On Everyday People, we’ve talked to a range of people. From one of Enugu’s popular YouTubers to an Instagram thrift clothes vendor. We’ve also talked to a DJ who teaches kids to code and a lawyer teaching people about intellectual property, one podcast episode and Twitter thread at a time.
I’ve loved talking to every person I’ve featured in this series, today’s guest included.
Omowunmi, or as most people call her, Mummy Mohammed, is a wholesale trader of household provisions. Just as with our last Everyday Person, this is a family business. Her mother has been a trader for over 20 years, selling in the same shop where she currently plies her trade.
A business administration graduate from the Kwara State Polytechnic, Kwara State, she tells me about the challenges of running a wholesale business in an area filled with territory clashes and how she saves costs on running her business.
This is an unusually long intro, but I hope you enjoy her story.
I sell [wholesale] provisions; the same thing my mum has sold since I was a child. I liked the business, and that is why I established mine.
We thank God, we are trying because it’s not been easy. Every day all these things increase so we are managing the ones we have. And customers understand; they know how business is now.
Everybody knows that if you buy goods today, the price would have increased when you go to stock up tomorrow. If they’ll buy, they’ll buy. Some will say they’ll go and check other places to make sure I am no the one who added money. They’ll go and if they meet the same price, they will come back to by from me.
But I don’t post my things online.
You see this carton of biscuits? I bought it for ₦4,250 ($9.7), I will sell it for ₦4,400 ($10), and my gain [profit] is ₦150 ($0.3). If I post it, somebody at Mile 2 might ask me to supply them. How much is my gain with the transport fare?
If I use dispatch riders, how much is their [the retailer’s] gain? If I sell to them at ₦4,400, then they will sell at ₦4,600 ($10.5). The dispatch rider will collect at least ₦1,500 ($3.4). You have to think before you do some things.
Maybe when God sends helpers to me and the business grows very well, I will do those things. But not now, because I’m just managing myself.
Life as a wholesale distributor is…
If there’s no market [sales] in a day, I’ll count ₦100,000 ($228.7), but my gain in that may not be more than ₦1,500 ($3.4), maybe ₦2,000 ($4.5). In this business, the highest profit you’ll get is ₦200 ($0.4).
I buy one carton of Coaster [a biscuit brand] from the market at ₦3,000 ($6.8), and sell it for ₦3,100 ($7). Mimee noodles is ₦2,850 ($6.5) [per carton] at the market; I’ll sell for ₦2,900 ($6.6) and my gain is ₦50 ($0.1). But I can sell ten cartons of Mimee noodles in one day.
And the funny thing is when Mimee first came [into the market], it was ₦1,000 ($2.2). If you can buy ten, they’ll give you one extra. After some time, we used to buy it for ₦1,200 ($2.7). And then it has gone from ₦1,200 to ₦1,400 ($3.2); the price keeps increasing.
But if I sell retail, I will make more profit. Wholesale moves quickly and I get my ₦50 profit on time. If I’m making ₦50 here for wholesale, it will be like ₦300 ($0.6) for retail, but before I’ll get that ₦300 [it will take time].
And sometimes territory clashes won’t allow you be great…
Every month in this area [Orile, Lagos State] they must fight. Sometimes it’s APC boys vs PDP boys. Sometimes it’s just people fighting for territory. Even this my small baby, she knows when they’ve started their fight.
If they start now, I’ll pack my things inside. When you hear that they are coming, will you wait for them? We know their ways; no be today. It’s more than 23 years that we’ve been selling here.
Once we just get the information that they are fighting at Alagba [a street in Orile, Lagos State, close to the market], before you know it, I’ll pack my things and just lock my shop.
We will not go o; once we pack our things, we will stay around. If a customer wants to buy something, they’ll tell me what they need.
And you also don’t want to lose the one you’ve sold since morning, so you’ll leave before 7 o’clock. Because if everywhere is dark like this, they’ll collect all your money. And at the time, there are no more customers.
They collect phones, bags, and money [from people in the neighbourhood]. We too we don understand them [we understand them now]. Anytime they start we know that our sales won’t be much that week.
Even in the morning, around 5/:30, they rob people going to work. If they know you, they’ll send somebody who doesn’t know you to collect what they want from you.
But I cannot move o, because this area is [a] selling point. People pass here every day so it’s not easy for me to move away.
Policemen are usually around; they park here [points to a spot beside her shop]. But I’m not sure the police can stop them because they [the police] are the ones who give them information.
Although most of them do come around, so before that kind of thing will affect me, o ma pe gan! [it will take a really long time!]
But saving cost is also important
I don’t normally go to the market [to restock]. But every Saturday, I go and get biscuits because I have to personally select the ones that I want.
But these Omnibiz (B2B eCommerce startup) people go around to look for customers, and they came to me.
I tried them once, and I liked their prices. Their prices are the same with the place where I buy things, so I don’t have to stress myself again, and I don’t pay a delivery fee. If I went to the market myself, I’d have to pay my transport fare. That’s why I use them.
Whenever I need goods, I call an agent who brings them to me within 48 hours. And I pay after delivery.
When they don’t have what I need, I have other people that I can call to bring it to me. It’s only when you have a lot of money that you can go and buy things at Lagos Island; I don’t stress myself like that.
Some of their things are cheaper. Something I’ll get somewhere else for ₦1,000 ($2.29), they might sell it for ₦960 ($2.2) or ₦980 ($2.24).