Building a Retail Empire 1k at a Time: Temitope’s Nigerian Hustle

Now we are on course to redefining the notion that quality has to do with the price

Temitope Banwo had always believed that quality clothing should be available to everyone at an affordable price. She was unhappy at how wares bought at low prices in discount stores abroad would end up being resold at outrageous prices at home. “I particularly felt for corporate workers who have to patronise these retailers out of genuine need to look good for their jobs, but don’t earn enough to take care of all their needs,” she said. “I wanted to create a brand where I could help such people shop as much as they want without having to sacrifice other needs due to pricing.”

This ideal, plus the business that she could build out of low cost clothing, spurred Temitope to build up business partners who believed in thesame vision. She then travel abroad and purchase bags of low-priced, high quality wares. She filled her two bedroom boy’s quarters in Lekki to the brim with the goods and invited her friends who work in corporate organizations to come and take a look. Every item that they saw there, she told them, went for One Thousand Naira only, nothing more. By the time they finished going through her stock, they snapped up everything that was remotely their size or the imagined sizes of their friends and loved ones. Motivated by the positive reception of her wares, Temitope finalised her business plans, incorporated the enterprise and aptly named it 1k Empire Stores.

                                  Temitope rocks a top from her store


Growing the 1k Empire

Sales grew as word-of-mouth brought more customers to Temitope’s door until it became apparent that 1K Empire needed to have a store and not just sell from home. A vigorous store hunting led her to the hub of Gbagada’s business district, Diya Street, where she got the building she had her eyes on. “When I first laid my eyes on the building I knew it was what I wanted but it looked occupied because there were people in it and nothing indicated it was for rent then the agent arrived and told us it was available though it had some outstanding bills. We paid for the place, cleared the bills, and moved in.”

Business continued to move fine for 1k Empire, but Temitope knew that if she was going achieve real business growth, she needed more Capital. She reached out to friends and family and succeeded in raising fresh capital from them. “My loved ones weren’t just supportive, they trusted me,” Temitope enthused. “They said to me, ‘if you’re going to go through loss, we will go through it together. If you go through profit we will go through it together.’ They understood that my primary reason to start this business was not to make money but to make people happy and the truth is when you make people happy, it will bring money.”

Now, Temitope’s 1k empire has clothing, household and other accessories for everyone, “from babies to grandmas,” and she no longer has to do much convincing for more people to patronise her. “I let people see the 1K Empire products and they (the products) speak for themselves. A lot of people that are new (to our products), especially when they order on the SME Markethub, ask about the quality of our wares because of the pricing, then I invite them to the store and those that honour my invitation often end up buying much more than they ordered online.”

Building for the Future

It wasn’t easy for Temitope to achieve business stability. “Sometimes I would to drive around Lekki environs, where I lived, park by roadsides and invite people to come check out my low-priced high quality wares,” she reminisced. “Now we are on course to redefining the notion that quality has to do with the price,” she adds.  Changing people’s perception towards quality and pricing isn’t Temitope’s sole challenge, she is also having to battle down overhead costs, which range from paying staff and running the outlets to taking care of regulatory fees and taxes.

“The costs can be quite suffocating,” laments Temitope. I think Small and Medium Enterprises like ours need a lot more assistance from the government and other big institutions. “Thus far, it’s only GTBank who has directly helped our business by providing us with the SME MarketHub, which offers us a free online platform to market our goods. We’ve gotten calls from their ads on IG, BBM, and on the main site. It’s not unusual for us to sometimes get overwhelming orders from our SME Markethub platform and the best part is every customer from the platform sticks to us. They always come back”

Just over 18 months in existence, 1k empire now has two outlets in Lagos and Abeokuta (in Ogun State). The patronage that the business continues to enjoy gives Temitope the confidence that her business idea is not only profitable, but also sustainable. “I am not trying to create a 1pound store in Nigeria, I am trying to create a sustainable solution that would help you shop and not risk financial stability. Someday 1K Empire would be a household name with its own shopping mall (we are strongly working on that) and we will remain dedicated to goods sold for only N1,000,” she enthused. “1k Empire has barely scratched the surface of the dreams and I strongly believe that the best is yet to come.”

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