It was an uncertain time. In the crisis of a pandemic and the rising number of her peers losing
their jobs, Joke began to worry about her job security. But female entrepreneurs don’t stop at
worrying — they also innovate.
So last year, when her denim supplier complained to her about the difficulty of making sales in
the current physical market, it dawned on her that she could sell clothes on Instagram for him.
That very night — the 15th of May, she created an Instagram page, posted about it on WhatsApp,
and got her first customer. All on the same day. And that’s how Denim Seller was born
Sub-Saharan Africa has more female entrepreneurs than any other region.
Despite the many legal, cultural and financial restrictions at play, women make up the majority of self-employed people. In Nigeria alone, that number is almost half; last year’s PwC report showed that women
in Nigeria accounted for 41% of micro-businesses in the country.
Likewise, for Joke, this is not her only source of income — she works a nine-to-five as well.
When she has the opportunity, she checks in with customers and keeps track of orders. After
work, her evenings are occupied with denim: packing and posting deliveries, and running the
business operations. The other parts of the business are run by her siblings — her brother
handles logistics, while her sister takes care of payments.
Almost a year later, she’s sold over 2000 pairs to over 500 customers. And while her business
continues to grow, she’s hesitant to employ outside the family; as a stickler for customer service,
she doesn’t want to risk hiring someone who might sully the business name with a bad attitude.
Indeed, her business has thrived on its excellent customer service, something she’s very
particular about, having started in sales and marketing herself. With her confidence and
competence in these skills, she has successfully created a social media business.
According to the World Bank, male-owned businesses acquire six times more capital than
female-owned businesses. This disparity is due largely in part to the age-old belief that women-owned businesses are riskier investments, although data shows otherwise. Nevertheless, this
persisting belief of the lack of capability of female entrepreneurs inhibits potential access to
capital, which harms scalability and growth.
But this is just the beginning for Joke. She hopes to take advantage of the community of trusting
customers that she’s built, and start a denim company of her own. This vintage denim business,
she says, will be an entry-point into that market. To other female entrepreneurs who are
running Instagram businesses, she says, “Let’s keep pushing.”
The pandemic has caused massive disruption to economic systems and their stakeholders.
Amidst the rapid changes, there is potential to revaluate how female entrepreneurs are treated,
and the opportunity available for their growth. Because at the end of the day, when women
entrepreneurs win, economic growth and poverty alleviation also win.