There is opportunity everywhere you turn. This is perhaps what crossed the minds of Ikenna Okonkwo and Udoka Uzoka when they decided to venture into a female-dominated industry.
To Ikenna Okonkwo, this was “the perfect idea”. He had just gotten back from the US, where he obtained a Master’s degree in Business Administration and was in search of a business idea that would be highly marketable as well as profitable. Through research, he realised that there was a big market for ladies’ shoes waiting to be tapped into. He decided to run with this idea and returned to Lagos to start heels.com.ng with Udoka Uzoka.
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Uzoka designed the website for the business using his IT skills and both partners developed a business plan. In an interview with African Start-Up, Okonkwo gave a detailed explanation of the steps they took to make their business sustainable.
“What we decided to do to make our business sustainable was to get access to about 50 designers around the world to give us their shoes at MSRP price. Secondly, after securing those licenses what we did next was to raise funds, and most of the bootstrap funds we started with were secured from family and friends,”
They then got local logistics companies to deliver their shoes across Nigeria; they were able to deliver within a time frame of one to two days in Lagos. The business started operations with 100 shoes and about 100 styles.
However, things were not so rosy for the startup in the first year
“The first year in business was an interesting one. Our collection had a wide range of sizes. [This] means that females with any size of shoes could come pick a shoe. However, being that we were male, we had to go through the size and style that Nigerian women actually wanted. So we brought in a stylist who checked our shoes. We go through those trends and so far we came out of it fine and we are good and grown”
Indeed, heels.com.ng has continued to wax strong. In 2015, the startup secured seed funding from US investors Kernel Fund, which invested $25,000 to 50,000 at the seed stage. This led to an expansion of the business’ product range and the recruitment of full-time staff.
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As of 2015, they had recorded over 500 styles and about 4000 shoes. They also boasted a shipped amount of over 8500 shoes, proving that the market is one with high demand.
On the future, Okonkwo envisages heels.com.ng being the one-stop-shop for female shoes.
“I see us going into making our own shoes to offer affordably. I know that from seeing what we’ve been selling before and knowing when we go into production of our own shoes, we can offer the same quality. So I see us having our own shoes in the near future,”
Featured Image Source: Manly NG
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