Jand2Gidi founders Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya talk about defying gender bias in the Nigerian logistics landscape

Meet Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya, founders of Jand2Gidi WorldWide, a logistics company

Do you know anyone coming from Jand? I want to buy something...

These are some of the conversations Nigerians have had exhaustively. Buying goods from the international market is not the issue here, it’s getting your orders shipped and delivered to you ESPECIALLY when you are not buying an entire container worth of goods. In summary, having a trustworthy logistics company is like picking beans, very stressful.

Now picture this: You’ve spent most of your life abroad, enjoying the convenience of ordering even just a single hair bundle. But then you come back to Nigeria, and suddenly you’re stuck with limited options and having to hop from one phone call to another, desperately searching for someone maybe an uncle coming from London who can bring you these precious goodies.

Oh, the struggle is real! The lengths we go to for that perfect hair or those trendy items. It’s a quest that’ll make you laugh, cry, and probably question your sanity. For others, they tend to spend twice the price of the product and even after that, wait with their fingers crossed to pray the goods come in safely and ON TIME.

This was the struggle Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya went through after they came back from the UK to continue their education in Nigeria. Little did they know that their own struggle would give rise to the logistics company, Jand2Gidi Worldwide.

Jand2Gidi Worldwide is a logistics company that offers seamless local and international deliveries via Air, Road, and Sea transport from China, Canada, the US, and the UK to Nigeria. It also offers local and worldwide export deliveries and relocation and haulage services within Nigeria.

Leaving the corporate world to build a career in entrepreneurship

Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya, founders of Jand2Gidi WorldWide, a logistics company
Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya, founders of Jand2Gidi WorldWide, a logistics company

With dedication, one might assume that success is guaranteed. Such were the expectations of these two remarkable women. Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya, armed with a Law degree from London Metropolitan University and a Master’s from University College London, had dreams of making her mark in Nigeria’s legal landscape. Meanwhile, Ujama Akpata pursued her passion for Chemical Engineering, earning degrees from the University of Nottingham and Imperial College London.

Fate intervened in 2009 when Ujama, who was celebrating her then-boyfriend’s birthday (now husband) with his best friend who ends up being Kikelomo’s husband, crossed paths with Kikelomo. It was a meeting that sparked a connection between these two extraordinary women.

They quickly discovered a shared challenge: the exorbitant costs and lack of reliable local imports when it came to ordering goods from the UK to Nigeria. This common struggle became a topic of constant conversation, as they navigated the hurdles together.

Fast forward to 2012, and both found themselves employed by the same oil company. Their friendship grew stronger, cemented by a mutual determination to overcome the obstacles they faced. Little did they know that this bond would ignite a spark of entrepreneurship particularly in a logistics company, that would change their lives forever.

In our former workplace, we will spend our lunchtime just browsing on the internet, shopping but then we realized that as we were shopping, we had nowhere to actually send it to, so we had to either rely on family friends, or people they were coming to Nigeria to bring it for us.

Ujama Akpata

Determined to find a solution, these two women embarked on a journey fueled by their vision and the pressing need to import small items. Testing their ideas and methodology, they began ordering goods for themselves and a small circle of friends, gradually realizing the strategic potential of their concept, a logistics company, Jand2Gidi worldwide.

In 2013, Jand2Gidi Worldwide was born as a side business alongside their 8-5 jobs. Fate had other plans in store for them when the international oil company they worked for decided to withdraw from Nigeria, resulting in the loss of their jobs. This unexpected turn of events forced them to make a crucial decision: either pursue another corporate job or fully commit to their logistics company, Jand2Gidi.

At that time, Jand2Gidi had made a significant amount of traction, made revenue and we could now afford a place in Lekki Phase 1. So, we then had to have that important conversation about okay, we are newlyweds, should we go ahead and face this relatively unknown business full-time or go and get paid employment? So, we obviously had conversations with our husbands and they supported us 100%. We gave ourselves one year if it works out fine, if does not work out, back to paid employment.

Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya

Read Also: Looking for better days: The real stories of Lagos dispatch riders

Incorporating emerging technologies into traditional logistics

With 10 years in the logistics industry and over 500,000 packages delivered, it is safe to say that Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya’s logistics company has seen a turnaround of many events happening in the space, especially with the involvement of technology.

Adapting to the idea of a cashless society is not a new concept for Jand2Gidi WorldWide. Ever since the COVID-19 era, the logistics company has adopted this model which has somehow favored its transparency, especially as in the logistics industry, there have been instances where riders miscalculate delivery prices.

