We were fresh off counting down to New Year 2017; I was coming off of a difficult time. The year that had just passed took along a lot of people that were quite close to me — including my best friend of 20+ years. I chose the entrepreneurial life because I didn’t want to die with my dreams. Once in a while, the death of loved ones reminds me that there’s still a lot to be done and I can’t afford to rest now.
As marriage and relative comfort have rendered me slightly lethargic, I’ve been trying to find the Kelo that started (the now defunct) Giddimint, an eCommerce store for indigenous urban wear. Battle weary from the past few years, I fear this young man currently runs the risk of building a house at the watering hole he stopped to “rest for a bit”.
I’ve long felt the need for an avenue to express myself. So, I have decided to let my thoughts, feelings and emotions out by writing about them. Starting with Giddimint.
Losing your business is like losing a loved one. One day it’s there, giving you joy and fulfillment. Then, suddenly it’s gone. Poof! Never to return.
I wrote this autopsy report mainly for two reasons:
- So I can hopefully exorcise myself of some thoughts that have plagued me since the store closed down.
- Because I think I owe loyal Giddimint followers and customers an explanation.
I was always intrigued by fashion and style growing up; I fell in love with art at about age six after a family friend taught me how to draw. That became my first love. I spent my most blissful moments sprawled out on the living room floor, drawing some comic character.
I discovered Hip-Hop around the time I first heard Fu-Schnickens over the radio at a neighbor’s house during Christmas. The music led me to the culture. My interests in style, art and business culminated in my passion for the business of fashion. In 2004, I created a t-shirt line after I met an underground legend called Rudolph who taught me the basics and introduced me to other OG’s like Laze and Hypno.
In 2007, I created a fashion retail store called R.A.D.E in a space I shared with my sister. The store died a natural death when I went off for my National Youth Service the year after. I sold off everything when I got back and signed up for a 9 to 5 with Hewlett Packard.
The plan was always to save up enough money from my day job to open up a new store. I had discovered some really cool Nigerian brands such as Allen and Fifth, Cool Beans, Agama and NS1463. These guys were doing great stuff and I had made up my mind that my new store would stock only local brands and serve as a platform for them. I moved quickly and registered the business. While talking to my friend Stephanie Obi, I was convinced to create an eCommerce store instead of a physical store.
I built the first version of the store myself using an online template off Jimdo.
With my new team members, the business became more focused and grew but we were all basically winging it. So I sought out a mentor. I happened to come across Jason Njoku’s blog and, after going through his posts for a few hours, I knew that I had to meet him. I tapped into my network to see if anyone could set up a meeting but that didn’t work so I reached out to him on Twitter and he responded, very much to my surprise. I sent him an email explaining my business and how I thought it could benefit from his knowledge; he asked me to meet him in his office the next day. I took that meeting and thus began a journey that changed my life.
At my first meeting with Jason and his partner Bastian Gotter, they offered to invest in my budding eCommerce platform from their investment company called SPARK. I accepted this on the spot and I officially quit my job a month later. Heady days.
I resumed at Giddimint full time in April 2013 and pulled the shutters on the business in August 2015. Between then and now, I have had a lot of time to think about the things that I did wrong or could have done better. Let me enumerate them here.
- No Set Goals: This may seem fundamental but I never set any concrete goals for the business. Of course, I had this great vision of building the biggest online urban fashion platform in Africa. But, I never defined short-term milestones that were going to ensure we got to this grandiose goal — or at least show we were on the right track. This meant we survived month on month with no idea of how well we were doing or how much we were growing. We just kept moving.
- Poor Negotiating Skills: At my first meeting with Jason and Bastian, they made me an investment offer I wasn’t expecting; I pondered over it for a few minutes and then accepted. I neither bargained nor negotiated. With this, I never felt I got the right valuation for my business or maybe I did. We will never know.
- Poor Finance Management: In the 2+ years of the business’ existence, I only got an accountant to manage the books in the second half. I have little to no financial accounting skills apart from basic arithmetic so this meant the books were a mess in the first year of business.
- Wrong hires: I made a few recruitment errors that cost us money we didn’t really have. To further compound this, I always took too long to let them go because I found this practice very uncomfortable: I always put it off for longer than I should have.
- Over-estimating our runway: I was always under the impression that we would get further investment from our initial investors. So even though I was prudent with expenses, I didn’t focus on self-sufficiency as the immediate goal. This only happened when we ran out of money and SPARK wasn’t keen on making further investments.
Overall, it was a great experience; I would definitely give it another go (with less mistakes) if ever given the opportunity. And I would like to thank Jason for taking a risk on an inexperienced founder.
To be clear, this isn’t to trade blames or call out anyone for real or perceived wrongs. I’m putting this out there for posterity and if I can get just one person to learn from it, then I’m good. In the wise words of Kendrick Lamar…
When the lights shut off and it’s my time to settle down, my main concern: Promise that you will sing about me.