The Vendor is a PocketApp series that features creators and professionals who sell on PocketApp. They’ll share why they started their business, how they’ve evolved and what they’ve learnt along the way.
Ulaku Finds is an online store that collaborates with local artisans and craftspeople to create eco-friendly, ethically-sourced home décor pieces.
For The Vendor, Ugonna Eronini, the founder, spoke to us about what inspired Ulaku Finds, managing the business alongside her 9-5 and some of the challenges the business has faced.
Ulaku Finds feels so intentional. How did you come up with the idea?
The name is a derivative of Uloaku, which means “wealthy home” in Igbo. I’ve always known I would do something like this, but it wasn’t clear. Last year, I visited a store in Kigali that sources sustainable home decor pieces from artisans in surrounding countries, and that inspired me to replicate it in Nigeria.
I did my research, shortlisted the items and materials I wanted to use, and travelled to Abia to meet with artisans and be involved in learning how it works. Once I was satisfied with what I had come up with and was convinced that we could begin production, I launched in May 2022.
What was the process of getting your first set of artisans for the company?
In December, I participated in a pageant, and I represented the South-East. One of the clothes I used for the pageant was the Akwete fabric, and I really liked it. When it was time for me to figure out the fabric for the business, I asked people to connect me with one of the women in Abia who hand-weaves the fabric. I met the woman, explained what I wanted and shared my designs. She nailed it, so I contracted her. I found the potter on social media.
Was this your first venture out of school or had you done something else prior to this?
Oh, I still work. Post-graduation, I had a job. I’ve also organised things here and there — a digital magazine, a sip and paint event. I’m just always doing something; this won’t be the first. This one is just the most-recent and, hopefully, the one that lasts the longest.
How’s that like, managing this business and work at the same time?
Honestly, it’s challenging. Because it’s a one-man business, I’m the one in charge of everything. I organise orders, I create the content, I take the photos, everything. It often gets overwhelming, but I’m very passionate about the business. So I always find ways to make it work, and the feedback has been great for a business that’s not even up to six months old.
Are there any moments from the past few months that have reaffirmed your conviction in the business?
It was when some artists I admire bought some products from my store. When I started out, I didn’t have a specific target audience, and I was trying to establish myself in the space. So, when I got those orders, it sent a message to me that they genuinely liked my product. It felt like some kind of warm welcome, an acceptance into the art community.
Have there been any struggles?
Definitely. I did not figure out my target audience early enough; I’m even still trying to figure it out based on the people that have purchased from me. Then there’s also funding, because at this point I’m trying to access micro investments. When I started, I also tried to give out some of my products to some influencers in exchange for more visibility, but I did not get the feedback that I wanted, and it discouraged me. But we eventually tried other solutions in-house that worked. Logistics is also crazy, and my products are ceramics, so I can’t rely on delivery guys; I have to use Uber and it’s insanely exhausting.
At what point in your journey did PocketApp come up?
So, I had the AbegApp last year, but I only used it at places that had discounts for Abeg users. After the rebranding this year, I logged into the app, and I was surprised at how beautifully designed it was. The onboarding experience was awesome, and every feature felt intentional.
I created my store there instantly. I set up the ads, and by the next day, I got so many orders that I was surprised. So far, I’ve gotten the most orders on PocketApp, about 90% of my orders are from the app. Now, I invest most of my energy there. I really like it for a small business owner like myself.
Tell me about how you optimise your store on the app for sales.
I often use the ad feature to promote my product for a little fee. I usually do that so that my product can be given more visibility.