If the story of Saudat Salami’s thriving online grocery business were a recipe, it would sound something like this: take a common challenge, add vision and a website developer with amazing problem-solving skills, then combine with passion, wisdom and patience.
The founder of Easyshop Easycook explains how the initial idea for her business came to her: “One of the challenges working women face is balancing work with home life. And then there’s the challenge of shopping for groceries in Lagos, where traffic is really bad and you can’t always find what you want. As a website developer, it occurred to me that I could develop an online grocery store that would solve this problem.” Easyshop Easycook was the result: an online marketplace where individuals and businesses can order fresh produce and have it delivered, in just a few clicks.
Patience and persistence
Saudat thoroughly tested out her idea before she fully launched the business in 2005, starting out with a team of two and very little working capital. Because online grocery shopping was not mainstream at the time in Nigeria, Saudat struggled at first to gain the trust of her customers. “People just weren’t used to buying food online from a stranger!” she recalls. Saudat overcame this by adapting her approach and business model, making a point of taking the time to visit almost all of her customers in person and allowing them to pay on delivery of their fresh food. She soon won their trust and loyalty and, with the help of platforms like Facebook and Instagram, she has been able to spread the word and build her customer base.
Today, Easyshop Easycook employs 25 people and delivers groceries daily to customers right across Lagos state. For Saudat, the satisfaction comes not only from being able to create jobs in her local economy, but also that she’s helping solve more than one societal problem. As well as delivering groceries to working women, Easyshop Easycook also delivers essential provisions to the elderly and bedbound, the less mobile and now, even corporate kitchens. She is convinced that problem-solving is the key to strategic success. “Always look to solving a problem,” she advises. “If you can commercialise the solution to a problem profitably, you will always be in business.”
Leading by example
With a successful business up and running, Saudat’s focus is now firmly set on the bigger picture—and that means identifying where she can help others turn a small idea into something big. “Being a female entrepreneur allows me to bring diversity and different perspectives to solving problems and running a business,” she explains. “It gives me the opportunity to show that women can be whoever they choose to be and inspire others that may have doubts. It’s my duty to make sure that the path that has been set by the women who came before me remains open and accessible to the women coming behind me.”
Breaking down barriers
In Saudat’s case, that means inspiring and encouraging women to take their ideas and turn them into a reality, despite the potential challenges and barriers they might face, such as lack of access to funding. She believes that both policy and active participation play an important role: “We need more women in politics and on boards, ensuring that there are policies to actively support and encourage women in business. We need to get more women educated and involved in empowerment programmes across all sectors and we need more women funding female-led businesses.”
As Easyshop Easycook continues to grow and Saudat reflects on her entrepreneurial journey, she is clear that nothing beats the hard work, vision and determination that have been some of the main ingredients of her success. But, she concludes, it’s important to maintain perspective, too. “Not all battles are about gender,” she notes. “We shouldn’t be paranoid about that.”
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