Just recently, CNN International’s ‘African Start-Up’ features Ikenna Okonkow, a Nigerian entrepreneur who started Heels.com.ng, an online business selling women’s shoes, with his high-school friend, Udoka Uzoka
After completing a Master’s degree in business in the U.S, Okonkow was unsure on what to do next. He decided to put his business skills to the test, and returned to Lagos to start a company with Uzoka.
Okonkow tells ‘African Start-Up’ how he and Uzoka came up with the idea to start a women’s shoe company: “What came into mind was a product that would get the best sale.
And female shoes popped into our head. It’s what had the highest demand, and also a product that had the highest margin too.”
Uzoka used his IT background to create the Heels.com.ng website, and the business partners set about developing a business strategy.
Okonkow tells ‘African Start-Up’: “What we decided to do to make our business sustainable was to get access to about 50 designers around the world to give us their shoes at MSRP price. Secondly, after securing those licenses what we did next was to raise funds, and most of the boot strap funds we started with were secured from family and friends.”
Heels.com.ng began selling shoes at prices ranging from $20 to $175, working with local logistics companies to deliver across Nigeria – delivering within one to two days in Lagos.
Okonkow recalls the beginnings of the business to ‘African Start-Up’: “We launched with probably 1000 shoes, and maybe over 100 styles… The first year in business was an interesting one. Our collection had a wide array of sizes. Which means that any females with any size of foot could easily go to our website and find their shoes. Now of course being that we’re males we had to go through the period of actually finding the kind of shoes that Nigerian females wanted. And thereby we brought in a stylist that started picking out our shoes… we’ve gone through those trends and so far we’ve came out of it fine and we’re growing.”
Heels.com.ng has continued to grow. In early 2015, it secured seed funding from U.S investors, which allowed the company to expand its product range and hire full-time staff.
Okonkow tells ‘African Start-Up’: “Now we have over 500 styles and we have close to 4000 shoes… Currently as of last count we’ve shipped out over 8500 shoes. It is a market with a high demand.”
Okonkow has big plans for his company in the future. He tells ‘African Start-Up’: “I see heels.com.ng being the one-stop-shop for female shoes. I see us going into making our own shoes to offer affordably. I know that from seeing what we’ve been selling before and knowing when we go into production of our own shoes, we can offer the same quality. So I see us having our own shoes in the near future.”