Lanre Sonola the founder of Vulcan Print Limited shares tips on how to start and run a successful business during the pandemic
Can we get to meet you?
My name is Lanre Sonola and I am the founder of Vulcan Print Limited with a subsidiary called TEE Sandwich which has been in operation for less than a year now. I was born and raised in Lagos State and a graduate of University of Ibadan / Adult Education
How did the idea for your business come about?
A few years ago, I worked for an international company remotely from Nigeria. My job was to manage their Amazon product listings and ads. Eventually my role expanded to help them startup their print on demand company. Print on demand is an order fulfillment method where items are printed only when an order is made.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
I lost my job last year due to the economic impact of Covid. I’d always considered introducing the print on demand formula to Nigeria and this was a good a time as any.
How did you come up with the name for your company?
I like Greek mythology and Vulcan is the Greek god of creativity. Creativity is a big driving force behind what I do
How did you raise funding for your venture? Starting out was not capital intensive.
I invested in packaging material and only worked with prepayment plans which covered product. I have a network of printers and tailors I use for production.
How do you build a successful customer base?
I started with my close network via WhatsApp and my contacts on other social media platforms. After which I partnered with other brands to sponsor product giveaways with caveats to visit my online product marketplace. I also reward people who give me successful referrals
How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful?
As mentioned above, stories in chat apps and social media. I’ve had equal success in both but recently began to see more success on social media particularly Instagram. This is because I recently began running ads.
Can you describe/outline your typical day?
My typical day starts with me collating pending orders and sorting out the blanks (blank items to be printed on). After which I head out to get them printed and shipped to my customers. I also take the time to come up with creative T-shirt concepts and designs. I also do my books/accounts.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
There hasn’t been a significant difference. I’ve always been the primary breadwinner so that hasn’t change. I do however have more time to spend with my family. My hours are mine.
What motivates you?
Walking down the street and seeing someone wearing my creation. I won’t lie, being able to pay my bills, save and treat my kids with the money I make is a big motivator. Lol.
How do you generate new ideas?
I look at trending topics, bestselling designs and fashion trends to help with generating new print ideas and marketing strategies.
What is your greatest fear as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage it?
My greatest fear is my business going belly up. To keep the fear from eating me up, I just take it one day at a time and treat each customer like they were my only customer.
What are your ideals?
I believe in never mincing knowledge. When people come to me and ask about my business and how to get started, I always share.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Not having to deal with going through line managers, getting approvals and all manner of red tape associated with working with an organization.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The day I made my first sale. It felt so gratifying.
What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who want to become entrepreneurs?
It’s always a great learning opportunity when working for someone else before you venture out in entrepreneurship.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I’d definitely have started a lot sooner. But you know what they say, you do your best work when you are taken out of your comfort zone.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Three things I believe a good entrepreneur should have is discipline, financial intelligence and people skills.
What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?
I am still working on this but what helps is drawing up lists. I swear by this. Daily lists, weekly, quarterly. Then I work at striking out as much as possible.
What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?
Networking is always key and well as staying current with industry trends and customer needs.
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