Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.
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The 23-year-old engineering graduate on today’s #NairaLife was convinced by her friend to start selling perfume oils in 2019. She shares how setting goals helped her go from a ₦50k capital to ₦2m in savings in just two years.
Let’s start with your earliest memory of money.
My siblings and I had a fun little tradition as children. We kept whatever money we received from aunties and uncles in a purse. We put money in it for years until the purse went missing one day. Our dad had taken all of it.
He was building our house and needed money to buy some materials. This happened in 2004 when he lost his job as a banker. I was six. I remember that my siblings and I didn’t feel bad. We were happy our dad was building our own house that we’d move into, and technically, that was our contribution. However, we never saved in the purse after that.
How did your dad’s job loss affect things at home?
It just meant my mum had to take over. She’d always worked as a legal adviser, and she’d always been better with money. I knew whenever my dad had just gotten money because he’d buy cartons of frozen chicken and turkey and call people to come and eat. My mum had to pay our school fees throughout university. She also gave us allowances.
After the purse incident, did you have any personal savings?
In secondary school, I got ₦3,000 every month and set a target to save a total of ₦2,000 at the end of every term. When I hit my goals, I spent the money on Korean movie DVDs and snacks.
In university, my allowance was increased to ₦25k monthly. By the end of my first semester, I’d saved up a total of ₦55k. I used the money to buy a phone and makeup. Second semester, I was only able to save ₦30k. The plan was to upgrade my wardrobe, but that’s when I got scammed.
Tell me about it.
I told my mum I wanted to go to the market to get new clothes. When I told her the specific market, she sternly warned me not to go there. She warned me multiple times. She travelled a few days later, so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to go there.
I’d bought a few things and was waiting for a keke to head back home when a French-speaking man walked up to me to ask for some help. From what I could piece together, he wanted directions to a place I didn’t know, so I told him I couldn’t help him and went my way. As he followed and bugged me, someone else walked up to me and advised we help him, and since there were two of us, I decided to listen.
It’s at this point I believe I was jazzed because everything they told me to do onwards, I did. He said he was stranded and going to a place where he had some money and iPhones he recovered from corrupt politicians, and he needed our help getting there and washing the money. Once we helped him, we’d get our cut of the money and iPhones. In my head, I knew everything was wrong, but I couldn’t resist following them. The next thing I knew, we were on a bus going far away.
When we got there, he brought a bunch of brown papers and said it was money. He said politicians from his country disguised money as brown papers so they could steal easily. He quickly brought out a chemical and dipped one of the papers into it and right before my eyes, it turned into a fresh, clean ₦200 note. I was beyond shocked.
But the problem was that he didn’t have enough chemicals to wash the millions of notes he had. To prove he wasn’t lying, he brought out a priest who told me to spit on my palm. Immediately, the spit transferred from my palm to the back of my hand. Somehow, that meant I’d held bad money and needed to be cleansed. So what they needed from me was all the money I could give them to get more chemicals. They collected my phone and ATM, gave me transport money, and told me to go home to bring all the money, jewellery and valuables my parents had. I was going to become a millionaire soon, so what were some measly jewellery?
Please, tell me you didn’t do it.
I did it o. I rushed home, took all my mum’s jewellery, the ₦30k she left for the carpenter, and went back to give them. They gave me back my phone and ATM and told me they’d contact me when the money was ready. However, if I told anyone about it, seven of my family members and I would die.
The next few days were torture for me. I was clearly shaken by something, but when my siblings asked, I couldn’t tell them because I didn’t want them to die. It was when one of my friends came visiting and asked what was happening, and I replied, “I can’t tell you. I don’t want anyone to die”, that they realised what was going on. My friend had been in the same situation before and it sounded familiar, so they explained to me that I’d been scammed.
What did your parents do?
My mum cried. She was disappointed, but she moved on fast, and we all put it behind us.
In my second and third years of university, I bought a few shoes and sold them for profit. I helped people do class projects for ₦7k each. For me, selling things was less about the profit and more about the fact that I could convince people to make purchases.
Had you sold anything before this?
In SS 3, I helped a friend sell his songs on CDs. I sold them for ₦100. I took ₦30 and he took ₦70. Again, it wasn’t about the money. I just liked convincing people to buy things.
So did you sell anything else in university?
In 2019, right after my fourth year of university, a friend convinced me to sell perfume oils. I managed to gather ₦50k from my savings and bought my first batch of perfumes. Because I wanted it to be a proper business, I opened a business account so I could track the money coming in and going out. In three months, there was ₦100k in the account.
Seeing that I was making money was motivational. I promised myself that before I finished my fifth year — I studied engineering — I would have at least ₦400k in the account. By September 2020, at the end of my fifth year, there was ₦500k in the account. This is minus the money I was constantly throwing into the business to restock o.
What were your business costs like?
At first, I bought the perfumes for ₦300 and sold them for ₦800. Two for ₦1,500. When COVID happened, the cost prices went up slightly, so I increased my selling price to ₦1,000.
How were you making so many sales?
WhatsApp stories and Instagram. I posted a lot, and my visibility increased when my sister gave my brand page shoutouts to her thousands of Instagram followers. In school, I carried my perfumes everywhere with me. Even when I spoke to people and they didn’t buy, I let them use samples, so when they got compliments, they came back to buy. I also had to be innovative. What I’d been doing before was buying from wholesalers in Nigeria in small fancy bottles, which made them expensive. During COVID, I found someone on Instagram who sold in large quantities from Dubai. I bought from them in large plastic containers and filled the perfume into tiny bottles myself. That was much cheaper.
I also started selling branded perfumes so I could reach more people.
A smart woman.
In December 2020, I was having a conversation with my friend who sold stuff online, and she told me she saved ₦1m that year, so I set my 2021 goals to ₦1m. When I calculated all the cash I had at the end of 2021, it was ₦2m. This was minus crypto and goods.
By then, I realised my business didn’t need too much of my attention and energy to run, so I took out ₦800k, got a MacBook and started searching for jobs.
What kind of jobs?
Data analytics. I took some data analytics classes in 2021, so it was time to find related jobs online. After a few L’s, I finally got one in March. The pay is ₦350k.
How’s it like juggling business and work?
Challenging. I burnt out last month and took a break from business. I didn’t put out content to entice. I just attended to orders. The good thing is I work from home.
How have the exchange rates affected your business?
What I buy for ₦400k now is less than what I bought for ₦300k two years ago, but I can’t increase my prices too much because I have competition.
Let’s take a look at your current finances.
And a breakdown of your current expenses?
What’s something you want but can’t afford?
Citizenship to a country with a strong passport.
And what are your plans for the future?
By the end of this year, I want to have cash savings of ₦5m and $500. For my perfumes, I want to get custom scents.
How many sales would you say you’ve made since you started this business?
What’s your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?
8. I’m pretty comfortable where I am. I live with my parents, I don’t need a car, I have everything I need.
Editor’s Note: The subject of this story confirmed that a figure in the original version was wrong, and so we made a change. The original version said she saved ₦150k after her first semester in university, but the correct figure was ₦55k.
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