“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s A Week In The Life is Habib, the founder of Smiley socks; a fun socks company. He walks us through running a business, combining it with handling social media, and working 9-5 for two companies.
The first thing I do when I wake up today is to pray. After that, I map out my plans for the day. Every day I customize socks at a shop near my house for my socks business. Customers always have custom orders and I’ve to give them what they want. When I’m done at the shop, I pack the orders going out for the day and I wait for the delivery guys to come to pick up. Then I take new orders and start the work of the companies that feed me: my 9-5.
Even though I run a business, I still work for two companies because I’ve to eat. I like both jobs because I have a flexible schedule. I handle social media content for these companies.
There’s nothing happening today, so I get food, fire up my laptop, and I watch Archer to pass time.
One thing that’s exciting about my business is the growth. Recently, we won a grant of N100,000. For us, it’s more than money. It’s the validation that we are doing something great. This is important to us because it inspires us to keep pushing. We also got into the Forbes accelerator program. Out of 5,000 businesses, we were picked. We are part of the top 200 selected businesses and now, we are looking for votes to climb up in the program. If we win, we’ll get the chance to pitch directly to Forbes and that could change our lives.
I usually don’t apply for these things. For the N100,000 grant, I just applied with fingers crossed and zero expectations. For the Forbes application, after my partner forwarded it, I remember grumbling and filling the form grudgingly. Imagine my surprise when both of them turned out well.
As a result of all the begging for votes, I’ve been getting a lot of love on my personal account. Today, some people that I consider cool on Twitter followed my account. I think this socks thingy is really helping my personal life. I now have business owners following me, and even financial coaches.
This inspires me to do more. I spend the rest of the day creating content and asking people to vote for my business in the Forbes accelerator program.
Women are our major customers in this business. Although our socks are mostly unisex, people assume that they are for men. I think it’s because they are calf-length. We want to increase our target audience because it’s mostly women buying socks for men as gifts. To balance that, we are adding No-Show socks and these look like they are for women. We want to have products that men can buy for women as well. In addition, we are also introducing socks for children, and briefs for men.
One of our goals is to be your one stop shop for underwear. But for now, people should buy their socks and boxers from us.
Today, I made love emoji socks for my girlfriend. I had these plain light grey socks that weren’t moving. Nobody was buying it. So, I decided to make it more fun by adding the love emoji to it and I sent it to her. The plan was to use one stone to kill two birds: firstly, to make my babe feel nice. Secondly, to also get her to take cool photos of it because she takes really cool photos.
She took photos which she sent to me. I posted the photos, and voila, all the light grey socks I had finished because many people ordered for the same product.
Today has been a win-win for me.
I feel that the best content is spontaneous. You don’t plan for it, it just comes to you. At least that has worked for me, but I am not Seth Godin so don’t take my word for it. At my former 9-5, I remember doing a random Facebook post about how your birth month is equal to how much money you’d have. Then, I put random figures for each month.
I remember my MD then asking what sort of rubbish the post was. When the post got over 1 million organic impressions, he had a change of heart. Even me, I didn’t expect people to engage to that extent. After I did that post, the MD didn’t want me to ever leave the company. I sha had to leave because they were killing me.
If I’ve to advise anyone on how to create content for social media, I’d tell them that they should first identify their audience. Social media is about content so you must have content direction. You should understand what your audience wants, and you should also be learning as you post. I’d also tell people to add human feeling to the content they make so that it feels relatable. Instead of using 2D images, they should use human images in some of the posts. All these help with the brand tone and identity. The brand tone for my business is happiness and excitement. From how bright our images are, to the tone we engage customers, you know we are a happy brand. As a result, people know that they can come to our page if they want to feel happy or excited.
I have to post in-house socks content for the business today. Thank God I have outsourced the job of taking pictures to someone else. Even though I still have to guide her, she’s doing a good job. At least the last time I posted a picture she took, it got love on social media.
Once I am done with that, I’ll probably spend the rest of my day taking care of my other content duties at my 9-5.
It’s so weird that I am looking for a job. I don’t know why, but when I see a job opening, I apply. I have a business (even though I don’t make money from it). I think that’s why most of them that pay haven’t accepted me. However, I’m rejecting the ones that want me but don’t want to pay.
I think what’s doing me is that I did a new product management course in February. And because I’ve taken a lot of product management courses in the past, I’m now itching to work on a digital product So, I’m always on the lookout but I haven’t seen any yet. I think this is God just telling me to focus on my business because the interview process has been wild.
Like I’ll go for the interviews that I think I am more than qualified for the job; I’ve certificates and I’ve ideas, but they still won’t call me.
Well, until today.
One of the companies called back to let me know that they found someone better for the role. That’s new.
With the kind of week I’ve had, I need to reward myself. I’m going over to The Place to order spaghetti, turkey, and berry blast.
I deserve it.
Before the lockdown, I used to go to the gym. Since COVID started, that’s no longer possible. I was even doing exercise at home but during Ramadan, I could no longer continue and I lost my streak. Now, my biceps feel soft.
A lot of gyms are opening up but my gym is inside a hotel and they haven’t yet re-opened. The only thing that keeps me going through today is the thought of playing football tomorrow – I need the body pain that comes with exercise because I’ve missed it.
I’ve been staying at home since lockdown started but I’m going to play football tomorrow – may the best immune system win.
Well, I missed playing football today; there goes my body pain. I went late to the field because I had to create and post content for my business.
I think about how sometimes business can get overwhelming because we have to do a large chunk of it by ourselves. The business structure is like this: we get our goods from our suppliers abroad, we create content, we post, and then we take orders. What gets overwhelming is taking orders and talking to customers because having to manage some customers can be difficult. One time, we had someone volunteer, but that didn’t work out.
What I do is that I try to sort out the tasks one after the other until it no longer looks like a big deal. If I can’t deal with what’s left that day, I move it to the next day.
I can’t stop thinking of a future where we have more capacity. Where we are in charge of our own production. For example, we want to give back to the community and it’s been difficult. According to our partner NGO, more than 80% of public school students don’t wear socks, so we are trying to help out with that.
We’ve had to beg for donations to achieve this and we still need more help. If we were in control of our production process, this wouldn’t even be an issue. There’s definitely a future where we partner with a big socks company who have the production capacity but need social media strategy. That way, we both help each other solve a problem.
Right now, the only future I can see for certain is tomorrow, Monday. I know that tomorrow, I’ll post some of the content I made today, or I may not even post at all.
All we can actually do is show up daily while we strive towards our future goals. The goal for today is to have sold 5,000 socks by the end of the year.
I think we are on track.
Disclaimer: story lightly edited for clarity.
Check back every Tuesday by 9 am for more “A Week In The Life ” goodness, and if you would like to be featured or you know anyone who fits the profile, don’t hesitate to reach out. Reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be featured on this series.