Business Ideas

E-Commerce for Traditional African Attires- Business Idea- Jack Lookman

In the last decade, e-commerce has experienced exponential growth globally, becoming such an important facet of daily living. Presently, about 22% of the world’s population shop online. Still, many projections indicate further growth, with one asserting that retail e-commerce sales may reach $5 trillion by 2021. These projections indicate that there is a place for you in e-commerce. All you need is a sound business idea and meticulous implementation.

One business idea you should consider is African attire e-commerce retailing. Different countries in Africa are known for their unique fabrics and styles. Ankara fabric became one of the most sought-after fabrics in the world because of its stunning beauty and versatility. The fabrics are so versatile that you can conveniently use them for almost any style, retro or contemporary. Ankara fabrics can be used to make iro, buba, gowns, suits, skirts, swimsuits, blazers, hats, earrings, kaftans, blouse, jumpsuits, and asoebi which is loosely translated as “clothes of the family.” If you do decide to go into the African attire business, there would be no shortage of fabrics or styles for your buyers. Purchase a more detailed book by clicking the hyperlink:

A Quick Overview of this Business Idea

Put simply, the idea is about selling packaged African attires via e-commerce to Africans at home and in the diaspora. Basically, you will get supplies of African attires in bulk from more than one supplier to encourage diversity in your stock. You will then produce different garment styles with different materials, guided by specifications like height and body size, as well as trends. Properly packaged, you’ll then retail these to your customers via e-commerce. You will basically be doing what western shops do with western clothes. The difference is that this will be for African attires. Your sales could be in Africa or in the diaspora; for Africans or lovers of African garments. Purchase a more detailed book by clicking the hyperlink:

Where Do You Source Your Stock?

Africa has a rich history of textile production. Where you source your stock will depend on several factors such as price, availability, quality, delivery, and minimum order quantity. Since 1845, Vlisco has designed and manufactured over 350,000 prints inspired by Africa, utilising the technique adopted from Indonesian Batik in Netherland. You could source for Wax Holland, Java and Super Wax from them. You could also source from the Rughani Brothers, manufacturer and exporter of African fabrics, recognised by the Indian government. They have a collection of fabrics with vibrant colors, unique styles and traditional patterns.

However, if you’re looking to source from a Western or Asian company, you could try Yara African Fabrics, Aaron International or Qingdao Phoenix. Yara is based in New York and boasts a collection of unique African patterns and colors, including African Gold Prints, Batik and Tie-Dye Fabric, Graphic Print, Kente Print, Mudcloth Print, Patchwork, Vegetable Print, and Wax Prints. While the US-based Aaron International produces and supplies African laces, fabrics, wax prints, head-ties, and guipure blouse. Qingdao Phoenix is a China-based company that manufactures and supplies African fabrics like soso, java, imitation wax, real wax, Indian blue block wax, pearl powder printing, and golden powder printing.

How Do You Ensure they Supply Quality Fabrics?

First and foremost, you need to give clear specifications of your requirements to your suppliers. You also need to have a written contract or agreement with them, preferably with witnesses. You could have quality control checks by appointed 3rd parties who work in that trade. They could do spot checks on the products before they are shipped to you. The quality controller should be someone of impeccable character who will not be bought over by the supplier. There will also be contracts with the quality controller.

To reduce costs, the controller could be engaged for a few hours weekly or monthly to carry out that function and there could be legal implications for defaults.

What are the Benefits of Starting an African Attire Business?

Besides its lucrativeness, the versatility of African attires, combined with the fact that clothes will always be in demand, makes this business idea an attractive one. Additionally, you would be creating opportunities for other people through the team you would employ, which would include designers, couriers, staff and strategists, among others. Your tailors would be busy and fully engaged. They would have a regular source of income and could aspire to greater things. You could even educate and empower them further by helping them reach those greater heights. Also, you’d be contributing to the growth of your country’s economy by extension. Job creation has far-reaching effects like crime reduction and bigger tax returns.


There are tangible and intangible requirements that would come in handy right from the inception of the business down to its day to day operations. Stock management is one of the key skills you want to have because it can impact sales and your overall finances. Your stock management skills allow you to make astute predictions of market demand. You could predict when demand for certain attire falls and when it might rise again, allowing you to stock up accordingly. Other requirements include business capital, time and resource management skills, communication and analytical skills, market knowledge and problem-solving skills. You can invest in applications that would help you with management and you can also take skill acquisition courses on or Skillshare.

How to Conduct Market Research

Before thrusting yourself into the African attire business, it is very important to conduct comprehensive market research to gain adequate knowledge of the market. This research would help you answer some pertinent questions like how in demand the product is, how big the market is, and what your competitors are doing.

To conduct comprehensive market research, start by deciding the purpose of the study and then analyse the outlook of the African attire industry, followed by locating your target customers and analysing your competition. After that, collect surplus data and then move on to evaluating your findings and then putting them to work.

How to Choose A Niche

The market research you’ve conducted would go a long way in helping you decide on a niche. You already have a comprehensive idea of the African attire market at this point. You know what the market has to offer, its advantages and disadvantages. You know the problems you want to solve, the profitability and pitfalls. And you know your competition, their strengths and weaknesses. Whether you want to target a particular age range, specific geographic locations, Africans or lovers of African wear, depends on you and what your market research is telling you to do. You could settle into making African attire for kids, or focus on aso ebis, ceremonial or cultural outfits for special celebrations.

What are the Cost Implications?

