Stanley Uduemo Oyovota, a professional marketer and Fate Foundation alumnus, is the founder and president of Barows 21 Media. Having been trained as a direct sales representative for Standard Chartered Bank and now a studying member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, United Kingdom, he talks to Connect Nigeria about his experience as an entrepreneur.
CN: What is the story behind Barows21.com and what inspired the name?
Stanley: Barows21.com started out as a local newspaper supply business. I had problems in the university, which eventually led to my dropping out. In 2005, while still trying to solve the problem, I had to stop attending lectures. My family had just moved to where you’d call ‘a new site’. Newspaper vendors didn’t come to my neighbourhood. During a conversation with my uncle, I thought, “hey, why don’t I start supplying people in the neighbourhood newspapers?” And with the spare time I had on my hands, I moved on the idea. After 3 months, I decided to focus on international magazines. When I started business in 2006, I was trading with my dad’s company name. Barows 21 came into being in 2008. The name is a combination of 2 streets I have lived on; Baruwa and Olowojeunjeje.
CN: What exactly are the services your business offers?
Stanley: We offer subscriptions to over 200 international magazines, and we also offer distribution services to local publishers looking to boost their sales. There’s also a package we offer called a “Subscription Gift.” For someone who doesn’t read international magazines, you can buy a subscription to a magazine you know the recipient would like. For instance, if the person is a huge Arsenal fan, you could get them a subscription to The Official Arsenal magazine. This would come with a lovely subscription certificate that has your name, the recipient’s name, magazine subscribed to, and information on the specified period for subscription. On the day we make the first delivery, it would be gift-wrapped.
CN: That sounds exciting! How does the magazine subscription work? What steps do intending subscribers have to take?
Stanley: Subscribers make payment before their subscriptions begin. We offer 3, 6 & 12 month subscriptions. On 6 & 12 month subscriptions, subscribers can pay twice within 30 days. After payment has been made, we begin delivery, and subsequently, deliver every new edition once it becomes available.
All a person who wants to purchase a subscription has to do is, select the magazine(s) they want to subscribe to and the subscription plan, fill out the order form on our website, barows21.com. If they prefer, they can send us an email or give us a call. Alternatively they can contact us via social media on Twitter, @barows21, or Facebook, facebook.com/barows21. With multiple points of contact, it makes it easier for the customer.
CN: How did you raise capital for the business?
Stanley: I started business with N2, 500 (two thousand five hundred naira). My best friend’s sister, Yemisi Akaahs, gave me the money; just enough to print some A4 black and white flyers, and to buy my first supply of newspapers.
CN: What challenges did you face in starting up your business?
Stanley: The number one challenge was insufficient capital; then, getting a solid source of supply. It is very important for a business to have multiple suppliers.
CN: What are the challenges of doing business online?
Stanley: I would say, being able to target your message at the right audience. Using Twitter as an example, you might have 5,000 followers, but they might mostly be unemployed, whereas your target market is people who are employed.
CN: What are the advantages of doing business online?
Stanley: Definitely that would be being able to reach thousands of potential customers at the same time, at little or no cost. Not having to keep stock, and practicing Just-In-Time inventory, further helping to cut down cost and losses.
CN: How often do you update your website, and how quickly do you remove magazines that are not available?
Stanley: Our website is updated once a week. The main updates are excerpts from magazines, new jokes and quote for the week. Whenever new editions for the month start arriving, we state that also.
CN: How would you rate the customer satisfaction level?
Stanley: I could have sworn that it was an 8 out of 10 (smiling) but we had a few issues this year; a key supplier had issues with customs, and this in turn affected our level of service. But we’ve put checks in place to avoid a reoccurrence. And we’re currently undergoing a marketing audit to further improve service delivery. By and large, our customers are satisfied with our service, and most see us as friends.
CN: What is your unique selling point and why should Nigerians choose you over competitors?
Stanley: Our unique selling point is flexibility in terms of payment and subscription plans, and personalised service. We don’t look at the transaction as the ultimate goal, instead we desire a relationship with the customer above all else.
CN: Which books have changed your life?
Stanley: The Bible, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and Advanced Selling Strategies by Brian Tracy.
CN: What is your long-term vision for Barows 21 Media?
Stanley: The long-term vision is to become a distribution company with a world-class sales team. We’re also going into the production of movies and documentaries.