‘I want to bridge the gap between expensive and low-price quality fashion’

Sophia Ike-Onu is the Founder and CEO of The5kShop, a

Sophia Ike-Onu is the Founder and CEO of The5kShop, a fashion tech company in Nigeria aimed towards harnessing African craftsmanship in making affordable quality fashion accessible to consumers within and outside the continent.

Sophia is a trained architect and the winner of British Council enterprise challenge, bagging a scholarship to study entrepreneurship in the UK at Branson School of Enterprise. She is an entrepreneur who pioneers the fusion of fashion and technology in Africa with the vision that African fashion can compete globally.

Sophia has been mentored by Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic in the UK and is also a Virgin Atlantic Ambassador. She was named as one of the 100 most inspiring women in Africa by Leading Ladies Africa.

The5kShop has been featured on various notable media platforms including CNN for her work in supporting the local economy through enterprise. In this interview with MARIA DIAMOND, Sophia talks about the importance of shopping affordable, qualitative and accessible Made-in-Nigeria products.

Tell us about the The5kShop?

The5kShop is about creating the awareness that made in Nigeria products are fashionable and equates foreign products. It’s a fashion technology company; we sell fashion items made in Nigeria, all under N5, 000.

The plan was to bridge the gap between very expensive quality fashions and very low quality fashion, so we are at the middle ground. We sell quality fashion made in Nigeria under N5, 000.

We have been on for over three years and with the rate of patronage we get, we are trying to increase our capacity rate to meet up demands.

How would you describe the fashion industry in Nigeria?

Fashion for me is still at the edge stage in Nigeria, though very saturated but I feel like we’re not there yet. There are a lot of fashion businesses, but the niche is the important factor.

For me, I chose to create fashion and cater for the young and middle class population, the ones who want to look nice on a budget.

Many people are selling at exorbitant prices, which is far above the expenditure of the average Nigerian.

Even at N5, 000 we don’t believe we’re still super affordable but we’re getting there as the idea is to have Nigerians access standard fashion at very affordable prices without the feeling of wearing substandard quality as a result of low pricing.

What’s your take on quality control dependence on expensive price tag?

This is where social media comes in; it’s where we get across our message of quality assurance irrespective our low price.

We have tons of amazing women on our instagram page and words keep going round, creating more awareness of the fact that exorbitance does not necessarily equate quality.

I also go out there and make my point to clients, and people are beginning to trust in our delivery of quality at affordable prices.

We were at GTB Fashion Weekend and we had quite a number of patronages and people affirmed our quality standard as they interacted with our brand.

What inspired you to start 5Kshop?

About four years ago I was running my masters in the UK and, as a huge shopper, I realised that in the UK they have both affordable and expensive things and people can decide what they want to buy with the assurance of good quality however cheap.

But in Nigeria when it comes to quality, you either have to buy really expensive items or struggle at the local open market.

And in the open market, there is no return policy, once you’ve exchanged money that is the end irrespective of what fault you discover afterwards.

Also there is no quality control and usually their products are substandard.

So I wanted to have a combination of quality and affordability in a structured environment that is convenient to all without necessarily going to the market.

You just hit your computer or phone, and shop while we have it delivered within a day. So the idea is quality, affordability and accessibility.

Who are your customers, how do you deal with competition?

My customer is the average 18 to 35-year-old, the young dynamic Nigerian that is fashionable and doesn’t want to spend all their income on clothes. They want to look good and presentable with quality outfits, but still want to save and invest their money at the end of the month.

The best way to deal with
competition is to have a unique selling point, a value play and don’t copy. There is absolutely no need to worry about competitors cause there is market space for everyone.

Would you say your business has been lucrative?

Yes, there has been increase in revenue and as the winner of the enterprise challenge organised by the British Council, I got a grant for winning the first place position.

I was given money and sponsored to study in the UK with other entrepreneurs around the world. We were basically taught business.

Virgin Atlantic was also a sponsor and the founder Sir Richard Branson mentored me. A year after, I became the brand Ambassador of Virgin Atlantic.

It’s been running for two years, I have been on their billboard and a lot of greatness has been achieved courtesy of the opportunity given by the British Council.

Tell us about women in business in Nigeria. Would you say women are keying into business more than a 9-5 job?

Nigeria has the highest rate of women in business in the world; about 40 per cent of Nigerian women are entrepreneurs. For a woman to start a business in Nigeria with all the social conditioning, you must have passed the big hurdles. But irrespective the hurdles women are still thriving.

Yes, women are getting into business more and that’s partly because, it’s a lot easier for women to own businesses whilst running their family because most 9 to 5 jobs does not give flexibility, especially because of the hurdles surrounding mobility in the country.

Also, because 9-5 jobs in Nigeria is not exactly 9-5 anymore as these women end up staying late into the night at work making it almost impossible to tend to their family.

So there is a very high rate of female entrepreneurs in Nigeria, but I don’t believe in going into business because it’s a fancy thing to do or because it’s trending, you have to identify a problem and know that you’re actually trying to solve one through your business for it to be sustainable.

How do you feel about what you’re doing?

I feel fulfilled looking at our customers and most of them tag us on social media when they wear us. Seeing that people appreciate us and bring out their hard-earned cash to purchase my designs is a great feeling.

You know how people used to think made in Nigerian products are substandard, now it has all changed and people are buying made in Nigeria.

Where do you see yourself in a couple of years from now?

I am working on a women empowerment project at the moment because I was also empowered with a platform to rise by a number of organisations.

I want to empower women in different ways through creating opportunities and giving grants to empower them.

However, in a couple of years, considering the pace we’re moving, I hope to be running a multimillion-dollar company of made-in-Nigeria fashion products delivered to all around the world.

I want to have physical stores in and out of Nigeria because we only sell online at the moment.

Do you have time to relax?

Yes, I travel on vacation to detox from all the stress and work pressure.

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