Sophia Ike-Onu, Founder of the 5k shop, a fast-rising, niche online retailer of fashion items is inspiring and engaging – all at once. It’s evident in the way she communicates her vision, and how she’s visibly excited about building a different business model for online retailing in Nigeria. Displaying a firm grasp of core business elements she shares with us her vision for the 5k shop, and what the future holds for her as a business woman and entrepreneur.
Introduce the world to Sophia Ike-Onu in your own words.
Sophia is an extremely driven young lady excited about building great businesses!
Excellent! Tell us about the 5kshop and what led you to start the business?
The5kShop is an online retail store, stocking fashion and home solutions all under the price cap of 5000 Naira. In Nigeria, getting affordable fashion is often equated to stressful shopping at the open markets. Even after that, you aren’t guaranteed good quality pieces. The5kShop was created to provide a safe and convenient way for Africans to shop quality fashion items at the BEST possible price.
Great! But why did you choose the online retail model? Why not a pop-up store, or some other offline model?
At the time, online retail was the most affordable model with the most impact. By selling online, our products are seen by millions of Nigerians in all 36 states. We’ve had a couple of successful pop-up shopping events and we are still exploring other retail models as we evolve. In the future, a 5kShop physical store might just be coming to a neighbourhood near you 😉
Interesting! Online retail seems to be a highly saturated industry in Nigeria, how do you differentiate yourself and stand out from competition?
Firstly, I don’t think we have even scratched the surface with online retail in Nigeria. It’s still an emerging market. Definitely, a lot of E-commerce sites have surfaced in the past 3 years but a lot have also packed up. In more developed countries where online retail is dominant, there are way more online stores. The USA, for example, has over 700,000 active online stores; I don’t think we have up to a quarter of that here in Nigeria. With the retail landscape here, it’s really easy for us to stand out. Apart from our price point which is a big advantage as we are the only online retailer offering its entire inventory under 5000 Naira, we’ve managed to build an active community of budget shoppers that not only look to us to purchase chic affordable pieces but for our social media posts and blogs on style steals, celebrity updates, DIYs and fashion news. The5kShop is more than an online store, it’s a movement.
How long have you been in business and what have some of the challenges been?
We’ve been in business for almost 2 years now. Finding efficient logistics partners to work with in delivering our orders fast was a challenge, especially with the cash-on-delivery options and ‘interesting’ address descriptions we have in our country. Thankfully, we were able to buy our bikes and employ riders in house last year. That has helped control deliveries, ensuring they get to the customers in good time.
We won’t only talk about challenges; what have been your major milestones and successes?
It’s been an amazing experience watching the business grow, we’ve hit our targets year on year and I have an amazing team that understands the vision and are willing to work hard to achieve our goals. We’ve come a long way from our first office which was my living room so renting our first office and warehouse space barely 8 months into operations was awesome. Moving to a bigger space shortly after was even more humbling. Being recognized by international companies and people I consider role models has been reassuring. Also, winning the first prize at the British Council/Virgin Atlantic Enterprise Challenge 2016 last month blew me away. I’m looking forward to the future milestones.
The 5kshop is a fusion of retail, technology and fashion – how do you juggle all those elements and maintain a high standard?
It’s the team. There are people behind these elements and they come together to make The5kShop. People think your team consists of the people on your payroll, it doesn’t. I couldn’t even afford to pay the people who have contributed to what we have as The5kShop today. The5kShop is not just technology, fashion and retail – that’s the fancy part people see. It’s also logistics and operations; and these departments make sure the orders are sent out timely and in great condition come rain, come shine.
You know every entrepreneur wants to know this next question? Lol! How did you source funding for your business?
I invested my entire savings into my business. Best decision ever!
Would you say that social media has contributed positively to your business? And if yes, in what way?
YES! In a huge way; Instagram especially. We have an extremely lean marketing budget yet our customer base keeps increasing and that’s not only because we put out great content but mostly because we have AMAZING shoppers. We call them #The5kShoppers. They are so quick to spread the word for us, tagging their friends on our Page, sharing their pictures wearing pieces they bought from us. They are basically our walking billboards. The love and patronage has been overwhelming.
You seem to be something of a serial entrepreneur – you’re the Co-Founder of DRYV – another tech-enabled start up; tell us about that?
I love creating interesting businesses with a bedrock of problem solving. Nigeria has so much potential and I’m excited at the thought of discovering them. I still have other projects up my sleeves but I’m taking my time, execution is key.
Before you became an entrepreneur, what were you doing? And what made you decide to go into business?
I have a BSc in Architecture and I worked in Nigeria for two years before going to the UK to get my Masters in International Architectural Regeneration and Development. I went into business because I identified a gap in African retail and was eager to fill it.
Who are your business mentors and role models?
Firstly, my parents are my role models, I share any new business idea I get with them first. With business mentorship, I have quite a lot of people that I draw lessons from like Mrs Ibukun Awosika, Sophia Amoruso and Marissa Mayer.
For the 5kshop; are you in any strategic partnerships with local vendors and suppliers?
Yes, we run a merchant program at The5kShop where we help Nigerian Brands/Businesses sell their products on our site. As long as it’s within our price cap and the quality is great. Also, we are currently working on our own high street brand called ‘T5S’. It’s fully made in Nigeria from fabric sourcing to design. We have been working with local fabric suppliers, tailors etc.
What drives you to keep doing what you do?
Purpose. I’m lucky to have discovered my purpose early in life. At 6 years old, I knew I wanted to be an Architect, own a fashion store and a school. Secondly, my family. They are my biggest supporters, they get excited over my achievements even more than I do. I strive to keep making them proud every day.
How do you unwind and rejuvenate yourself?
I love traveling, exploring new places and cultures.
If you could, what would you tell your younger self?
Hard work is great but don’t forget to enjoy and live in the moment.
Words of advice for budding female entrepreneurs?
You need to believe in God’s calling on your life, find your purpose and be determined to fulfil it. Start small, prototype and test your idea, be flexible and teachable. Some of my best business lessons were learnt while in business not before I launched. Don’t be afraid to fail, entrepreneurship is risky business but the lessons learnt are invaluable.
Follow The5K shop on Social media:
Instagram – The5kShop
Twitter – The5kShop
Facebook – The5kShopNg
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to [email protected] and we just might feature her.