Interview with Kelo Okeke, Founder Online retail store for African Streetwears


GeneAfrique BusinessBox is a section focused  spotlighting on African entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their chosen field. The purpose of this section is to promote and encourage entrepreneurship among young Africans.

GeneAfrique: Tell us about your educational background?
KO: I've spent my whole life in Lagos Nigeria. Secondary school was Kings College, Lagos and then on to University of Lagos where I got a BSc. in Biochemistry.

GeneAfrique: What lessons/insights did you gain from the corporate world that you've been able to apply to your own business?
KO: I’d say I learnt structure and professionalism from the corporate world. You learn to deliver, regardless.

GeneAfrique: How did you come up with the concept of
KO: I’ve always been interested in the business of fashion. While in the University, I figured there was a gap that needed to be filled in terms of distribution and I made a mental note to fill it when I got the funds. A few years down the line, I had the funds and decided to start Giddimint.

GeneAfrique: How would you describe Giddimint to a potential customer?
KO: The “awesomest” place to buy street wear in Africa.

GeneAfrique: How long has the company been in operation?
KO: 2 years now. We started in September 2011.

GeneAfrique: How long did it take to move the business from idea to reality?
KO: Like I said earlier, the idea came while I was still in school. So from then till I had something concrete, I’d say 5 years.

GeneAfrique: How was the business funded?
KO: I built Giddimint with the pay from my day job. I had a relatively great 9-5 fresh out of school, so I basically ploughed huge parts of my monthly pay into building Giddimint.

GeneAfrique: How did your educational background and experience help contribute to the vision and growth of the company?
KO: To be sincere, biochemistry bored me, but I always figured that if I could learn about proteins and genes and all that good stuff back then, then I could learn anything! I think one of my greatest gifts is the ability to learn and un-learn quickly.

GeneAfrique: What was technically the most challenging part of developing Giddimint?
KO: Technically, I’d say logistics.
Delivery logistics to be exact. It’s a total nightmare here in Nigeria. And to think the reputation of your brand is riding on that (literally) should make any entrepreneur wake up in cold sweat.

GeneAfrique:  What is it like managing your business? How many staffs do you currently have? 
KO: Managing any business is challenging but I think most entrepreneurs actually get highs off these challenges. I know I do. I’ve currently got four people working with me.
Great team.

GeneAfrique: Security is a major concern for Internet transactions, particularly in Nigeria. What security do you have in place on your site, and how would you reassure customers that their financial information is safe?
KO: Security is a constant cause for concern and we work closely with a 3rd party company to ensure that the financial information of our customers is safe.

GeneAfrique:  What is the one marketing strategy that has worked for you so far? How important has social media been to creating awareness for your website?
KO: The marketing strategy that has worked the most has got to be “word of mouth”. Our main focus is making sure our customers get more than they paid for and in so doing; we create Giddimint Apostles who help us spread the Giddimint Gospel far and wide.

GeneAfrique:  What has been the one biggest challenge getting the site to where it is today?
KO: I’d say infrastructure. It’s a herculean task to get the basic amenities needed to run a business and then you add the key components such as fast and reliable Internet. These are bound to put your business in a WWF chokehold.

GeneAfrique: What kind of feedback have you gotten so far? What is the worst review you have received so far?
KO: The feedback has been great, wonderful actually. We obviously struck a right chord with our target market and even though this may sound weird, we have never received a bad review. We are quite particular about the brands we put on our platform so we rest assured that the quality we push out there is top notch.

GeneAfrique: Why did you choose the African street style fashion market?
KO: That’s something I've always been passionate about and in this start-up jungle, passion is definitely a key ingredient to get you past some mountains. I also believe we as Africans should tell our stories ourselves, I’m trying to tell my version through street wear.

GeneAfrique: What is the one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
KO: Trying to do everything myself. I've learnt to delegate duties.

GeneAfrique: How do you differentiate your business from competition?
KO: We steady stay innovating. We’re the Christopher Columbus of this hustle so we’re drawing the blueprint for others to follow.

GeneAfrique: Which entrepreneur/person has inspired you the most and why?
KO: First would be my grand father, Dennis Okeke who pioneered the auto spare parts retail in Nigeria, which the Igbo tribe is largely known for today back in the ‘30s. Second would have to be Jay Z for staying musically and financially relevant for almost 15 years! Last but not least would be Jason Njoku of iROKO, whom I have the pleasure of working closely with. It’s amazing how someone that wealthy can be devoid of the usual trappings of wealth.

GeneAfrique: What is your long-term vision for Giddimint?
KO: The vision is to have kids in Johannesburg rocking street wear from some dude in Ibadan and vice versa. Basically, remove the physical borders that separate African countries and get these items to every nook and cranny of the continent.

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