Philip Ochu is like most entrepreneurs – he has a thing for startup’s. Storefront Nigeria, which Philip is a co-founder of, is a site that helps you create an online presence for your business.
Philip likes to describe himself as “a geek at heart that is madly in love with technology.” A software developer and self proclaimed serial entrepreneur , it only made sense to think of a site like Storefront Nigeria
Asked who his greatest inspiration is and Philip replied, “My mom is what you’d call a “Business Woman” – this has a different meaning to a Nigerian. It meant she would travel a lot – Singapore, Hong Kong and bring products to sell back home. She did everything from toys, electronics even cement – so I have always had a soft spot for business owners but my passion is solving problems with technology.
Philip Ochu’s Interview
1. What problem(s) do you want to solve in Nigeria with the launch of Storefront Nigeria?
Business in Nigeria is fairly regional; one would even say in some cases that it is tied to the defined boundaries of your local government. Don’t get me wrong there are a number of companies that sell across regions – but they are few and far between. This usually means you have to be a big company (+500 employees) to really do business all over Nigeria.
The main problem we want to solve is enabling business owners with technology – specifically with Storefront; how to expand a business owners market share and customer base.
The thing is – there are more small to medium sized businesses in Nigeria – and their success is usually tied to the region they operate in. If I go to the regular store owner and say how about you keep running the business you love but instead of limiting your customer base to say Port Harcourt (your city) – how about we provide a service where you run your business normally but you are able to service customers in Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna – all while still running most of your regular business processes. I am yet to see a business owner not interested in that option. These problems are what Storefront Nigeria is all about – we want to help enable store owners and with time we believe we will.
2. Why is now the right time?
“Now” isn’t our first foray into technology startups on the Nigerian scene – we thought about this product around two years ago. Nigeria is still predominantly a “cash is king” society and so timing is everything.
Lets take a trip down memory lane – say 5 years ago:
- Did you have a Verve card, MasterCard, or Visa card?
- Did you pay with cash or your card when you ate out at restaurants?
- How did you pay your bills?
Let’s talk now:
- More people have access to the internet (Blackberry, Android & iPhones)
- Cashless society – MasterCard, Visa & Verve
- More use of the web daily – google search, read latest news, Facebook, tweet or BBM
- Nigerians are actually buying online (think Jumia and Konga)
3. What is the competitive angle that will enable you to succeed where others have tried and failed?
Very good question.
Storefront Nigeria is not simply a website – it is a selling solution offering:
- logistics services to get your products to your customers safely and on time
- payment collection – your customers can pay from any of their banks, ATM’s, quick teller or any of their cards
- custom design – want a really unique store design – different from any of the over 40 designs we provide let us know
- store setup
What differentiates us from any other ecommerce store provider in Nigeria is we really want our customers to succeed. Yeah thats sounds like hogwash – or like “marketing” talk but really think about it – how many Nigerian businesses do you know that provide services for free. We know this will not be for everyone and to make sure it really works for our customers we offer our services for free up with up to 50 products.
4. What experience do you want to create?
Simple – we want “raving fans.” To that end – we want our customers experiences to be so stellar – they feel the urge and need to share how we have helped them today.
I love it when our customers tell others about the excellent customer service they received or quality content that helped them make a business decision. We are really about serving our customers to the best of our abilities. We know we are far from the ideal experience we want our customers to have – but that’s what brings us back every day.
So to all our existing customers – if you are experiencing an issue please let us know – we really want to fix it – hit us up on our Twitter & Facebook pages – we really are listening.
5. How will you know when you have successfully delivered these experience?
I don’t know that we ever will reach that “nirvana” of raving fans – but I think it will be fairly easy to tell that we are making improvements. We are looking mostly at engagement – how our customers are communicating with us and others – the issues they are finding; how we are responding to our customers.
We know if we do right by our customers – they will do right by us and it is one of those things thats not easy to fake – and people can spot that – so hopefully a (good) vicious circle enfolds and we get more customers.
We also have an internal process we use to log issues or customer requests so nothing falls through a crack. We are not there yet – but expect many more improvements starting this year – we are only getting started.
Bonus Question: What book do you think everyone on your team should read?
I know you said 1 book..but I have 2 – hope that is fine.
- Raving Fans by Kenneth Blanchard – The title says it all.
- Lean Startup by Eric Ries – I love the approach to building businesses using validated learning