Caleb Effiong is the CEO of Just Gadgets who has been at the forefront of all kinds of gadgets and accessaries. In this interview, he revealed his business experience and some of the challenges affecting entreprenuers in the country.
Let’s meet you.
My name is Caleb Effiong and I am from Akwa Ibom state but then I grew up in Calabar where I had my secondary school education at the University of Calabar International School, UCISS. My fond memories of growing up in Calabar will be playing football in the streets with my friends and playing with table top counters soccer game. By the time I was ready for university, I began to come to Lagos. This is because I attended Covenant University, Ota where I studied Banking and Finance. During this time, my life revolved around Ota – Lagos – Calabar. I have always been very passionate about gadgets, as I can spend hours looking at products, their functions and what works. I have also been very fortunate to have used all sorts of devices over the years – ipods, headsets, macbooks. To say that I love gadgets would be an understatement. I am living my passion by selling gadgets.
Why this line of business
One great motivation for me coming into the space was the opportunity to do some good by solving a serious problem – mosquitoes. Being able to provide gadgets and tools that can reduce malaria was kind of like my contribution to society. I am currently researching on repellants that can also work well in reducing mosquitoes. I love audio and sound. My unique selling point has always been to sell products that are durable and affordable. My thesis is very simple – many Nigerians can’t afford top of the shelf music accessories – air buds, so why don’t I provide them with alternatives that are cost friendly, durable and work very well? I first test these products out with family and friends, once there is a generally acceptability in use and performance, I scale up and push the products out there to many people. To make people happy, you have got to give them value for money.
How did you start?
I am so proud of what the business has done and very much excited about how the partnership with Sendy has panned out. The business is very young. I made my first purchase in September 2021 and the goods arrived around the end of March this year. And so, I started selling actively in March and to God’s glory, I have done about 8 figures in the space of 4 months. The numbers look good and we continue to gain traction. The story of how I started out is actually very funny. I used to sell houses with my friends and this was a very hard and slow business. But then after I got my first deal, I took about N200,000 from it to start off. However, there was a big challenge as I needed to pay around N300,000 for clearing the goods upon arrival. Sourcing for money is a challenge that comes with the territory when you are starting out. Thankfully, because I have a good track record of being honest and transparent with my friends – Jide, Emmanuel and Eniola, bailed me out and gave me the money to complete payment for the initial stock of goods. I have since paid them all back for this initial seed funding that helped to give birth to Just Gadgets.
Challenges faced when starting out
One challenge I know a lot of entrepreneurs’ face is around what will my family say or think? After spending 4 years in university, you now want to be an online seller? My family has always known that I have a strong business acumen and my dad also being an ICAN Fellow, this gave me a soft landing – they accepted me and prayed for me and gave me lots of support to grow.
Typically, when you are starting out in my kind of business, you’ll need a store. And when you have a store, there are associated costs – rent, generator, hiring a store assistant to attend to customers when you’re around. Which is why I have been very relieved ever since I found out about Sendy Fulfillment. I make bold to say that Sendy is the reason I am successful today. They helped me to warehouse my goods, package them and the communication is seamless. We have grown in multiples off the back of Sendy’s sterling ability to pick, pack and ship my products efficiently and on time and the most interesting part is that we have our engagements on their app.
Growing the business
Three things have enabled the growth of my business would be Sendy, my hard work and my love for research.
Hard work is very important. I am constantly researching about product improvements and new products that can add value to people’s lives. I also take customer feedback very seriously as I used them as a mechanism for paying attention to trends and patterns. Since I do most of my business on Twitter, I have seen growth in my impressions and followers’ count which started at about 1,000 but now we have done about 5X that number. Because of the level of trust and transparency I have demonstrated, I have many returning customers. My friends are also a good sounding board for me – I tell them that if they see any viral product they like, they should share with me so that I can check it out.
Developing strategic partnerships is a key growth lever in business and for me, my business relationship with Sendy has helped my business grow. More people know me now because I have increased my delivery volumes from 100 to about 300 and this is directly attributable to Sendy. The more people you attend to, the more people know you, and when you deliver a good product with good customer service that Sendy provides, the positive word of mouth also gives your business the boost it needs to grow.
Improving the Digital Economy
There is need to increase investments in digital infrastructure. Government and the big players must strive for this. As an online business, I use data a lot because I need to be online every time. Imagine the net gains of making data more affordable, clearly a lot more people will be come on board and better their lives using the internet. Secondly, we need to create more tech solutions. I mean, imagine we created or had more platforms like Sendy Fulfillment to solve the infrastructural challenges around order fulfillment, the ecosystem is better of and a lot more value can be created. If we are going to move to the next level and compete globally, government must look into these things because of the huge job creation and economic development that can happen.
On financing, which is another growth enabler, we need to take a cue from the Asian economies and serve the bottom of the pyramid. But then, we also need to deal with the trust deficit. I have conversations with managers of Micro Finance Banks and they have experiences where they have supported a business with capital and the business owner uses the money to get a car, or to organize a burial or even marriage instead of using it to grow the business. So legit business owners like me have to go through a lot of hoops to access financing.
A Word for Entrepreneurs
I won’t say it’s easy to start or run a business. But then, if you have people that trust you with money, then hard work is a critical success factor. What’s your passion? What do you like? There is a truism that when you bring 10 successful entrepreneurs together, they’ll almost have the same answers around how passion has brought them so far. Stay where the action is – for me that’s online. Also, be honest in your dealings. We need to rid ourselves of wanting to cheat the next guy or doing dodgy things. If a customer has a genuine complain about any product, I am always ready to provide a replacement. I put in the work and Sendy helps me curate a fine customer experience – prompt delivery, safe storage and fine packaging. Building authentic customer relationships is also key. You must be able so solve crisis and resolve problems by keeping a calm head. And lastly, self-belief is important.