It’s hard to miss Honey Ogundeyi‘s exuberance when you’re watching a video of her talking business. Her style is typically cheerful, her words are insightful, and her delivery smooth; knowledge dished out with good natured frankness and not a little spirit.
She’s earned the right to dole out such advice. As founder and boss of pioneering fashion startup Fashpa, Ogundeyi does know quite a bit about running a modern enterprise in Nigeria’s challenging business environment. Throw in the fact that she’s worked at some of the world’s biggest companies, and you’d certainly see why she could make a good businessperson herself.
Fashpa – short for ‘Fashion Parade’ – is an online fashion store. Its target market is Nigeria’s growing class of globally aware, trend-conscious women. Two things, among others, are making it the brand that it is:
an emphasis on quality and style;
convenience enabled by digital technology.
For a company that launched only a few years ago and has been run the bootstrapping way, Fashpa seems to have done quite well. It’s still in the early stage of disrupting the fashion industry, but it has made its presence felt in that space.
It turns out Ogundeyi’s entrepreneurial journey is as much a lesson for us as her wisdom-packed talks.
Working dream jobs and spotting needs
Honey Ogundeyi’s early days were spent in Lagos. She finished her secondary schooling in Ireland, and went on to the University of Birmingham, where she got a degree in Public Policy and Management. She says she decided to go for a 9-5 job following her graduation because she had a firsthand knowledge what the challenges with going it alone were.
But even before Ogundeyi started out in the corporate world, she had a glimpse into the need gap her business was going to fill more than a decade later. It happened when she returned to Nigeria for her NYSC program.
She recalls in a 2015 interview:
“I wanted to purchase a pair of shoes, and the options were basically super expensive at a brick and mortar store, or cheap knock off versions at an open air market. I ended up ordering a pair abroad.”
She says she remembers thinking about a viable option that balanced price and quality.
Ogundeyi went on to work for McKinsey, Ericsson, and then Google. She always points out that she enjoyed the roles she played at those companies. But as time went on and she gained in experience, she found herself being nudged towards entrepreneurship.
The time for decision eventually came. And as Ogundeyi notes, choosing was a difficult thing to do.
Brave new world: turning fashion techpreneur
She was at Google when she finally chose to launch out into the entrepreneurial realm.
“In 2014, I eventually decided to work on an idea that I had for a very long time, and that I was passionate about. The idea was how to make fashion accessible to Africans.”
— Ogundeyi (The Guardian interview)
The idea was Fashpa. It was a response to what Ogundeyi says was her frustration at not being able to get quality, tasteful fashion in Nigeria at affordable prices.
“I set out to bridge this gap by building an online platform targeted at style conscious consumers who wanted quality, variety and convenience, at affordable prices.”
And, unlike her first (near) lightbulb moment, she now had the skills to make her dream venture happen.
After running Fashpa for a while as a side hustle, she quit her job at Google, to focus squarely on the former. Relying on her savings and the know how she had built up in her years in banking, branding and tech, she set about growing Fashpa. She picked her market, and sold smart.
“I started and we were focusing on women who were into youth, who followed popular culture. Our focus on our market area allowed us to drill that information into everything we were doing.”
— Ogundeyi (Youtube Vlog)
Fashpa: fashion and ecommerce
A visit to Fashpa’s online store turns up a variety of apparels, predominantly styled as mergers of African and western tastes. They range from the simple and conventional to the bold and eccentric. The prices are just as varied.
Orders can be placed via the site, and deliveries are made worldwide.
There’s an invitation on the site’s home page for its visitors to “join the parade”, which could be understood as a reference to the platform’s role as a pioneer in the Nigerian fashion ecommerce space.
Fashpa initially played the role of retailer for some global fashion brands, as well as its own wares. But after a review of customer data in 2016, they decided that local customers were asking for clothes that reflected domestic tastes and trends. Fashpa responded by making a full switch to selling personalized services tailored to suit individual customers.
Accolades and aims
Honey Ogundeyi’s work with Fashpa has been covered by local and international media. In 2014, she was named by Forbes as one of Africa’s Emerging Entrepreneurs to watch. She’s was also listed by the World Economic Forum as one of the top 10 innovators in Africa. This year, she’s been appointed to Facebook’s SME Council for Nigeria.
But Ogundeyi says Fashpa is still only nibbling at the edges of a vast potential market. She has her sights set on making Fashpa a potent force in global fashion.
“Our primary focus as a business is Nigeria. Our secondary focus is Africa. I believe it’s important to build your business as a global brand from the start, so we have to be international from day one.”
— Ogundeyi (Forbes interview)