Every business idea is meant to solve a problem and what is more is if the problem is particular to our own self-experience. This is so for Fopefoluwa as he takes on the interview seat of SME Digest’s SME of the Week.
Let’s welcome Fopefoluwa Opeola-Davies…
Q: Can we meet you?
My name is Fopefoluwa Opeola-Davies. I’m a trained architect, a creative designer, entrepreneur, co-founder and operations lead at lifemachines.ng, a Nigerian based PC-building & online computer component retailer. I had my basic education in Ijebu-ode, Ogun-state and my tertiary education at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), where I bagged a Master of technology in Architecture. I’m in my mid 20’s, I hail from Ibadan, Oyo State. I like to describe myself as a design technologist/tech-entrepreneur. I am passionate about design and technology-I love to add value to people and organizations through my creative abilities and also solve design problems with technology. Prior to my entrepreneurship journey, I worked as a freelance architect and practiced at various design firms as a project architect, a 3D artist, and Product/furniture designer. I also have experience in computational design and project management.
Interestingly, I have always being enthusiastic about computers at a very young age. My dad wanted me to be a computer engineer but I ended up studying architecture. One thing led to another and I’m glad to have to found my way back to ICT. My other interests span around art, photography, football and travel. I have a strong desire to make impact in Africa through hardware development and also contribute in transforming Nigeria from a tech consumer nation to a technology manufacturing nation.
Q: Tell us about your Business, how you started and what inspired you to go in that line of business.
It is frustrating when your laptop crashes several times when you have a deadline, especially during complex modeling, rendering or simulation. Unlike basic computers, design-oriented work stations (DOWS) are designed to excel under heavy use of power graphic cards and processor. I remember working on a series of terrace houses design as my finally year project while in school, my laptop crashed and didn’t boot again. I lost a lot of files, my project and many other important documents. It was a disaster. Ever since then I have taken it upon myself to help creatives maximize their creative strengths with the best hardware and technology available. A lot of people know what they want, but do not know how or what to use to achieve it. This was what motivated us to launch a hardware company, focusing on the creatives among us.
Life Machines was launched in April 2018 to be a Nigerian based technology hardware retail store, that focuses and caters for the needs of digital creative professionals, who require high-end computing solutions to run power intensive applications and optimize their work-flow. We are fully committed to help design creatives maximize their creative strengths, enabling them with powerful hardware to create designs faster and more efficiently. We build, assemble and upgrade high-end computers, rigs, design-oriented workstations for sale and also serve as retailers for major brands such as HP, Dell, MSI etc. When we talk of digital creatives, they are basically creative individuals, design firms, including freelancers and designers in various sectors of the creative design industry.
Furthermore, our computers are multi-functional enough to serve the e-sports/PC Gaming Enthusiasts. The e-sports gaming market is reported by Forbes to be worth 32 billion US dollars. Through our hands-on approach, we hope to bridge the skill gaps in quality tech talents in Nigeria, by equipping human capacity and creativity with innovative problem solving approach to handle hardware challenges. Our ultimate goal is to be an indigenous enterprise that makes life better through hardware development and computing solutions that will stimulate progress, creativity and productivity in Africa. Since we started operations we have been thriving on referrals and have recorded sales in 15 states of the federation already. Lifemachines.ng was founded by two friends, Fope Davies and Olawunmi Adesina and we sold our first high-end computer during the final year of our postgraduate study.
Q: What were the Initial Challenges you faced when you started your Business?
If you are familiar with the ICT industry, you will agree with me that consumer electronics is predominantly capital intensive. What makes it worse is the absence of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers in Nigeria, which make us to rely heavily on importation, even to the smallest components of a computer. More so, it is largely dominated by international players and we have few skilled technicians for high-ends and barely any repair stations, making it difficult for the business model to be accepted.
Starting up back then as students, we didn’t have enough capital to fund the business, and we weren’t exposed to business grants at that time, so we relied on (CMF) customer funded model which basically means payment in advance. It was difficult to convince our colleagues to pay huge amount of money for computers they haven’t physically seen before. This is how we started to gradually build trust. Rome they say was not built in a day. This same strategy was what Bill Gates and Michael dell adopted to get their business up and running.
Q: What is the thing that you wish you did differently?
One of the things I feel we could have done
differently is to have properly ensured the early adoption of a structured
business model. I also wish we had a mentor earlier in the business.
Q: Who is your main Inspiration: Business/personal?
