HOW 50K SAVED MY BUSINESS… A life changing story by Rukayat
You’re so good at this! You should make a business out of it!”
This was the statement that converted me from a bubbly university third year student with boyfriend troubles into a stressed out full-time bag maker with monthly sales figures regularly entering 7 digits. I heard it from so many people when I used to upload photos of my former craft hobby on Instagram, and soon I convinced myself that it was worth taking a risk, so I took a deep breath and deleted all my ex-boyfriend’s photos from my Instagram. From now on, I decided, I would only upload pictures of my bags and maybe, just maybe someone out there would be generous enough to pay me some tintinrin money for one of them.
As it turned out, there were quite a number of people who wanted to pay my tintinrin money, starting from my hallmates, to the girls in my faculty, in fact; the whole school, then outside school and orders from Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, even Makurdi of all places. Someone in Makurdi saw my bags on Instagram and actually paid to have one delivered all the way from Benin. A few people suggested that I open a website for my bags and turn this booming Instagram hustle into a legit business, but I wasn’t really interested. Business was just fine, I was making enough money to even send pocket money to my sisters in boarding school, and I kuku didn’t want those government people to notice me and then start disturbing me for tax or one thing like that.
Being Instafamous was enough for me.
The trouble began when I woke up one morning and started seeing people uploading Instagram captions saying “Please turn on my notifications so you can see my posts”. Hehn? Wetin be dis? Apparently Instagram was changing their timeline settings. I wasn’t quite sure what this meant for my business, and in the meantime the orders kept coming so I didn’t think too much of it. I started noticing later however, that my likes and comments started falling, and then later my orders started dwindling. What was going on? I did some reading and suddenly, I realised to my horror that Instagram had changed its algorithm so that people no longer saw my posts in chronological order, and perhaps not at all. As fewer people were liking and commenting on my posts, fewer people were discovering me in their Explore feeds, and fewer new customers searched for me.
I had just been Insta-punched.
At first I too joined the “Please turn on my post notifications” bandwagon, but it didn’t work. The sales figures just kept falling after each trial. From thinking seriously about employing more hands, I was suddenly struggling to get enough orders to pay my bills. I tried all the social media tricks I could think of, including uploading photos on Twitter and doing the “Pls Retweet, my customer may be on your timeline” thing, but I ended up getting only a handful of retweets and a few comments saying “Nice work!” and “How much?” followed by radio silence when I responded with the price.
My business was dying.
In my desperation one day, I stumbled across an article about building a website for N50,000 with a web provider called Whogohost and I decided to just give it a shot, after all I had nothing to lose. What happened next was my biggest miracle of 2017 – with only that N50,000, My new website ended up changing my life permanently. The effect was slow and subtle at first, with no significant rise in my sales numbers, but I started noticing that more people started referring to my bags using my business name, instead of just “Rukky’s bags”.
When I attended events and displayed my bags, when people saw my website displayed alongside them, they treated me with more respect and stopped trying to price them like watermelons. Perhaps the greatest thing of all was that I stopped getting people asking me “How much?” only to disappear without buying, because the website had the price display and order button right next to each bag on display.
Almost overnight, I found that in people’s minds, I had transitioned from being ‘Rukky that girl that makes fine bags’ to ‘Rukky, the fashion accessories entrepreneur’.