Despite Africa being a creative hub for talented fashion designers for many years, the absence of effective platforms to drive sales has hampered growth opportunities for many of these designers. The continent currently contributes only $31 billion (about 1 percent) to the $3 trillion global fashion retail industry. This is what Losode, an online marketplace and growth engine for small businesses, is aiming to change. We sat down with Aderonke Ajose-Adeyemi, CEO and co-founder of Losode to discuss what inspired her to launch the company and why she is so passionate about building the infrastructure to drive trade and commerce across Africa.
Please explain what Losode is?
Losode is an online marketplace that connects consumers across the world with fashion businesses in Africa and empowers entrepreneurs with powerful business growth tools that make it easier for them to scale their businesses and maximise local and global sale opportunities. Starting with fashion, we are building the digital infrastructure to enable trade and commerce across the continent, and overcome long standing barriers to economic development.
What was the inspiration behind Losode?
Despite being renowned as a creative hub for fashion entrepreneurs, the absence of effective platforms to drive sales has hampered the growth of many fashion businesses on the continent. Fashion items are always in demand but getting products to consumers is a major challenge. We all know that the talent and the market is there but we need more effective platforms to connect buyers and sellers in a way that works for everybody and that is what we are building.
The continent currently contributes only $31 billion (about 1 percent) to the $3 trillion global fashion retail industry. This is what we are aiming to change.
We are building the digital infrastructure to enable trade and commerce across the continent, and overcome long-standing barriers to economic development. Starting with fashion, Losode’s online marketplace serves as a growth engine for African brands, connecting consumers from across the world with the most exciting designers and empowering fashion entrepreneurs with effective business growth tools. This includes access to working capital, payment tools, cheaper logistics via our third party network and other tools and services via the Losode Partner Network that make it easier for them to scale their businesses and maximise local and global sales opportunities.
Do you have a team?
We have a team of 22 and counting. Losode started as a side project that I worked on when I was able to find time away from previous roles. However, as we have matured as a company, we have added more hands and brains to the team to support the mission.
We also have an all-female founding team with almost 40 years’ combined experience across management consulting and a wide range of technology sectors, bringing market-leading expertise to building and running the platform.
At Losode, what is your focus?
At the moment, we are operating in the fashion space, making it easier for buyers and sellers to connect. However, we have ambitions to expand into other sectors where we believe our technology can enable increased trade and commerce.
What opportunities do you offer your sellers and buyers?
For sellers, we provide easier access to a global marketplace of consumers and powerful growth tools to maximise local and global sales opportunities. We also run a freemium model where sellers don’t have to pay to join our platform but we charge a fixed percentage of commission on transactions.
For buyers, Losode offers easier access to the best African fashion brands, a catalogue of high-quality fashion items and an ever-growing list of ambitious and entrepreneurial African fashion designers.
Which countries are your key markets?
We started off in Nigeria and we now have sellers in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa which is very exciting for us. We will take a phased approach as we roll out to the 46 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, deciding which cities we are active in by assessing GDP, commercial activity and population size.
We have earmarked 15 countries in our first phase, and this includes some of Nigeria’s neighbouring countries. We will also be actively listening for cities/countries calling out for us.
What has been your biggest challenge so far and how are you funded?
For most Africa ecommerce companies, the biggest challenges are seen in logistics, payments, and talent. Thankfully, a lot of work has been done to achieve some progress but there is still a lot more to be done. Concerns remain around the lack of standards across board, absence of address matching, cumbersome processes and the fact that the technology has to be constantly adapted to suit each third-party partner, resulting in increased supplier onboarding timelines.
On payments, we have many great solutions in the market. However, challenges remain particularly in transactions of a more complex nature, in turn leading to higher uplifts from providers.
Finding the right talent has been our biggest challenge. On one hand, there aren’t many people with the expertise we need in our market and on the other hand, there is a very high demand for the few that exist. This means we have to be innovative and intentional about how we recruit and retain our staff. At Losode, this looks like working directly with respected training programs to secure our pipeline of talent and building an exciting workplace culture that people want to stay in.
There are other political and economic factors that have a direct impact on costs, which are in most cases passed on to the end user. In response to this, we have started to think smarter and look closer into models like agency supply, developing a logistics people network amongst other innovative solutions.
We have mainly self-funded the business to date, with seed investment. However, we are now engaging investors to secure the funds we need to roll out our platform and bring more businesses and consumers onboard.
How does Losode work?
We have built a robust platform that incorporates digital shops, payments and logistics, enabling a seamless business experience for entrepreneurs and easier access to high quality products for consumers.
Ultimately, we are building technology that can deliver real impact, smash existing trade borders and equip entrepreneurs to do big business.
What do you have in the pipeline for Losode going forward?
As part of our mission to smash existing trade borders and equip entrepreneurs to do big business, we will be launching a range of educational programmes that will equip our sellers with the skills they need to give them the best chance of success. We want to invest in our sellers as a priority, giving them the best chance to take advantage of the new opportunities that will be available to them. We will also be investing in creating our own media content to drive conversations and spotlight the people and issues we want to draw attention to.