I recall when I first met Yomi in 2014. We had all come for a meeting at Sofitel in Ikoyi with the past Managing Director of Pal Pensions. This meeting was where I first heard him share the vision of Printivo. Looking back on that day, reflecting on how far everyone who came for that meeting has come and how well we have done is nothing short of inspiring. There is much to learn from the sheer doggedness, commitment and the strength of one man’s vision to birth business in this our clime against all the odds.
As a student at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, Oluyomi Ojo, the CEO/Co-Founder of Printivo developed and monetized his graphic design skill as a part-time business. When his clients started demanding more than graphic design, he had to take on the added responsibility of also printing the artwork he created for his clients. At that time, he didn’t own a printing press. He had to outsource all of his client’s printing needs. This challenge he said had him shuttling between Lagos and Ogbomosho almost every week.
In his fourth year of studying at the university, he had a compulsory, unpaid internship in an advertising agency where he worked as a graphics artist. The internship program that was supposed to last for six months stretched to 12 months due to ASSU strike. This extended internship afforded him the chance to learn how to build a business around his graphic skills. In his words, “It was during that time that I understood what it was like to build a design business.”
Upon graduation from the Department of Applied Mathematics, he floated a design and advertising company—Urbanbaze—and landed jobs with big brands like Etisalat, Honda and First Bank.
While he ran Urbanbaze, he saw a niche that had unmet needs. The traditional process printing ordinarily allows for the principle of more orders that is, bulk orders for reduced costs and vice versa. This situation made the printing press an expensive venture for startups. While this is apt for big businesses who have the budget to order in bulk, small business owners could hardly afford such a printing solution. “I saw a niche – a relatively ignored market and I took a leap of faith. That was the SMEs. This opportunity was the reason I decided that we – my Co-Founders Ayodeji Adeogun, Ibukun Oloyede and I – should set up Printivo.” Ojo, says.
Printivio is a soft touch tech-enabled printing solution that takes design orders direct from their website. Clients can design, print and deliver their merchandise across Nigeria by placing their orders on the Printivo’s website. This ease of printing allows startups the time they need to focus on their core business.
When they opened shop, they started with printing business cards, letterheads, envelopes and flyers. They have recently added greeting cards, gift items, roll up banners and posters etcetera.
No doubt, this journey was not a smooth ride. However, Oluyomi Ojo and his partners kept their resolve and pushed on despite the challenges. Ojo gives a sneak peek into what helped them stick to their guns:
“I always say, if you want to succeed in something, burn the ship. When we launched Printivo, all the funding we put into Printivo was spent on setting up the business. On the day we launched, we had almost nothing left in our account. Everything had gone into acquiring machines, developing the website and setting up the business. So, it was a case of myself and the co-Founder’s, Ibukun and Deji, and the few guys we started with telling ourselves we either make money from customers or this business die. Yes, the first month was tough. It was crazy. The founders had to sacrifice their salaries.”
The initial funding for Printivo came from the founders, but they took the advice of one of their advisory board members to grab any free money they can get by applying for grants. They got seven million naira from the Federal government’s YouWin grant and ten million dollars from Etisalat Innovation Award, which they ploughed back into the expansion of their business operation.
Although the grants they got have enabled the expansion of Pintivo, he has a word of advice for entrepreneurs that seek to get funding. To quote him, “So, I didn’t come into tech as a startup founder. I came in as a businessman. Funding wasn’t my initial thought. However, it was how we were to get the business off the ground that was topmost on our mind. We needed a system that would first get us not into sustainability then profitability, as soon as possible. This was our first goal. By the third month, things had picked up. We were making enough to keep the business afloat. Every other extra funding that was coming into the business, we kept pumping into expansion. I must state that Investors are not Santa. Most are investing other people’s money. What this means is that as you are looking for profit, an investor is also looking for profit. So you need to show your business to that guy that if he invests, there is something in it for him.”
Printivo, founded in 2014, has grown to house up to thirteen employees.
- Your business idea must not be new, never-before-seen product or solution.
- Adding a tech component to your business to increase sales, speed of delivery and build an agile system is a definite game-changer.
- Start where you are and with the resources you have.
- Build a team of committed partners and champions.
- Success requires patience, commitment and sacrifice
- Give time to understudy the industry where you want to do business.
- Hire a knowledgeable consultant or appoint an advisory board.
- A partnership can work if you are disciplined and ensure to formalize the relationship without sentiments at the beginning of the relationship.
- Keep pushing even when it looks like it’s a dead-end.
- Believe in the power of your idea.