STARTUP STORIES

Car wash business;Meet Jimi Abia a Nigerian start-up

Among what I was taught from early childhood was 1. To as much as necessary, think independently 2. To as much as possible, act independently and to create whatever situation you want to see out of life rather than wait for it to just come by or happen. These principles have been very critical to my daily living.

I remember that year. I had just graduated from the university and served. I was new to Lagos and squatting with a younger relation who just graduated also and got an entry level marketing job in a bank. Of course, I didn’t really have an option. There was really nothing of real value I could call mine. The only bank account I had at some point fluctuated between 500 naira to 5,000. I was of course a graduate and had expected I would land a reasonably good job within a short time, but good things don’t always come that easy. Of course, I had few offers but none of them met my career or financial growth plan.  If any had met an offer that was close to one of the two growth plans I would probably had taken the offer at least for a start. They were just too off track to make any sense.

One thing I couldn’t do was fold my hands and wait for things to just happen. I just had to find a something to do to support myself. After all, while in school I had done a few things to shore up my resources – I made and sold pin-up rosettes at events like matriculation, weddings etc; I once made handmade customized greeting cards, so I could do something once more. The only difference is that I’m now a graduate and  in Lagos. Every other thing remains the same. I’m same Jimmy. I was already washing neighbours cars for them in the block of flats in which I lived with my relation in his one bedroom flat. Most neighbours returned home late and tired and left early next morning with little or no time or energy to wash their cars. Even weekends were choked for them. I noticed this phenomenon in Lagos in my early days here. It was difficult for a lot of people to wash their cars themselves unlike in the calm and less bustling eastern city I grew up in.  So I had already taken up the task of washing their cars for them. As reward they gave me tips from 200 naira to at times up to 1,000 naira. It was sustaining me and saved me from being a parasite to my relation.

I soon discovered I could turn this into a business. I could go beyond my compound. I didn’t know so many places in Lagos but I had a friend who was a security man in a nearby estate. I told him of my plan and how he would be useful in helping me secure a place to wash cars in the estate. He made enquiries and told me what it would take to get a land space. It was huge! I was wondering what led me into asking as I had no money to even pay even if it was cheap. Plans had to change. I didn’t have money to invest in anything big so I opted to go guerilla. I went to a business center and had a flyer typed for me in black and white and photocopied A4 size. It bore other things in addition to the main catch: “EXECUTIVE HOME CAR WASH” then my phone number. I begged my friend to assist me in sharing the flyers to people he knew in the estate and to paste it at strategic locations. He also assisted me to get security approval. Of course he was to share from proceeds.

Before I knew what was happening calls were flooding my phone. The major challenge was now about arranging suitable schedules with the clients. Some wanted mornings, some wanted weekends, some wanted evenings. Any time was ok by me once I made sure two clients time don’t conflict. I had commenced the business. Car wash was at the time normally going for 500 naira per saloon car but after charging the usual rate for a while I found that demand was too high so I raised it beyond regular car wash rates to 700 – 1,000 naira per saloon car and 1,000 for SUV’s and people relentlessly paid. There is a real need for such services. In a work day I was washing about 8 cars and making up to 8,000 daily. Weekends were the bomb!! I made 20 to 30,000 each weekend!! It was like a dream. I just brought my towels, a washing foam, car wash and wax soap. I used their water and bucket so cost was low but profits was high. I soon moved out of my brother’s place and rented an apartment within the estate.  From the proceeds I also bought my first car. Partnering with that my relation I set up a laundry and because of my experience our main selling point was that we did pickup and delivery of clothes. Of course we had employed people to assist us do most things. I eventually moved on to other pursuits. I had some other passion which took me to the University so when the opportunity came I had to pursue my first passion. I got some professional experience and today I run my own office focused on my profession while I also run an interior design company in partnership with others. My brother still runs the laundry for mutual gains. I had to suspend the car wash business when I got into my professional calling which the car wash helped me set up. Of course the time constraints of joggling the two would make it nearly impossible to carry on in that business model. However, I recently secured a land space to start a regular car wash. From there I intend to reestablish an offshoot that will still do home car wash. The message however is that this is a model I know that works for any beginner who is committed to making use of his natural resources rather than wait to be spoon-fed.

 

My experience has made remarkable impact on me. In 2009 I was picked as one of the finalists on Nigeria’s premier business TV reality show “THE INTERN”. My prior experience came handy in the group tasks we were expected to perform. I introduced the home laundry and home car wash models to my team on the show and we won our tasks.

 

You can always make a success of life no matter where you are or your position or situation at this time. The secret lies in FINDING A NEED AND FILLING IT. Around each of us is a need which people want to satisfy. If you are able to satisfy such a need then wealth will e yours if you can consistently apply relevant business principles to it. Light bulbs, phones, motor vehicles, computers, Airplanes and all types of human inventions are products of an attempt to fill a need or want and the beautiful thing is that HUMAN WANTS ARE INSATIABLE. So begin today to find a need around you and fill it

About the author

Sandra Chinedu

Chinedu Sandra is an Entrepreneur within the I.C.T space and loves blogging. She is on the Honour list of GEM, a World Bank Project for start-ups in Africa.

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