Jessica Anuna started her company — Klasha, a fast-fashion online retailer — in 2017 with a $120,000 investment from an international startup accelerator called TechStars Dubai.
Before the launch of this e-commerce platform, she had already worked for Net-A-Porter, Amazon, and started RestockChina, a product sourcing company exporting Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) to the UK and US in 2015.
Her background in e-commerce, fashion, and manufacturing came in handy with the launch of her online clothing store, which caters to women aged 18–28 in Nigeria, Ghana, Francophone countries, and additional emerging markets.
In this interview with Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa, Anuna tells us about her company’s early beginnings, biggest accomplishments, challenges, and her plans to improve the digital economy in Africa.
She also offers her best business advice to young female entrepreneurs.
* The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Business Insider SSA (BISSA): Tell us why you decided to start your online platform?
Jessica Anuna: We started Klasha to connect young millennial consumers in Africa to the global fashion e-commerce economy. When I returned to Nigeria, I noticed there was no fully developed online fast-fashion retailer operating in the region. Consumers were ordering goods from overseas retailers and having to wait weeks for deliveries. At Klasha, we strongly believe young people in Africa should have the same access to the frictionless e-commerce experience offered in other developed markets. That includes access to high-quality fashion at affordable prices with fast delivery, payments in local African currencies, excellent customer service with smooth end-to-end user experience.
BISSA: Can you give us a brief background on Klasha and your take on the African fashion market?
Anuna: We launched less than a year ago with an all-female team of six under-27-years-old based between our Dubai and Lagos offices. Our core customers are millennials aged between 18 to 30. The African fashion industry is growing. Last year, in Africa, Nigerians alone imported more than $4bn worth of fashion into the country. I am particularly excited about how the manufacturing industry is developing on the continent, especially in Ethiopia and Rwanda.
BISSA: How has the journey been since you started?
Anuna: It’s been an exciting journey and we’ve learned a lot as a young company and a young team too. As we’re a startup, we don’t have any legacy issues so we’re able to be nimble and change quickly depending on our customers’ feedback. Humility in e-commerce is very important and operating in a fast-moving economy like Nigeria has given us the ability to introduce and test new features and products quickly and adapt as the market tells us to.
BISSA: What’s your biggest financial and business accomplishment so far?
Anuna: With Africa going through digitization and with increased internet connectivity it creates opportunities for online retailers to scale quickly across the continent. As a company, one of our biggest accomplishments thus far is solving our logistics infrastructure and our cross border value chain across the continent. We strive to delight our customers at all stages of their consumer journey especially within the increasingly growing demand economy in Africa.
BISSA: What challenges have you faced? How did you deal with them?
Anuna: We look at our company as a pan-African company so when we first started, one of the challenges we wanted to solve was providing our customers with fast delivery regardless of their geographical location on the continent. The lack of infrastructure and complex regulation when it came to cross-border trade was one of our biggest challenges when it came to logistics. We now have a unique logistics infrastructure which allows us to move goods cross-border between neighboring countries. This enables us to ship quickly to our customers. We also partner with other shipping companies with domain expertise in logistics who allow us to reach customers in rural parts of Africa too.
BISSA: You were recently named as one of Africa’s new wealth creators, how is your business helping to improve the digital economy?
Anuna: When we think of improving the digital economy, we think about the customer first. In the digital economy in Africa, the customer is rightfully becoming more demanding and their purchasing power is increasing so as a Business to Consumer (B2C) business we’re continuously asking internally how do we delight our customers and improve their experience online, how can we anticipate their purchasing needs and make their online experience frictionless. We use and rely heavily on data collected through our website and social media to make smarter decisions as a company for our customers and thus improve the overall online experience. Digitization for us is cross-functional across all areas of the business so we link payments, data, logistics, marketing and product to provide our customers with a seamless online experience.
BISSA: What are your top business tips for young female entrepreneurs?
Anuna: I am a strong believer in having true domain expertise and becoming a subject matter expert in your chosen field. So I would encourage female entrepreneurs to invest in themselves in education and knowledge of whatever it is they choose to specialize in. That’s something that can never be taken away. I think it’s also important to not be afraid to move out of your comfort zone and diversify your understanding of the issues that matter to your business on a local and global level. Travel, work fast and start building your network from a young age.