Oriyomi Adedoyin hung up the phone and rushed out to the complex where his business was located. He had to see it for himself. The manager of the complex had called to tell him the awful news – the clothing store that he had worked so hard to establish had been destroyed.
What Happened in Nigeria During Nationwide Protests?
During that time in the fall of 2020, citizens across Nigeria demonstrated against police brutality in a protest movement known as “End SARS” (the acronym for the controversial police unit). In the midst of the civil unrest, several businesses were vandalized, including Oriyomi’s.
“It was stripped naked,” says the 29-year-old entrepreneur. “There was nothing in the store by the time I got there on that fateful day.”
It was a difficult time for many, as the COVID-19 pandemic had just begun. “COVID came. Everybody was shut down and we were still struggling to keep our heads above water,” says Oriyomi.
He had been optimistic that business would pick back up. However, his entrepreneurial spirit wavered when he saw the damage that had been done to his showroom. “It was very emotional for me to see everything gone,” he recalls. “It just didn’t feel like I failed, but it felt like my country failed me.” Tears streamed down Oriyomi’s face as he surveyed what was left of the dream he’d cultivated while studying at the University of Lagos, the goals he’d pursued with the support of his family, the legacy he was building after the loss of his father over a decade prior.
“I was done with the entrepreneurial spirit,” he says. “I felt like, ‘I’m done. I’m not doing this again. I’m not cut out for these kinds of things.’”
Oriyomi is the creative director and founder of KojeOriginals, an Afro-centric clothing brand based in Lagos, Nigeria, with a domestic and overseas customer base. The brand name is derived from a local word meaning “something you go after or would like to have.” Growing up, Oriyomi didn’t have many examples of people going into fashion professionally–but he knew a fashion business was something he would “like to have.
“My dad played a very pivotal role in my career choice,” says Oriyomi. “I lost him about 15 years ago. It’s been a rollercoaster and such a rough path for me having to navigate business because he was a very phenomenal businessman. But my mom really stepped in. She’s been instrumental to my growth as a person and a businessman. I think she never really questioned if it was what I wanted.”
How COVID-19 Almost Destroyed a Nigerian Entrepreneur’s Business
After starting business operations in 2019, KojeOriginals experienced steady growth in order numbers and monthly revenue. The company was able to break even due to the high cost of operations. But in 2020–due to lost merchandise, physical damage to the store, and delay in insurance payouts–Oriyomi’s business became indebted, and he had to make the difficult decision to close down his showroom.
For a few months after the unrest, Oriyomi was distraught over his losses. However, with the help of his family, friends, and organizations including TechnoServe, he found his passion once again. “I just found myself working through those feelings and saying, ‘Okay, what is the next thing? I have to look at the other side, the brightest side of this,’” he says.
How an Entrepreneur in Nigeria Saved His Business
Distraught for a few months, Oriyomi’s mood changed when he first saw a video about a TechnoServe program helping small business owners recover from recent economic shocks.“I remember watching the video and thought, ‘Is this true? This is not true.’ It was very unbelievable,” he remembers. He decided to give it a shot.
In July 2021, through the Citibank Nigeria funded MSME Recovery and Survival program implemented by TechnoServe, Oriyomi began learning how to recover from his recent setbacks and achieve pre-COVID revenues for his business. He worked to develop a business growth plan, including financial planning and forecasting, SWOT analyses, competitive landscaping, budgeting, leadership, customer engagement, employee engagement, and more.
Working hard to apply his new knowledge, Oriyomi moved the location of his showroom to a more affordable area. Soon, KojeOriginals’ monthly orders increased by 15%; monthly revenues increased by 20% ; and Oriyomi was able to hire three full-time employees.
“Learning to apply the business practices taught during the program has given me a clear perspective on where I am going,” Oriyomi says. “I have a better relationship with my staff and I delegate more, leaving me to focus on more important things–resulting in my business growing at an exponential rate in a short period.”
Today, KojeOriginals has four full-time staff and one part-time employee–and Oriyomi dreams of his brand becoming a household name. It’s a very different story from just two years ago, when he gazed in shock at the ruins of his store. “It was downhill and then afterwards, I found myself becoming a resilient person.”
Now that Oriyomi has learned the tools for business success and resilience, he wants to share those benefits with others in his community. “I really want to do a lot of giving back to people,” he says. “This program [with TechnoServe] has opened a lot for me. I can now offer the service to growing entrepreneurs, to people who are struggling. In my own way, I can give back.”
After experiencing difficulties and trials during the COVID-19 pandemic, this entrepreneur in Nigeria was able to revive his business and experienced growth with the help of TechnoServe. To help other entrepreneurs like Oriyomi, give today.