My foray into the world of crafts began shortly in 2014 after my final year examination as an undergraduate. Throughout my time in school, I had attended several conferences focused on entrepreneurship and also participated in some business-related programs. My mind had thoroughly consumed an understanding that owning a business was the future.
As a young woman preparing for her media career in showcasing African businesses, I believed I had to understand how to either own or work in one. Initially, I wanted to learn how to sew, but I decided to go into bead making because there were very few people in the business.
It was all fun and games in the beginning as it didn’t take so much time to learn. As a matter of fact, it was my only means of survival during my one year stay in Nigeria’s Jos, Nigeria for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. However, I soon learned that small businesses required more than “fun and games.”
Running a small business requires more than time and concentration. Especially in a creative industry, it requires value, consistency, and direction. I had to learn it the hard way.
Clients had various options to select. As a small business owner, I needed to find out how to convince a customer to choose my services over another. Having lived in Lagos and Ibadan, Jos was a whole new town for me. I didn’t know anyone apart from the ‘NYSC family’ and the few people at the company I was serving at.
Running my business went beyond familiarity and excellent communication. It had more to do with my positioning, people’s perception of my brand and my ability to stay true to my core values.To run a small business is not as juicy as it seems- Abiola Seriki Click To Tweet
At the initial stage, some of the key strategies I discovered and infused into my business included:
I had to learn how to make other kinds of bead designs that weren’t in vogue. There were several bead designs that every regular bead maker or buyer was used to. The idea was to make people want something different.
Thus, I decided to create casual designs rather than those for bigger occasions, such as weddings. At first, it was quite challenging to convince people to wear handmade beaded accessories on a casual outfit, but after a few marketing opportunities, I soon started building a small fan base.
In Jos, I didn’t have an understanding of how the market worked, but there was one thing I knew; quality didn’t come cheap. Using valuable tools to create an accessory meant investing in a lot of money yet I needed to make something that regular NYSC members could afford as well.
I focused on buying just one type of bead in bulk so that I could design as many styles as I wanted and sell them for a lesser price. However, I still placed a higher value on quality than quantity.
I created products that were meant for a select audience- millennials. A majority of bead designs I saw at the time I started bead making was crafted for the older audience. Except for brides, a majority of women wearing beaded styles were older women in their 40s.
I decided to craft my designs to suit younger ladies. A few weeks later, I launched a line for bracelets to cater for the ladies who aren’t really into wearing beaded necklaces.
Word of mouth marketing
I also had a lot of talking to do at the beginning. There were times when I had to go talk to someone and convince them to buy my product even if they didn’t want it. I remember being shunned off at some occasions.
However, although quite an introvert, I am talkative. So it was quite easy to incorporate word of mouth marketing into selling. My target then was men. It was easy to get them to buy for their significant other.
As an undergraduate, I had a part-time work as a social media marketer for brands. Thus, with my knowledge of social media marketing, I was able to find audiences that were far away from me. I used my private Twitter account as my major store until I recently opened an Instagram store.
I had to incorporate delivery services at a point when orders came from places farther than where I was. At the moment, my major sales and marketing channel is online. I have no physical store. I am currently rebranding my digital marketing strategy to fit into my creative direction.
I blog about small businesses and startups. Over the past two years, I have been able to understand how some of these firms operate. I realized that I couldn’t possibly be sharing all these success stories and not be able to build a successful business as well.
So sometimes, I take the time to read these interviews that I had held, to learn how I could make things work for my business. Other times, I ask the business owners for personal mentoring sessions from them.
To run a business is not as juicy as it seems when you read or watch the stories of how founders build empires. However, it’s not difficult either if you are willing to adhere to your values. I currently manage my small business with several other things I do, and I haven’t regretted starting in the first place.