When some of my ancestors returned from the American plantations as free-men into Lagos in the 1830s, they brought bread, little did they know that they brought not just a commodity but a whole industry!An industry that will later provide Jumoke Orisaguna (pictured above; the bread hawker discovered by the award winning photographer, TY Bello) an opportunity to hawk its product (bread) in a tray on the streets of the same Lagos before good fortune and fate with the raw industry in bread hawking business propelled her to the runway and front pages of fashion magazines as a world-class model!
Perhaps I was towing this my ancestral path when I decided to author the most comprehensive business opportunity handbook in order to bring access to business opportunities and find out the business secrets of these hawkers with the aim of sharing this rich information with you. But frankly, today’s post has just a little to do with me. It’s ‘Agege’ Bread and hawking business (again!).
From 1830 till date, the consumption of bread has increased astronomically and it’s commerce is laced with business knowledge arguably comparable to those you can ‘buy’ only in Business Schools. Why? It meets all the 4Ps of marketing. (I actually explained these Ps in my book – 1000+ Practical Business Ideas and Directory of Money Sources).
The most striking feature responsible for the success of the bread business is the great (but sadly the least recognized) role of the ubiquitous Bread Hawkers (called Oni-bread in local Yoruba language).
These ‘mobile bread vendors’ have some amazing and valuable business secrets that I will be sharing with you in a series of posts.
1. PUNCTUALITY: Punctuality, they say, is the soul of business. These hawkers get to the bakeries early enough to be able to get their products (in fact I discovered that some of them even sleep over at the bakeries). They know that if they get late to the bakeries, they will miss out on some of the fast-moving loaves of bread with shapes, sizes and variants preferred by most consumers. The first sign that you’re a sloppy person or entrepreneur is when you repeatedly miss opportunities because you fail to meet up with appointments on time.
2. TIMING: Her arrival time in the mornings and evenings everyday is almost constant and coincides with time most consumers like to have their bread. This is called ‘good timing’ in business. You must ‘time’ your market to get a good share of the market. Jumoke’s account in her interviews confirmed that she leaves the bakery precisely 7:00 a.m almost everyday and hawks for at least nine hours daily, many times, under the ferocious and scorching Lagos afternoon sun, to earn a decent earning. It was one of the regular evenings (specifically the evening of Tuesday, February 2, 2016, to be precise) to service her many clients in one of the streets dotting Yaba, Lagos mainland, that she harmlessly sauntered into the scene of a photo shoot. The camera captured her with her heavy ‘baggage’ of loaves on her head (inset of the photo above). Her decision to stick to a regular timing to take her loaves of bread to her customers in the mornings and evenings everyday, as required in the bread-hawking business, is primarily responsible for her presence in the area at that time.According to Jumoke, “I only wanted to walk through to take bread to my customers at the mechanic workshop around the place the shoot was taking place… It was while I made my way that the camera captured me”.
Therefore, having a purpose in life and business is not enough, you need the knowledge to find the appropriate time and the self-discipline/courage to launch and achieve your purpose.
Add punctuality to good timing, and your business success becomes a ‘done deal’.
3. ADVERTISING: When she shouts ‘Ooni bread yin de’ (your bread vendor is around), she’s actually advertising her goods! It’s interesting to note that her advert cost is also free. Even after running into the photo shoot, she never stopped announcing her presence by shouting ‘Oni bread yin de’ and it was just a matter of time before those looking for her find her.
A person who doesn’t advertise his business is like someone winking in the dark. Nobody sees what you’re doing! For your business to succeed, you should advertise your business. Like the Agege hawker, you need to identify free advert opportunities, for example, facebook, Twitter,
4. EFFECTIVE CUSTOMER CARE: The way she adjusts to meet customers demands and allay their concerns appear so effortless. In the past, these female hawkers use their hands to lift each loaf and use their mouth to blow air into the transparent nylon used for packing each loaf but on getting the feedback from consumers who consider this practice as unhygienic, they quickly stopped the practice. That was done quickly before these complaints lead to buyers apathy. Even when she was told TY Bello was looking for her to help her, Jumoke had no qualms taking her loaves to where TY Bello was staying because that is what she has learnt from the business. When people stay on their balconies and call on these ‘mobile bread vendors’, they bring the loaves of bread to the customers to see and select their preferred loaf of bread before paying or choosing not to buy in some cases!
How you treat your customers’ complaints plays a vital role in your business success.
Complaints are feedbacks from your customers who may be willing to stick with patronising your goods or service so you ignore their complaints at the peril of your business. Remember it was customers apathy that killed the telecommunications behemoth called NITEL. (to be continued)
Sunkanmi Vaughan is the host of ‘Bizlifelines With Sunkanmi Vaughan’ on radio and author of the most comprehensive business opportunity handbook; ‘1000+ Practical Business Ideas and Directory of Money Sources’.