Sometimes, there tend to be misunderstandings when it comes to the scope of startup financing and its calculation. When you’re looking to calculate the cost implication of starting the African attire business, it should account for how much money the entire business needs up until the moment it starts making profits of its own. Your calculation should cover the initial startup costs (business registration, legal fees), assets purchase (e-commerce site, branding) and the running costs of opening the business itself (salaries, logistics, administration). To effectively account for all costs, you need to start by making a list of startup assets, initial startup costs, fixed costs and running costs. After that, you need to create a business forecast on a spreadsheet. Fill in your predicted business activity and revenue generation on the sheet and calculate your sunk cost.

Registering Your Business Name

Your business name is a matter of choice and different countries and states have different guidelines on how to register a business name. Some states let you register online while some only conduct in-person registration. As far as registering your business name goes, you have three options to choose from, which include registering your business structure and operating under that name, filing for a ‘Do Business As’ (DBA) or trademarking your business name. Each of these could be chosen for slightly different reasons.

Registering your business structure and operating under that name is the most straightforward way to go. However, some people find it odd operating under the name of their business structure, so they apply for a DBA, which lets them do business under a nickname that fits in more with the identity of their business.

Business Plan

Typically, while you can bring a bit of flexibility to your business plan, there’s a structure you should follow to come up with a good one. You can find simple templates online to guide you. Your business plan should be as brief and concise as possible. A good business plan consists of seven parts: executive summary, opportunity, execution, operation, company and management summary, financial plan, and appendix.

  1. Executive summary

This should come last in the business plan, though some people prefer to write it first. This part captures what type of company you are and what you do. This is a summary of the entire business plan, so you need to know your business inside out.

  1. Opportunity

This section covers the problem you’re solving, the solution your product provides, who you’re offering them to and how they fit into the market. This is your chance to show what makes you different from your competition and how you plan to expand in the future. Also include product research and competitor matrix in this section.

  1. Execution

As the title suggests, this is where you’d write down how to bring the business to life. Some of the things that should appear under this section include pricing, promotion, packaging, advertising, content marketing, social media marketing, target marketing and sales plan.

  1. Operations

This section covers how your business is going to operate daily. For your African attire startup, the things to account for under this section include technology, fulfilment, stocking peculiarities, distribution, key assumption, risks and external factors.

  1. Company management and summary

This is where you key in the structure of the business, the team and other utility players. Other aspects of this section include location, intellectual property, legal structure and business policy.

  1. Financial Plan

Your financial plan should include sales and revenue forecasts, plus yearly projections for four to five years. This creates a picture of where your business is headed and where it might be in the next half-decade. Other aspects include personnel plan, resource management, the refund policy and exit strategy.

  1. Appendix

This section of the business plan is expendable. But if you have tables, charts, legal notes, definitions and any other important information associated with your business, then this is the section for it.


The importance of branding for your African attire business cannot be overstated. Branding is what keeps you in the mind of your audience and distinguishes you and your product from your competition. Below are the components that come together to create a strong brand identity:

  • Logo: You need a competent graphic designer to create a logo that would represent your African attire business. You need to get this right from the onset because your business logo isn’t something you can change at will. The graphic designer has to do a lot of research about African attire to have an idea of what your business is all about.
  • Personality: Your brand personality is the emotional and personal qualities associated with your brand. This is especially important since this is an African attire business. Which emotion do you want people to think of when they remember your brand? How do you want them to feel? Do you want them to think flamboyant? Elegant? Traditional? Trendy?
  • Colour: 85% of customers believe that colour goes a long way in motivating them to patronise a particular brand. This tells you just how significant colour is to branding. Before settling on any colours, you need to check competitor brands, identify your brand essence, understand what colour means, how customers respond to colour, and where colours should appear.
  • Mission statement: This is where you tell your target customers what you do in a concise and catchy way. A customer needs to have an idea of what you do the first time they look at your mission statement.
  • Equity: Brand equity simply means brand value, determined by how customers perceive you through their experience with your brand. A good way to build brand equity is to under-promise and over-deliver instead of the other way round.

How Can You Market on Amazon or Shopify?

Amazon is a competitive marketplace, but if you can figure it out you can make substantial sales because lots of people shop there. With a conversion rate of roughly 15%, Amazon triples every other e-commerce site in conversion. A robust Amazon sales and promotion plan should include internal and external promotions. Below are a few ways to promote your products on Amazon:

  • Use SEO to optimise your listings

Using popular keywords to optimise your listings can help you attract buyers from within Amazon and from other websites. Those keywords ensure that your products have a fair chance of showing up when buyers use those keywords on search engines. Competent tools like Scope and Google Keyword Planner can help you identify keywords that buyers are using to search for products.

  • Use social media to share your listings

Social media can help boost sales on Amazon. A lot of people spend an inordinate amount of time across different social media platforms. This is an avenue to bring your products directly to customers. However, there are strategic ways to share instead of bombarding your followers with ads of your products. You could use promo codes, insert links into your content or organise a contest on your timeline.

  • Analyse your competition

This applies even when you’re dealing with your own e-commerce site. You constantly need to check your competition to see what they are doing and try to stay ahead of the curve. To improve internal visibility on Amazon, you need to know what’s driving buyers to purchase the products of your competition. Few things you need to look out for include price, images and texts.


We live in an uncertain world and one sudden catastrophic event can send a booming business into the ground. There are a lot of moving parts in the African attire business and something could go wrong with logistics, or there could be damage, disappointments, lawsuits or acts of God. In situations like these, you might be required to pay compensation or out of pocket expenses. Different kinds of insurance could help cover unforeseen happenstances. There’s the professional liability insurance, property insurance, workers compensation insurance, home-based businesses- related insurance, product liability insurance and business interruption insurance. Seek the advice of an expert.

©Jack Lookman Limited 2020

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