As we all know, African fashion is future! It is one of the fastest growing industries and according to Deola Sagoe is said could be worth $15.5 billion dollars in the next five years. One of the people working towards making this a reality is Femi Odutola. With Jaro Street, Femi aims to make African fashion easily accessible for consumers and stress free for the producers. He’s here to combat the challenges by giving a platform for both sides to come together, shop, attend workshops, sit in panels and more. We spoke to Femi and he shared a lot about his vision, read below.
• What is Jaro Street?
Jaro Street is an online community focused on bringing African-fashion designers and a growing audience of fashion enthusiasts together. We provide a platform for independent designers to immediately market and sell to a borderless audience. We have developed strict sourcing standards, working directly with independent designers to curate the best selection of African inspired fashion. Having said that, the flagship marketplace is only one part of what users can expect to see. Alongside that is of course the platform on which designers can tell their stories, their passion and so on. We are focused on continuously creating a suite of products and features to support the fast-expanding ecosystem that is the African fashion industry.
• What great minds came together to form Jaro Street?
One of my long time friends, Hakeem Lawal and I co-founded Jaro Street. However, the story doesn’t stop there. We have an enormous amount of support from the amazing team behind us who have bought into our vision from Day 1. For example, we just announced a partnership with The Kscope, founded by one of our team members, Yvonne Ben. Her team will be leading the content creation side of our business; that partnership in itself gives us penetration into an audience base of over 10,000 impressions a month. It is a truly collaborative effort that I feel very privileged to lead.
• What’s the story behind the name?
That’s a question I get all the time especially as a result of the rebranding over the last few months. We started out as “Maijaro”. While we were initially deciding on a name and how we wanted to be described, we obviously wanted a name that will still hold true for the lifetime of our company. We coined the name after Mount Kimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The way we looked at it, we set out to be the peak in the industry we are operating in, so we took a possessive term in Hausa “Mai’ meaning the person that does something and appended it with Jaro to mean, our peak. Today, we have restructured and transitioned Maijaro into a parent company, giving us both the flexibility and management scale to run things independently. To start ventures that may not all be explicitly related. For us, because we are building a community, we also wanted to create an environment where everyone within the community is striving for the peak so we landed with Jaro Street.
My apologies to our wonderful friends out in Tanzania as I understand the word may mean something completely different but on the bright side, we were definitely inspired by the landmark. Tanzania is actually on the list of countries I want to visit in the near future.
• How did you decide to create this platform? What inspired its creation?
It started out as a need to create access to ready made African inspired fashion and we wanted that to happen on a platform that was truly African in its setup and objectives. We also noticed a trend of bigger fashion houses that were taking elements of African fashion and using them in their pieces without giving due credit to the designers. As a result, it evolved into an obligation to fundamentally change the dynamics of the African fashion ecosystem by empowering the designers. At the core of everything we do, Jaro Street was set up to improve the lives of as many people as possible through the empowerment of generations of entrepreneurs.
• How does Jaro Street Work?
We focused on two major user personas and depending on which side you are on, it will work differently. As a vendor, or partners as we like to refer to them, once you are signed on and approved, you will get an account that allows you right away to manage your store front; including inventory, order fulfillment and so on. Partners control merchandise pricing with very little involvement from us. We only provide the framework around service delivery, order fulfillment expectations and so on.
In terms of the fees, we decided very early on that we aren’t going to follow the conventional model of revenue streams, which may include commissions and charges for listing fees. We didn’t think that those charges off the vendor’s top line reflected the most sincere commitment in helping them grow. We work independently with our partners to set their fees solely based on disbursements; this way we help them minimize the cost of business. We have gotten very positive feedback from our partners due to this model.
From a consumer’s standpoint, our goal is to build a global community. Which is why it is important to us that customers are consistently getting access to several top quality collections from designers all over the globe.
• How can a prospective designer get their designs on Jaro Street?
Right now, interested designers can reach us via the contact information on our website, jarostreet.com. Honestly, we are also very millennial in our approach. We’ve had people reach out to us via social media platforms and we certainly encourage that as well. We usually follow up with a questionnaire and often times, a discovery phone call to understand their business a little bit more. The reason for this is to verify that there is a serious intent to grow their business keeping in mind that we cannot compromise our relationships with our customers.
• To wrap this up, where do you see Jaro Street in five years?
I see Jaro Street as a one-stop-shop for everything African fashion.
Our commitment to our stakeholders including partners and investors has been unwavering from the beginning and I expect that to continue to drive our operations over the next five years and even beyond that. Part of our vision statement focuses on helping African fashion and its designers realize their fullest potential. It really is a life-long journey for us; and every step of the way, the intent is to take progressive measures in achieving that. We are driven by growth through innovation. I believe that the industry still has a lot of room for growth and we will see ancillary sectors form along that process. For us at Jaro Street, we want to be right there at the forefront leading the charge, whether that is today or five years from now.
We at The Kscope are very excited for Femi and we wish him and Hakeem the very best with this movement. We love the vision and are also part of it! After shopping at Jaro Street, https://jarostreet.com/, please make sure to check the blog, curated by us; http://blog.jarostreet.com/