refuse to pay the delivery fee for bringing the item to them so who bears that cost? We decided to only process prepaid orders and I tell you, business has not slowed down at all, we are still very busy. We have made a reputation for been a serious business and our customers do not doubt our reliability at all. Also for new customers who are skeptical, they can choose to walk into our physical store in Festac Town, Lagos to buy. Those who are outside Lagos and can’t visit themselves, may send their friends or relations to the store to shop for them.
On Site Security, we use a reputable and secured hosting company. Also paying online on our site is very secure as we also deploy a reputable payment process for this purpose.

Who are your major competitors? What sets you apart from them?
A: Many Online Stores are springing up every day so competition is stiff. However, for instance the wholesaleng.com, we are really the only ones doing what we do the way we do it for now. We sell items in bulk online in Nigeria from various categories ranging from baby to kids to beauty to appliances, etc., at low wholesale prices. Our main focus are resellers who own kids stores, supermarkets, gift shops, bookshops, beauty shops etc. For dafunshop.com, what sets us apart from other kids’ online stores is that we have a walk-in-store and an address. Most online stores just have telephone numbers on their contact us page.

I notice your stores seem to offer high-end products; my friends who patronize you are from upper middle class families. I see some kids’ cars that go for over a N100,000 on your site. Obviously not many Nigerians can afford that. Do you have products for the average Joe (or is it Emeka since we are talking about a Nigerian market)?
Yes of course. Our Customers cut across all classes. You will also find products for as low as N50 on our website or In-store. We stock items for people of different pocket sizes. If you are looking for high-end or low-end, you will find them at our store.

What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
The fact that I own me and own my time. I can decide to take a vacation anytime and not answer to anyone. The fact that I love what I do and I am happy. The fact that every sweat, every effort I put into the business translate into my own pocket. I love that.

What is the difference between Da-Funshop and Wholesaleng?
Da Fun-Shop is a Kids Retail Business with a Walk-in and online store. Our Customers are mostly parents who wish to purchase unique, quality items for their kids. While Wholesaleng is a strictly Online wholesale business with a physical office. Wholesaleng customers are mainly resellers who own their own shops.

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You were in South Africa recently as a guest speaker at an e-commerce conference; how was the experience?
It was a wonderful experience for me as I got to meet different people taking advantage of the online hemisphere from other parts of the world. I got to rub minds with intelligent driven young people like myself. I was motivated and inspired to do more.

Has the depreciation of the naira affected your business?
Yes, it has affected us greatly. Prices of goods have doubled and the purchasing power of the average Nigerian has decreased so this has caused a huge problem as many people are not buying or shopping as much anymore. Some of our customers who used to buy wholesale on a regular basis to stock up their shops have not placed an order in a long time.

Do you miss being a paid employee?
Not at all, I DO NOT miss being a paid employee at all. I make more than I could ever dream of working for someone and I have full control of my time as well.

Do you have any challenges peculiar to your business as an online business?
The Challenges we face are two-dimensional as we are both an online and physical store so we face common problems associated with these industries. Problems such as Server- down time, Power(electricity) remain a major challenge. We have to have steady power, computers have to be on 24/7 as orders are processed each second.

You deliver in all 36 states. What is the average time it takes from the time a customer places an order to the time the goods are delivered to them? Have you ever delivered to Zamfara (I assume it is one of the most obscure states in Nigeria)?
Yes, we deliver to all states in Nigeria. As long as there is a bus going to that state, we can deliver there. The average delivery time is one day in Lagos and 3-5 days outside Lagos. And yes, we have processed orders from Zamfara.

Where do you see your two online stores in the next seven years?
In the next seven years, we see Da Fun-shop having more Walk-in-stores in other states in Nigeria. We see ourselves being a household name. For Wholesaleng, we intend to increase our product categories/lines and start delivering products outside the shores of this country.

Fittingly, drawing from you experience in successfully running two online stores, you now design websites and run digital advertising campaigns for clients. Please tell us the importance of a good web design.
I have always been very artistic and picked up graphic designing when I was working in the advertising industry. By the time I left, I was writing advertising copy and doing graphic jobs as well.

Moving into the Online industry, I realized a lot of people were unreliable and leaving the fate of my business to some unreliable web designer wasn’t the way I wanted to do things so I decided to learn web-design in order to manage my online store myself. By the time I decided to set up wholesaleng.com, I was able to design the site on my own. Since then I have built websites for some other clients. Most web design jobs I have done are based on referrals from people I have worked for in the past. I also run digital advertising campaigns, social media campaigns for my online stores and other clients as well.

A good website is very important as this is a major factor in ensuring that interest becomes a Sale. Customers should be to navigate the website easily, find products and place their orders easily otherwise they can give up along the way and the store loses.

You previously worked in an advertising firm before digital marketing became prevalent. What skills from your previous experience have you transferred into your services as a digital marketing consultant?
Advertising principles whether traditional advertising or Digital advertising are basically the same. I learnt Copy writing, graphic designing, client management and lots more from my previous employment and this has contributed greatly to my success in my own businesses.

How effective are digital marketing?
Digital Marketing is where is the world is now. The Internet has made the world a truly small village; communication is a lot easier with all the social media sites, apps etc. Tapping into this benefit has helped most businesses since it is easier to target specific audiences and also easier to measure effectiveness of your advertising online.

Can you give us a price range for designing a website?
Depending on the features needed on the website, prices may vary from N50,000 to N500,000. An e-commerce site costs more than a corporate website due to certain plugins and features that have to be integrated like payment, shipping etc.

What is the minimum budget one should have before they can consider digital advertising?
There is no minimum or maximum budget. We can work with what the Client has available. No matter how small, every kobo expended will bring in a result.

You are proof one can do it all and a breath of fresh air in a country where the media tend to publish mostly depressing tales. You are an inspiration to young women.
Thank you very much for granting this interview.

You are welcome.

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