DAVID WEJ #BehindTheBusiness – How he turned his passion into a thriving business.
2009 is a year David Eweje will never forget. It was the year he sold his first designed suit. A black, one-button, pink lapel, flared pants suit. 6 years and a lot of work later, he has become the up and coming Nigerian designer to look out for and has managed to turn his passion for fashion into a thriving business.
He gladly accepted our invite to interview him and thus we all gathered on a Monday morning in a small cozy room on the second floor of Jumia’s headquarters in Ikeja, Lagos. Elegantly dressed in a red, blue and white checked shirt with the top button undone, pants and shoes of his own design, he seems very at ease, eloquent and poised as he opens up to us, telling us about himself, his moments of despair and joy and his life’s accomplishment: The David Wej fashion brand.
David Eweje lives fashion, sleeps fashion, eats fashion, breathes fashion. As far as he can remember, this dream of his has always been on his mind. As a kid, David already differentiates himself from his classmates by the way he wears the school uniform, accessorizing it and adding a certain je ne sais quoi to it that makes him look so “sharp” as he says himself. He begins sketching shoes, suits and formal shirts as early as high school, hoping to transform this dream into reality one day. He wins Best Dressed Awards both as a student at the University of Lagos where he schools, and then later at Globalcom and E-connect Wireless where he is employed as a customer care representative.
It is in fact his work colleagues’ frequent complaints about the scarcity of clothing options in Nigeria that eventually convinces him to take a leap of faith and start his own brand. David wants to design, manufacture, market and distribute premium ready to wear clothes to Nigerians. He smiles as he tells us how it all started: his first client is a colleague from Globalcom, looking for that perfect suit. He thus creates a little workshop in the boot of his car and meets with his first tailor to have it designed to his taste.
And this is how it all starts… the story behind the business.
Soon, his second order comes flowing in, and his third, and his fourth etc. In a few weeks, David sells 950 pieces of this same suit. The thrill of success grips him and he soon faces the challenges of exponential growth: production and logistics.
With his own savings, he opens his first store in Lagos. But David is thirsty for more: he wants to make his brand even more visible, attract more customers and solve his manufacturing and logistic challenges. Encouraged by his friends, he sets up meetings with two different e-commerce websites with the hope of outsourcing some of those responsibilities.
His first experience with an e-commerce is a disappointment, David recalls. With one item sold in 6 months, David was very reticent about working ever again with another e-commerce. His luck turns around when Jumia knocks on his door on the 9th of August 2012. David reluctantly accepts to try Jumia out and provides them with 4 product models (also called SKUs) for a total of 35 products that will be put up on the then 3 month-old website. 7 days after the products are put online; David receives a call from his store manager on Jumia: the items have been sold out in 6 days and they now need more.
“I kept giving them another 40 items or so every week and they would come back at the end of every week telling me the stock is exhausted, begging me to provide them with more items” David recalls, smiling.
“I was eventually forced to take them seriously and started planning for a stock increase on the website. The biggest step towards making this a success was actually convincing myself to hand over to Jumia the sales and logistic parts of my business.”
By early 2013, David had increased his stock on the website and had given Jumia the authorization to handle his stock and delivery by signing on the consignment model (read more about consignment).
By December 2013, the David Wej brand had 250 different products online. By December 2014, David had diversified its range of products to both men and women, offering a wide array of accessories and clothing pieces and now displayed 650 unique products on Jumia.com.ng.
We met with David a few days before Black Friday 2015 as he was telling us about his preparation for the big event. On the D-day, Friday the 27th of November, David Wej witnessed an increase of 150% in his daily orders on that day. Even better days are ahead of him he is sure of it.
The David Wej brand now employs 37 people, owns 5 stores across Lagos and is one of the fastest growing fashion brands on the e-commerce Jumia. Jumia now represents more than 30% of his total sales. A dreamed turned reality for sure for David Wej who advises other fashion sellers not to be afraid of losing control of some parts of their businesses. “Outsourcing packing, shipping and processing was the key element that allowed me to grow my brand at a very fast pace”.
His success with Jumia Nigeria has made David hungry for more. The main project he is working on presently is a partnership with Jumia in some of the 11 countries in which Jumia operates, to offer his brand to new customers. “I have Kenya, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and South Africa on my mind. We will show them just how amazing Nigerian designers are”.
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