‘Personal struggles led me into starting my own business’

Mojisola Oyedele is the co-founder of Ace wash and Dry. Boasting of over four years extensive business strategy and optimisation experience in the downstream oil and gas sector and sales working, Moji left that world behind and presently leads up the growth and revenue teams at Ace wash, Speaking with The Guardian at the launch of the venture in Lagos, she disclosed how personal frustrations led her into starting her own business, challenges she faced while starting out and how she raised funding amongst other issues.

How did you venture into dry-cleaning business from the world of oil and gas? Even though I never knew I would be in this field, I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and starting Ace Wash and Dry stemmed from my own personal experiences when I was holding a 9-5 job. I recently moved to Lagos from Kaduna and I lived in Lekki while working at Ikoyi. I used to wake up at 4:00a.m daily to get to work for 8:00a.m latest, because of the traffic.

During the weekends, I just wanted to rest and trying to wash clothes when tired, coupled with the erratic weather was just so frustrating.

The few times I decided to contract my washing out to a washman was extremely expensive; as they washed one shirt for N400 and a dress for N600. This wasn’t sustainable as I wasn’t earning so much at the time and this was like a luxury. I believe that clean clothes are a necessity, not a luxury and I asked myself, “what’s the solution for people like me?” When doing my research amongst friends and co-workers, I realised that we were all going through the same thing as well, however, I would say I was inspired primarily from my own frustrations.

What are some of the issues you have faced since starting out?
One of the major problems we face is erratic power supply. The high cost of generating power is extremely crippling. Many times, I’ve had cause to ask myself if the business is worth pursuing and almost gave up several times but luckily for me, the machine manufacturers considered the Nigerian market and understood our realities as a country and proffered me a solution. Our machines are powered by LPG gas and they are energy efficient; even our washers run on half current as well. The challenges are still there everyday but we were able to work and overcome them.

Another problem I faced was dealing with customs and the high fees when bringing things into the country, transporting them down here and so on, all these were extremely frustrating. Getting good technicians that understand how to properly fix the machines was also extremely tough.

What sets you apart from your competitors seeing as this isn’t a new business?
I believe this is the first Laundromat where customers can wash, dry and fold 10kg of clothes, which is approximately 25 clothing items all under one hour, and are charged N1, 500 only. We currently have two services, the self service – where customers operate the machines themselves and the drop-off option – where customers can drop off their clothing items, indicate how they want them washed and we charge N2, 100 for this service.

How did you get funds to start?
I was very fortunate to pitch my idea to investors who understood that clean clothes are a necessity. Once I did my numbers and sold the idea to them, they were more than happy to invest in the business. I had angel investors who gave me seed money to start but had to do three rounds of pitches to get the needed money. Of course, these monies came with a lot of agreements and structuring but they were happy to fund the business.

I’ve been quite fortunate to have the support of people that believe in this dream such as the chairman of the launch, Dr Joseph Sanusi and Dr Demola Sogunle.

You mentioned that you also run a co-working space, tell us about that?
Yes, the Laundromat also has a co-working space, and it is something I would describe as a huge necessity because of the astronomical cost of setting up a business in Nigeria.

When I left my job, I struggled to find a condusive place to work. Most times, I would decide to go to a restaurant that has free Wi-Fi but it was so distracting as there would be so much noise.

As it wasn’t my space, they were not bound to meet my needs, as they were there to entertain and be entertained. It was such a struggle to run my project in that kind of environment, but I didn’t have enough money to rent a space anywhere. I quickly discovered that this wasn’t peculiar to me, people who are transiting jobs or looking to start out their own business, whether it’s a one-man business or starting out with a team, we all faced this issue. With this at the back of my mind and powered with my own feasibility studies, I was confident in starting out my own co-working space.

There are many co-working spaces in Lagos, what makes yours different?
I’m aware that there are already dozens of co-working spaces in Lagos, but I feel that most other co-working spaces do not offer real time support. Most of these other spaces just provide a desk and chair, no real support, no networking opportunities.

We are more than just selling a desk and a chair space; we’re actually offering a full package. We have partners willing to work with entrepreneurs, whether they’re one year or six months up to five years in business to help them structure their business in a way that they can scale up. We are targeted at everyone really; there is no limit to age or range, everyone is welcome.

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