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Ever had been inspired by a brilliant idea, then immediately dismissed it as impossible for the Nigerian market? We’re talking about those ideas that people deem “too foreign” for Nigerians to patronise or appreciate. These foreign concepts may actually end up being  your ticket to being a Motherland Mogul.

Two women who have pushed through in their attempts to introduce concepts and made profit doing so are Tokunbo Sotinwa of Bubble Tii and Crystal Ikanih of Art Splash Studio. Tokunbo and Crystal show us that it is possible to replicate something from the US and Taiwan in Nigeria. They are also both currently participating in SLA’s Accelerator program.

If you’ve never heard of bubble tea before, it is flavoured tea with tapioca pearls. The idea for bubble tea was born in Taiwan and subsequently the trend spread to other Asian countries before gaining popularity across the world.

Tokunbo is credited with bringing the bubble tea phenomenon to Nigeria to surprisingly good results —Bubble Tii has managed to expand locations to a second store within 12 months of launching the first.

Art Splash Studio organises painting classes for grown-ups in Abuja. The idea came from when its founder Crystal Ikanih was visiting friends in the US. So what do both women say about tailoring a “foreign concept” to the Nigerian market?

Creating a demand where there was none previously

You can expect that this will be very challenging. For Tokunbo, people did not know anything about bubble tea in Nigeria. She overcame this challenge by first starting off by appearing at outdoor events. This helped introduce her product to her targeted demographics. Bubble Tii also appeared at pop-up events where people were offered to taste different flavoured bubble teas.

While there was no specific demand for painting classes in Abuja, Crystal saw an opportunity in the demand for alternative entertainment. You’ve surely heard people complain about how Abuja can be boring. Crystal is tapping into this market with Art Splash Studio and her Paint Nite, where people paint while drinking wine.

Another important way to create demand is through social media. Social media is a very effective tool to create buzz.

Sharpening your marketing tools

Already knowing that introducing the concept of a paint class wouldn’t be easy for the Abuja crowd, Crystal took the time to draw up a marketing plan. Be like Crystal and find ways to develop a very informative marketing plan to actually ensure that people are willing to invest their money in your idea.

You may start by introducing the concept to your networks and gauging how people respond to it. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter if people don’t understand your idea, if it’s a good one, you can trust that once you launch, it’ll take a life of it’s own.

toks sla accelerator bubble tii
Tokunbo Sotinwa, founder Bubble Tii

Getting people on board with your idea

Now people have heard about your foreign concept and are interested, what other ways can you get them on board with your idea? The most simple way to do this is through word of mouth. It’s worked wondered for both Bubble Tii and Art Splash Studio.

For Tokunbo, once one person had the bubble tea experience, they were happy to tell other people. Word of mouth has also helped Crystal grow her business. She’s reached a point where now when she’s telling someone about Paint Nite, they’ve already heard about it.

Imagine if your customers are so pleased with your product, they spread the word. So you want to start a café that only sells tea. Someone may caution that Nigerians don’t really do tea, who wants to drink tea when the weather is hot etc. But if you set up that café and wow your customers with different flavoured ice teas and tea-themed cakes, they’ll definitely come back and bring their friends too.

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