How Abiye, Yinka link buyers with verified sellers
Entrepreneurs in Nigeria have unique stories to tell. They are usually inspirational stories of how their entrepreneurial journeys started.
For Yinka Akinsulie and Abiye Alambo Briggs, the Founder and Co-Founder of ThePROfficers, their inspiration to establish an e-commerce platform came out of their desire to address some of the problems facing MSME operators.
ThePROfficers created a unique e-commerce solution that helps MSMEs take their businesses online speedily, seamlessly and affordably.
Amid the virus outbreak, ThePROfficers are helping small businesses who cannot afford the running costs of owning a website, sell their products online with the click of a button.
“We created a platform that will solve some problems MSMEs -who form a bulk of the drivers of the economy- face,” they say.
“We saw that MSMEs desire to maintain direct relationship and connection with their buyers. Another problem we noticed was that buyers want to buy from verified sellers,” they say.
After doing some research on what the ideal e-commerce platform could be, Yinka and Abiye established ThePROfficers in 2019 to address these problems.
Now, the business provides targeted marketing, e-commerce store management, social media marketing, video marketing, graphic designs and training, among others, for MSMEs using their platform.
Yinka and Abiye started their business with the money raised from their savings and also sourced additional capital from family and friends.
The Founders tell Start-Up-Digest that their business has grown tremendously since starting their operation with over a 100 registered vendors in Lagos, Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Ibadan ranging from hotels, restaurants, home businesses, spa and grooming, saloons and clothing stores.
“ThePROfficers currently has a team 2, at the moment,” they say.
“Our solution is a custom-built cloud-based solution with our app running on the Google Play store and the Apple store,” they add.
Speaking on what the business is doing differently to survive the country’s difficult operating environment that has forced many e-commerce businesses to shut down operations, the Founders say that the unique thing about their platform is that buyers buy their products below the current market prices.
“What we are poised to do differently, is ensure that sellers get paid immediately for their products sold. No intermediaries involved,” they further say
“Helping them work along the lines of cashless policy for their security and safety, with proper structure so that buyers are buying from registered businesses,” they explain.
The Founders say that the COVID-19 pandemic has made businesses in the country move most of their processes online, thus making the services they provide vital for them.
“When we started, we saw into the future. This prompted our vision and our model. It is a future where you can buy whatever you want to buy right from your home and pay to the seller you have not seen directly but are sure you know is verified with online real time receipt,” they say.
“It has revealed that our solution is one of the best answers for today’s problems meaning that with our contactless solution security is assured,” they state.
In evaluating the e-commerce industry, Yinka and Abiye say the industry has been progressive.
According to them, the industry is a learning curve that comes with its challenges. They note that the likes of Jumia and Konga have paved the way for others in the sector, thereby helping thousands of businesses in the country grow.
Nigeria’s 41.5 million MSMEs contribute 50 percent to Nigeria’s GDP and account for 86.3 percent of jobs (59.6million jobs in 2017), according to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN). Despite their contributions, they face several challenges ranging from poor infrastructure to low access to capital, among others.
It has not all been rosy for Yinka and Abiye as infrastructural challenges have continued to impact negatively on their business.
To address this, they urge the government to bridge the country’s huge infrastructural gaps and support small businesses with adequate finance.
Their business was selected in the innovator category of the 2020 Tony Elumelu Foundation.
On their advice to other entrepreneurs, “Get to work on your idea all day. Get into the market as quickly as possible and start iterating on your idea.”
“Stay dedicated to it too. But most importantly, tag along with industry experts, mentors and coaches,” the Founders say.