Ask around on what a typical person involved in the importing business looks like, and the general response would most likely be “male and middle aged.” This general perception is not far from the truth. The importing business is male dominated, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get its fair share of exceptions. Henrietta Onyeka is one of such exceptions.
No stranger to standing out and taking risks, Henrietta left her white-collar job three years ago after finding it unchallenging enough. “There were so many business steps that we could take,” she said about her former place of work. “But my former boss did not want to do things differently. So I figured, why not take the mantle myself and run a business that takes calculated risks. More precisely a business that imports directly from the source and delivers to everyone through the means of e-commerce.” Her decision led to the birth of Sprimall, an online e-commerce platform that offers varied products and services ranging from household items to items as unconventional as a 18ft Rectangular Metal Frame Pool.
Henrietta’s first days on the entrepreneurial path were a bit shaky. “To be honest, I was scared when I first ventured out. I had just rented a new place (to live) and I kept wondering what if I fail and lose everything? How do I pay all these bills? How do I take care of my younger ones?” She recollects about the early days. “I had to remember opportunities don’t happen, you create them. So despite all these questions I kept moving forward.”
To move forward, Henrietta started her business out of her new apartment, but as more orders grew and sales poured in, she rented another space for her business, this time with less apprehension and more confidence. Sprimall now has a staff strength of five persons and, although the business is still very much in its initial growth phase, it’s making more than enough to have Henrietta very optimistic about her chances of success. “Business growth isn’t a one day thing, so you have to constantly re-invest. That said, I’m really excited by how much we are making, even though there is still a very long road to where I hope will be in the near future. For now, my profits go right back into the business and everyone involved with it; I wouldn’t be doing that if I didn’t we were headed somewhere great.”
Looking back, Henrietta believes her work experience in the corporate world has been beneficial to her success “It’s true that some people do succeed without going through some corporate experience, but in my case, and in many other cases, the experience comes in handy. The structure, guidelines, and experience of working in the corporate world mixed with the boldness and creativity of the entrepreneurial spirit can be very helpful in making one attain success.”
Henrietta’s success has not been devoid of challenges. The entrepreneurial path, especially when it go through e-commerce, has several layers of hurdles. “One goes into e-commerce in order to avoid the challenges of a physical shop but you still end up meeting challenges there , especially when it comes to logistics,” Henrietta said. “I had one of such challenge when I had to deliver an 18 feet metal swimming pool from Lagos to Port Harcourt; delivering such a large product to another state was highly challenging.” It is here that Henrietta really loves the work being done by the SME MarketHub, a free e-commerce platform that allows small business owners to create and maintain an online presence and expand their business frontiers to new markets and millions of online buyers.
“It’s quite a hurdle getting deliveries right, but one platform has been helpful in tackling this challenge is the SME MarketHub,” Henrietta enthused. “The MarketHub always offers correct descriptions and presentation of my wares, such that when customers place orders, what they get meets their expectations.” In a day, we deliver quite a number of items and unlike other SME platforms I pay no commission. Even in recent times, when the general economy experienced a recession, our sales continued to grow because we sell products that solve people’s problems and are unlikely to be found in other stores, and I always ensure that my customers feel they are getting something more than their money’s worth.”
And how much is Sprimall worth? “All my time and energy,” Henrietta said. “I am not running out of steam anytime soon. I have huge ambitions for Sprimall, and this is just the beginning. I have a vision that someday Sprimall will be a household name; it is that vision that keeps me motivated every day.”