While it’s the norm to talk about how much money tech pays, we forget to emphasize the hours of on-screen sacrifice each techie makes. In the techpreneur series, we’re discussing the strategies, challenges and driving force of African tech entrepreneurs.
Who is Opeyemi Sodiq? What does he do?
I am an entrepreneur, a tech enthusiast, and a fitness lover. I run a small business, SWOT Tech Solutions. A brand that merchandise and sells everyday high-end gadgets. The brand also shares information that gets people acquainted with the tech.
Is there any business that is small? When you have to offer service and go through a lot of troubles for it?
I’d say small. If your capital is between 20 to 100 million, it’s still a small business,
How did you come up with the name SWOT Tech Solutions?
SWOT is my nickname. And while I was starting out small with no team, I was still looking at the bigger picture. While still saving problems in the merchandising industry, I looked at what else could be covered. SWOT Tech Solutions is all-encompassing of services that include gadgets sales, video editing, graphics designs, web development, solar panel and CCTV installation. SWOT Tech Solutions, in the long run, plans to offer all kinds of tech services
For now, what do you offer?
Sales of high-end gadgets, breaking down information for tech novice, interventions in places where people know little of tech. It’s surprising when you find out that a lot of people are ignorant of technology. During my service year, less than a couple of years ago, I was astonished when I discovered that there are people who are still unaware of tech beyond having a mobile phone. We brought that into business at that time. We are a brand that sells products that make people easier, and at the same time, impact the knowledge needed tech-wise.
Did you study Computer Science?
No. I didn’t. I studied Accounting. I have had the knack of tech for a long time, it was something I discovered as time went on. I am of the opinion that everything we know, we learn. The environment you find yourself in can influence your decisions. I remember the first time I used a computer, I fell in love with it instantly. It was fun, and I was astonished by what I could do with it. I knew that it was something I wanted to do.
When did it start? When did you make the decision to found SWOT Tech Solutions?
Looking backwards, it’s easier to connect the dots. One thing led to the other. I started with desktop publishing as soon as I was out of Secondary School. During my undergraduate days, I took part in CISCO certifications. Tech is huge and you have to find a niche that suits you the most – and I loved sales. In 2015, during my internship, I decided to put in the effort to start a business from it. Fortunately, I had people around me who were into tech as well. I started to ask questions, is there a market for this? Is this scalable? I started to attend seminars and workshops. And so, SWOT Tech Solutions was built.
How did you manage your time and resources as a business owner and a student?
It was tough juggling studies and hustle. I quickly realized that friends and colleagues are the first sets of customers. Having sales and marketing skills helped me in the process. Yes, it was hard, but it was possible with the right skills and the determination to get things done.
Apart from using friends and family, any other strategies you used during the early stage?
Business is a game of numbers; even as an undergraduate, you can start. If your friends and colleagues buy from you, it’s because you’re giving them value. One sale leads to ten sales, and it goes on like that. This gives you the confidence to try other means. Recommendation and word-of-mouth are powerful sales strategies. The use of paid advertising also helped, I learnt early to incorporate that. When you attend seminars, you meet people and connect. Through values and relationships, I was able to expand the client base
Did your priorities change along the line?
Of course. For example, I started alone and it was more like a side hustle. As a started to learn the business side of things, I discovered the essence of having a team. I had to change from it being a side hustle to an actual business. The thing is when you take a business as a business, it will pay you as a business. But when you take it as a side hustle, the same goes. I had to build a team. The responsibilities to always innovate, to the team, and to the customers increased. Therefore, priorities changed.
What is your driving force? What keeps you going?
Entrepreneurship is hard. However, you create a business, then the business shapes you. You have to ground in a way to run a business. Most businesses cease to exist in the first five years. If you want your business to grow, you need to grow as well. Being an entrepreneur is not totally bad; you have to wake up each day and innovate. The process of trying new things that might work or not is what drives me. The belief in my team and those that believe in the brand is also a driving force. Seeing a smile on a customer’s face, when people appreciate your efforts beyond the money paid for the service keep driving.
Let’s talk about the challenges. Any major challenge that made you rethink?
In the course of running this business, there are a lot of challenges. The major challenge is the accelerated cost of items of shipping. Logistics is a big part of this business. One of our visions is to be a Nigerian setup that couples gadgets. Pending the time we get there, we have to import gadgets. The constant rise in shipping fees is a big challenge. The mental stress that comes with all of that. Imagine a situation where you’re supposed to stock up at an expected price and you have to use your personal money to supplement it. Emotional stress is also a challenge. You have to be driven to weather such storms.
What lessons did you learn from these challenges?
Running a business is like a test. The market decides the direction. You learn something new about the people or the products. Embrace the problem and find a way around it. It becomes a booster for the team when we solve a problem. The challenges reinforce the belief in the brand.
Is there any unspoken truth about tech entrepreneurship?
We can’t all remain vendors or consumers. We need to look at the bigger picture – We need to step up. We need more Africans in administrative positions as well, more startups. People design what we use, right? To make more impact, we need to focus on creating tech products – products that can be exported out of Africa.
Who are your role models?
Two people I learn from. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. It’s not because they’re the big names rather their work ethics. Elon Musk revolutionized marketing. Instead of spending billions of dollars in advertising a product, Elon engaged in an extraordinary product. He spent close to nothing on marketing, but instead on his brand. Whatever has Elon Musk name on it sells. He’s the brand. Same with Jeff Bezos – his customer services are amazing. Amazon is customer-focused. The blueprint of SWOT Tech Solutions is Amazon. Starting with little to no capital, we still were able to provide services when the customers needed them. Amazon started with no real products. You need to do a lot of work to get that model to work during that time.
If you had the knowledge you possess today five years ago, what would you have done differently when starting your business?
I would have started out as a team. Each person has in them different abilities that can make things happen. I would have leveraged on a team, it makes things happen. Starting a business as a team makes the journey easier. Working with people with the right mindset would have made the journey less hard.
How do you define success?
Success is not an end, it’s only a process. As a business person, success is reaching those milestones; it’s the small wins; it’s moving from failure to failure picking the lesson and not losing enthusiasm. If you can see the result, you get more confidence to move on. Success is a stepping stone. When a brand becomes a global brand, it has the responsibility to be more. Because honestly, there’s no end – especially when you’ve built a business that can cross generations. If you can go for so long without quitting, you’ve won.
Any final messages for our readers?
We live in an attention economy and it’s easy to get distracted from your dream. You can easily pick other people’s goals as yours. It is important to be focused and find those with similar and better characteristics. That way, it will be easier to achieve your dreams. As a leader, it is your duty to find people who are not only dedicated, ut those who outsmart you. If you have smarter people, you get better decisions. We also should be open to collaborations; we need to share resources and ideas. Any set-up business is removing someone from the street – with that mentality, you would want to do more. You are not only contributing to yourself, you’re contributing to your immediate family and community.