Mall for Africa is an online platform designed to help shoppers in Africa buy goods online from major US and UK retailers. For consumers the service eliminates the need to worry if the products they want will be shipped to Africa, or if the foreign retailers will accept their local credit cards or mobile payments.
The company was founded by Chris Folayan. He said, I was born and raised in Nigeria and moved to America to attend college. However, I was regularly travelling home to visit my family. Each time I let them know that I’d visit I received long lists of items to bring with me from the US. This trend somehow grew in my personal circles.
Well, I found it difficult to turn people down, and one day I took more than the allowed number of suitcases to the airport and was told I couldn’t board the plane even if I was willing to pay for extra luggage.
Bottom line is that the list had become so long that I knew there was a strong demand, and when such demands are not met you have an amazing opportunity to do business.
I ended up building an app, and I first tested it with family members. It worked! Those who tried it loved it.
Today I’m proud to say that we operate out of huge warehouses in the US and UK, and we are growing the fast shipping of goods daily into Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.
But what is Mall for Africa doing to empower local African entrepreneurs, in addition to opening the African consumer market for western brands?
Mall for Africa is also a platform that empowers Africans. For example, we help schools with books, supplies, computers and educational material. We help hospitals order equipment they were not able to get shipped to them before. We have also helped many people start businesses. One day I got an email from a lady who was so grateful for the Mall for Africa platform as she was able to order a sewing machine no one else was ever willing to bring or ship to her. When she received the item she finally started her own small business with the only sewing machine in her small town.
But there is more: Now that we have the attention of US and UK retailers knowing they can use our platform to tap into a powerful African consumer market at no risk, we have started to turn the dynamics around a bit. We want them to stock African brands in their shops thus empowering our African designers to sell from our platform, too.
Chris also offers advice for people who want to launch a business but worry about lacking funds for start-up capital, the inherent risks, or even finding a location.
You can’t succeed if you don’t start. Start your idea with friends and family being your focus group. Also make sure the market is in need of your product and then push ahead. In Africa it’s key to have connections in place. Make sure you build them.
Have a great marketing plan. The American or British marketing plans will not work in Africa. You need an African marketing plan. Always seek advice and mentorship from those in the country you wish to serve. Take the company as far as you can with your proof of concept, then seek investor start-up capital, as I have done.
The further you can take the idea yourself the easier it will get funded – and the more fundable you will become for investors. It’s a journey worth taking because you contribute towards Africa’s success while building your own – and that’s a journey filled with joy.
Now over to you. Let me know your thoughts on start-up success or Africa business development in the comments.