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Lockdown happened & a lot of businesses went under, some were forced to shut down, layoff staff or innovate. After 6 months of heavy dry spell, one of my colleagues in the apparel business, (let’s call him Mr D) decided he was going to take the innovation route. Thread
His business was famously known for their ingenious of producing traditional African men’s wear in less than 24 hours. Properly packaged, clean finishing & affordable. Mr D knew this new crisis came with new challenges, albeit new opportunities. Just like him, a lot of SME
Apparel businesses too were affected, for most it meant an end of a journey, with no light at the end of the tunnel. Majority of their clients weren’t travelling, getting married or throwing parties any longer. People were not making or buying new celebratory outfits like before.
But there was a small, not so significant number, who still needed traditional outfits for meetings, travels or personal functions. They were essential workers, authorised business owners or couples getting married on Zoom. These numbers weren’t enough for most to subsidise the
cost of running fully with all the Govt restrictions in place & crackdowns that came with surviving the C*VID-19 onslaught. Nonetheless, it was the glimmer of hope needed to retain their customer base for any eventualities that may occur in their favour. Hope was now a product.
Mr D decided to restructure his business to cater to other direct competitors who needed to make traditional menswear quickly, who also didn’t have steady orders like before but didn’t want to bear the cost of paying staff, running at full capacity & losing their loyal customers.
The business model was simple: 1. Set price for all outfits. 2. Place Order 3. Pick up Same business model as usual, the difference was he was reaching out to his competitors & offering hope. He didn’t have to layoff his staff, full capacity & the main focus was other businesses.
When I sat down to speak with someone I know who produces tomato sauce, I told her the same thing: Diversify your business. A simple tweak in your business model will either keep or kill it. Now she does 3rd party blending for other FMCG startups. You either adapt or innovate.
Innovation most times isn’t a new product or service, but a small nudge from 0 to 0.1 to cater to a newly discovered market demand, created out of chaos. For most, it’s merger & acquisition, or just a slight tilt of focus towards the right direction, to see hope take a new form.

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Samuel Otigba

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