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 a businessman who sells electronic gadgets for a living. He talks about his unconventional approach to business, being dealt with by the exchange rate and why he’s considering getting a 9-5.
Today was a rough day. I woke up late, got delayed in Lagos traffic and had to pursue dispatch riders up and down. On top of that, I also had to figure out where to buy dollars at an affordable rate so I could restock my goods.
Between clueless bank officials, CBN’s ever-changing policies and dispatch riders, I had my hands full in fire fighting mode.
Frustrated by the bank, I spent a huge part of the day on the internet looking for someone who wanted to send naira home. Then I also spent some time recalculating the cost of my goods and giving room for price fluctuations.
In the middle of this, I kept on getting calls from customers asking for their goods, and dispatch riders complaining about one problem or the other.
When I could no longer bear the information overload, I put my phone on silent, paused all notifications, and went to cool my head.
I just told myself that tomorrow is another day to try again.
I run my gadget business unconventionally. I don’t own a physical store, nor have social media presence or even hold on to stock for long. I work mostly based on word of mouth referrals. I take custom orders to help people buy phones on eBay, Amazon or from trusted dealers. And when I buy stuff for myself, I sell everything off at computer village. I don’t keep any stock.
I don’t know why I’m like this. Maybe it’s because I’m not crazy about the idea of owning a store, or perhaps it’s because I dislike the processes that come with keeping stock.
My method is less stressful because I can fulfill orders on my phone. I also have a car to drive around for pickups and occasional deliveries.
I’ve been running this business like this for over 10 years, so I guess I’m doing something right. In recent times, though, the business hasn’t been as good as it used to be. I’ve gone from making 10-20% on a phone sale to making 5-8%. This means that if I used to make ₦25,000 on one sale, I now make around ₦8,000.
I blame two things: high exchange rates and losing my customer base to japa. While I don’t have the answer to stopping my customers from running away, I’d rather not dwell on the dollar matter. I don’t want to sound like a broken record.
Today, I’m going to personally deliver all the goods the dispatch riders failed to deliver yesterday. The thought of the traffic I’m going to face is discouraging me from leaving the comfort of my bed.
Well, I guess that there’s something in the air this week. First, I woke up to an email from Amazon saying that they had blocked my account and frozen my money. According to them, I had too many “suspicious” card activities. They didn’t even give me a chance to explain that because I’m always sourcing for affordable dollar rates, I have to use different cards from my family and friends abroad.
This afternoon, my agent called to say that my goods were experiencing delays at the port. A few minutes later, customers who had paid upfront started calling me to ask for their property. There I was, caught between not wanting to lie and not wanting to give excuses.
Well, since you asked, my day went perfectly well. How was yours?
I’m up early today, not for work but to think. In recent times, business has been slow. What was once a sweet business with highs and lows now has a lot more lows. And the hoops to jump through keep on increasing.
Now, I’m considering getting a job that serves as a safety net.
But what are the prospects out there for someone who hasn’t worked in a formal job for more than 8 months in 10 years?
I’m definitely not doing anything that requires me to submit a CV or write one foolish essay or test. . Tech sounds nice but I don’t want to code. Maybe I’ll do hardware…
Truthfully, my ideal job is one where I’m helping people solve their gadget problems. Just text me that your laptop has a problem or you’re unsure of what laptop to buy and watch me light up. Not sure what phone to get? I’m your guy. You want someone to give IT support? Na me.
I’m honestly a bit confused and my head hurts from all the thinking I’ve had to do this week.
Wo, I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m grateful for the life I currently have.
Regardless of how my job search turns out, I know I have no regrets about running a business.