Apple as a company inspires me, the brand in itself has strong marketing techniques, their minimalist designs, and for the fact that they operate in a way that makes them two years above their competitors. Apple has been able sell premium and sophisticated products to the world conveniently. Despite the fact that it is relatively pricey for the average Nigerian, we still wouldn’t mind to break the bank for it.
I’m also inspired by the huge number of young Nigerian entrepreneurs making significant impact across the continent and beyond.
Q: What makes you different from your competitors?
Quite a number of things set us apart. Here are a few of them:
1. We have an active team of experienced creatives and technologically inclined individuals with in-depth knowledge of computer solutions, using various rigorous benchmark tests with the ability to locally build and assemble desktop computers, into units called DESIGN-ORIENTED WORK STATIONS with full customizable options for clients with highest performance needs.
2. We are retailers of major brands, and offer affordable high-end pre-built computers with value added bundles in new, open-box and used conditions.
3. We give excellent after sales support and also make payment convenient through various flexible payment plans.
4. We have also commenced swapping/exchange option for low-budget professionals.
Q: Would your Business still be around in 5 years?? Why do you think so?
We don’t plan to relent our efforts so Yes! we will be very much around. Nigeria’s population skews young with a median age of 20 years old. The Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment Mrs. Aisha Abubakar even claims that the Nigerian creative industry has the fastest growth rate in the world and is dominated by a growing millennial population active in different industries. Moreover, with the way businesses have become computer dependent, coupled with the way the public have embraced innovation, tech-startups here and there, Indeed technology has come to stay and Life Machines will be on ground.
Q: What does it take to start a business like yours?
Without mincing words, it requires technicality and precision, bravery and some level of risk taking. Everyone knows how difficult it is to run a business in Nigeria. Also with my few years of experience, I think in retail business, one needs to have a high level of integrity. There is need for absolute honesty and transparency, building trust to ensure customer retention. You also need a considerable amount of capital especially for fast moving consumer electronics.
Q: How has the business made you a better person?
I’ve learnt to be accountable, my people-relationship skills has greatly improved. Running a business has improved my emotional intelligence. I have also become more technical at solving problems.
Q: In what ways have you given back or is your business giving back to the Society?
Personally, over the years I have been involved in a series of volunteering roles and CSR events. As a business, we are scaling and growing. In the nearest future we will definitely launch our own CSR initiative, where we’ll make computers very affordable and maybe free for the less privileged ones.We are looking at an avenue where we can train young people in the fields of computer engineering and hardware development. In our bid to encourage E-sports in Nigeria, we plan to co-host PC gaming competitions where prizes will be won, opening up streams of income for young people.
Q: Do you currently have Expansion Plans? Can you share with us?
we have been working on quite a number of things, on a path of scaling up. We
are collaborating with related organizations to ensure sustainability of the
business. Of course funds are a critical
factor in an expansion plan, but we are still focused on structuring and
operational management of the company. One thing I think people should also
look forward to is our e-commerce website (lifemachines.ng) that promises to be an interactive e-commerce platform, where prospective
customers will have the opportunity of making seamless orders, customize their
computers from the comfort of their homes.
Q: Favorite quote I live by?
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do – Steve Jobs.
MESSAGE TO ENTREPRENEURS
Q: What would you like to tell the person who is scared for one reason or the other to start a Business?
From my experience so far, this entrepreneurship thing is all about execution. You’ll be surprised that for every one idea/innovation you have, there are about 4 people smarter than you, who have the same idea. It all boils down who has the courage to pursue. The biggest risk is not taking any risk at all; remember the secret of getting ahead is getting started.
Message to other Entrepreneurs:
As entrepreneurs we should be value driven, not just focusing on the money/profits alone. Trust the process, be adequately and technically skilled in our areas of business, never stop learning. Lastly, you may not be able to do it alone, collaboration is the future of work.
Message to would-be Entrepreneurs:
wasn’t entirely ready to be an entrepreneur. For me, it was just a matter of
self discovery and recognizing opportunities. The journey of an entrepreneur is
a long, stressful and fearful one. We are literally living in the moment. Once
you start and begin to cross hurdles you never imagine you could cross, your
confidence gets boosted, you are refreshed and each tasks become exciting. Not
to sound too spiritual, let God direct you. Entrepreneurship is great but isn’t
for everyone. You also need to know entrepreneurship is not a part-time job,
side hustle, or a full time job, It’s a lifestyle.
Office address: 7, Adebayo mokuolu street, Anthony village.