My name is Boyede Sobitan. I was born and raised in Chicago Illinois but my parents are originally from Nigeria. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing and Master’s in Health Administration from the University of Illinois-Chicago.
What is Oja Express and how did it come about?
OjaExpress is an app that provides easier access to African and Caribbean food with delivery option. It is also a platform for other entrepreneurs to sell their goods.
This business idea came up one day when I was at a friend’s house, his wife was very busy and complaining about having too much to do, including grocery shopping. I also noticed that there are only a few African stores in the Chicago area which will require a long drive and I thought of how convenient grocery delivery will be. I then took time to research and my Co-founder, Fola Dada and I eventually launched Oja-Express app in 2016 with the core values to preserve culture and make grocery shopping more convenient.
What Steps did you take toward starting your business and how long did it take?
Research, getting a team together (legal advisors, accountants, partners and web designers), designing a website, and developing an app.
Who are your targeted customers?
First and second generation African immigrants, young moms, and Americans who are curious about their African root.
What were/are your marketing strategies?
Word of mouth, advertising in African Churches, Radio, Ebony Magazine, and Local Chicago publications.
With OjaExpress being an online grocery market, how is the delivery service meeting Customer’s demand and covering the geographical areas served?
We partner with delivery companies and get contractors to serve different locations in the Chicago area. We provide customers estimated delivery time and ensure to deliver.
Do currently have any employees?
We currently have contractors through Peapod who help deliver groceries
Since you’ve launched OjaExpress, how has your targeted customers responded to it?
Many have been very open to the shopping online and feel a sense of relief not having to worry about going to one or two groceries stores to get their African food. On the other hand, it’s been challenging to convince some people to try shopping online especially when they have been used to shopping at a particular African store for years.
How is the business doing? What challenges have you encountered?
Business is going well, but just like every other, it takes time. We are creating awareness among our targeted population and meeting their needs. We are outsourcing as our developers are Africans and we are promoting social entrepreneurship.
The challenges are, getting the store out there and helping people understand new ways of doing things. However, once they try shopping on OjaExpress, they come back.
What are the positives?
Word is getting out- Interview with ebony magazine, social media ads; the use of technology
Increase in customer loyalty; from the first 3months till now, almost 40 fold increase in orders; connecting people to their roots and maintaining connectivity.
Are there future plans to extend your services to serve in other cities?
Yes, as matter of fact, we plan to start serving in the DC area by the end of November.
What lessons have you learned so far as an entrepreneur?
Things are never as simple as you think they are
Your team matters- My Co-founder, Fola Dada and I grew up together. It’s important to find people who believe in your vision. People on your team have to be as committed as you are.
OjaExpress Information- Shop online at www.ojaexpress.com and download the app on your mobile device.