Also, in a world where AI has become some sort of daily prayer for many tech companies and a saving grace for individuals as it practically makes life easier, Ujama and Kikelomo have chosen not to be left behind.

Although it is a logistics company that requires manual strength and physical abilities, simplifying customer service operations using AI is one idea these women have jumped on with open arms. They are always open to trying out more innovative AI-inclusive ideas.

However, in terms of cryptocurrencies and the buzz surrounding it, this idea is something these women are still observing from a distance particularly maybe because of its uncertainty. But as Kikelomo said, it all depends on what the future holds for crypto, especially in Nigeria.

If tomorrow, crypto becomes more mainstream than it is today, Jand2Gidi will be ready to accept payment through cryptocurrencies. Basically, it is just about running a business that fits the climate that you are in. – Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya.

Dealing with regulatory policies in the logistics industry

Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya, founders of Jand2Gidi WorldWide, a logistics company
Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya, founders of Jand2Gidi WorldWide, a logistics company

According to Ujama and Kikelomo, unpredictable regulatory policy changes are one of the biggest issues the logistics company has faced since its 10 years of operations. In Nigeria where things are very uncertain, these issues have made the market unfavorable for businesses.

One of the things that have hit us and have always caused issues in terms of even delivering to customers for the importation market is custom fees which can just decide to spring up or go up overnight.

Ujama Akpata

Some issues which the founders have to deal with include changing policies, surprise fees, and additional costs, when negotiations are going on between the agents and the government. These issues cause delays to customers. These, in turn, lead to downtime or lapses in the company’s services.

“It just shows the importance of regulatory certainty when running a business… We are hoping that the regulatory framework will be a bit more favorable for businesses like ours, Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya said.

Challenges with raising funds as a logistics company

Jand2Gidi’s operations are fueled by the personal funds from Ujama and Kikelomo, who poured their own money into the venture. As the logistics company gained traction and started generating revenues, they were able to secure an office space, purchase bikes, and even acquire a van to support their expanding operations.

The lack of funding meant the company wasn’t operating as optimally as the founders would have wanted.

Raising funds has actually been quite difficult, especially in the current market where fundraising has slowed down… We have faced challenges such as finding the right investors and fine-tuning the pitch” – Ujama Akpata

In 2017, a major breakthrough came in the form of a 5 million naira grant from the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), providing a significant boost to their growth. The following year, their entrepreneurial spirit was recognized when they emerged victorious at a pitching competition hosted by Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), securing a prize of $2500. Their journey continued to gain momentum as they participated in a mentorship program, earning a cash prize of 1 million naira.

Fast forward to 2021, Ujama and Kikelomo successfully raised a family and friends round, marking their most recent funding accomplishment. While currently enrolled in an accelerator program, these visionary founders have encountered challenges in securing funds over the past decade.

Speaking of gender as a barrier, Kikelomo explained that while this might be a possible reason, it is not an impossible or an unachievable task that is forever hindering businesses, especially their logistics company.

There is already that disadvantage, but then even in that space, we still have women that have gotten funding from VCs, so it happens and it is possible.

Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya

A disproportionate number of female founders to male founders in Africa

Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya, founders of Jand2Gidi WorldWide, a logistics company
Ujama Akpata and Kikelomo Fola-Ogunniya, founders of Jand2Gidi WorldWide, a logistics company

A Technext industry analysis report made a startling revelation: only 14% of African startup founders are women. This highlights a significant gender disparity within the entrepreneurial landscape. Behind this disheartening statistic lies a myriad of challenges, many of which stem from societal and cultural barriers that women face.

In the midst of this uneven playing field, Ujama, and Kikelomo, having spent a decade as female founders in the industry, shed light on the prevailing barriers that hinder women’s progress. Ujama candidly pointed out that societal norms often shape women’s mindsets, instilling doubt in their strengths and capabilities.

There is also the fact that women in the space are limited. they are kind of comfortable where they are… Women are not risk-takers compared to men.

Unlike their male counterparts, women are sometimes perceived as less aggressive and reluctant to take big risks. Ujama went on to explain that emotional attachment can further impede women from embracing risk-taking, even in their own businesses—a mindset that she believes has been ingrained in women over time and has affected them during their bootstrapping periods.

Their experiences speak volumes about the challenges faced by women in entrepreneurship. Despite these obstacles, Ujama and Kikelomo have forged their path, defying norms and pushing boundaries. Their story serves as a testament to the resilience, determination, and unwavering spirit of women in business.

You can watch the full interview here:

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