MARCH 2011 CUSTOMER OF THE MONTH
Adedoyin Otunuga of Trendy Clothing, Nigeria
Our March success story is of a woman who started a business out of a need she identified in her home country of Nigeria, shortly after giving birth to her child. Adedoyin Otunuga started a dual-channel resale business in April of 2010 after resigning from a banking job. She had just delivered her baby and quickly discovered that quality kid’s clothing in Nigeria was very expensive, and she then decided to open a business to fill the widespread need for quality apparel at affordable prices.
When first researching products to import from overseas, she realized that shipping small lots would cut into her profits too much, and that the cheaper way to bring goods into the country would be in larger bulk shipments. Finding herself with ample product to resell, Adedoyin opened a small store where she caters to retail customers who are looking for good deals on kids clothing by the piece, as well as a wholesale division where she sells wholesale lots of adult clothing at cheaper prices to Nigerian based retailers. In 11 short months, her startup business is now her primary source of income.
“I decided to focus my primary business on children’s clothing because parents will always think of their kids before themselves,” she says. “I chose clothing and accessories for my wholesale division because they are the types of items that everyone needs all the time. It’s consistent and dependable.” She explains that while she is trying to fill a demand in the market, she doesn’t just source any type of clothing. While offering good prices is clearly a priority, “[she] always makes sure the merchandise [she] buys is either overstock or shelf pulls and of good quality.” Both her retail and wholesale operations depend on repeat business and providing quality items at fair prices is more important than poorer quality items at rock bottom prices. “I make sure the children’s clothing I buy has tags and I sell at half the tag price,” she explains. “The adult clothing I sell at wholesale, with or without tags. I always remove any items that are in any way damaged, stained or torn beyond repair, which is usually around 5% of any overstock load I buy.”
“Taking this into consideration, I expect to make at least 50% profit on my items once I factor in the freight costs from the US to Nigeria,” she states. A tricky part of importing assorted wholesale lots from abroad is that of customs clearance. Most countries place restrictions on certain types of items, or require paperwork that is not readily available when purchasing liquidated goods. For this reason, Adedoyin recommends finding and using experienced forwarding agents, rather than handling the international shipment herself. “I use the internet to find lists of freight forwarders that ship to Nigeria and I make sure they have experienced clearing agents to help me follow up on my goods and their delivery,” she explains. While the forwarding agents to charge a premium for their services, it is still more cost-effective than being hit with potentially exorbitant customs fees once the goods arrive at their destination.
Since its inception, Adedoyin’s business has grown from word of mouth, and she also leverages the use of text messaging to notify her customer base of new arrivals or special offers. “There is a lot of competition but I beat them hands down with lower prices and better quality of clothing,” she says. “I get a lot of referrals from customers who appreciate the quality of the clothing I sell.” Since her store is based on quality items at lower prices than those of her competitors, she does not offer discounts on individual items but rather offers volume discounts to those who buy a certain number of pieces and up. Depending on the item, this “minimum order to qualify for a volume discount” changes. “It encourages people to purchase more items to get the lower price. They walk out happy, and so do I.”
Adedoyin has been working with Via Trading since September of 2010. “I have two suppliers in the US, but my major one is via Trading as they offer excellent customer service and fast shipping. It’s important for me to have my goods delivered to my freight forwarder quickly so I can get the orders forwarded to my store on a regular basis,” she explains. “Customer service is a top priority for me and when I made my first inquiry and got a prompt reply from Via, I knew I was in the right place. I get discouraged when there’s no feedback to inquiries,” she adds. Thank you Adedoyin, we’re glad to be working with you!
Having built this successful business from the ground up by herself, Adedoyin has learned a thing or two about getting started. “If you’re an exporter who already knows what to sell, do thorough research before you choose a supplier. Make sure you’re dealing with honest people who have the products in their possession and can deliver them quickly,” she suggests. She also recommends working with an experienced freight forwarder to avoid negative surprises at customs.
“The most valuable lesson I’ve learned,” she says, “is to exercise patience when starting a business and to not expect to hit it big on the first try. You need to nurture it when you’re just starting out and do not ever compromise on quality as it determines whether you will make headway in the business or not.” We agree!!
Adedoyin Otunuga’s store is called Trendy Clothing and is located in the city of Abeokuta in Ogun State, Nigeria.