“When the pieces are on the floor, you can’t really make sense of it, but when it all comes together, we see the need for some of what has happened. Ultimately, we are a sum total of our experiences.” This was how my interview with Titilope Adewusi, founder of 9ijakids started.
One of 7 siblings and a mechanical engineer, her journey into business started from working with banks and multinationals in the country. She worked with the now-defunct Gulf Bank and later joined Arthur Andersen (now KPMG).
After about 11 years with KPMG, she felt the need to identify her passion and build a business around it. Stepping out of KPMG took Titilope directly to The Place. In her perspective, tech is an enabler that is best combined with experience.
“Working with KPMG afforded me the opportunity to work with different companies from telecommunications to oil and gas. Starting from that place of learning about different sectors, business challenges prepared me for when I followed my passion,” she said.
Exposure opens you up to better ways of doing things
Moving from KPMG to The Place was a reinforcement of the fact that good business relationships can bring opportunities in the future as it was her former boss at KPMG, Kola Adewale who asked her to join him on the management team of the restaurant. The Place had only one branch at Ikeja, at the time.
“I found out that the business principles used in KPMG were also operable in other sectors. Every business is about customers. We did not just add certain foods to the menu because of their popularity, we looked at who our customers were and brought offerings based on their peculiarities.”
Keeping an eye on the financial numbers of the business and never forgetting that location is where marketing starts for a food company, Titi and The Place team soon expanded from 1 to 14 branches in Lagos.
Soon after, Titi says she realized that this was meant to be a passing phase for her to figure out what her passion is. She found out that she’s passionate about learning and helping others learn in a fun and effective manner.
Pivoting into edtech
9ijakids was cofounded by Titilope and 2 of her siblings, Yeside Ogunremi and Dayo Amusu. The idea for the company came about when she found out that one of her own children who loved playing games did not enjoy learning, and would always postpone reading and other learning activities.
“He hated anything textbooks, but if schoolwork was presented in the form of games, he took to it and did not get tired of playing the game,” she said.
Survey showed that it was the same story with a lot of children and from there, she began looking for ways to enable this kind of fun and engaging learning for kids. This was how 9ijakids was established.
A web and mobile app has been developed to make it more accessible to children. School concepts and topics are broken down and repackaged into games that children can play and remember.
School subjects aren’t the only things taught with 9ijakids games as the ability to create games children respond to is being used to teach entrepreneurship, financial literacy and Nigerian values to the young audience.
Making passion profitable
Because kids are the primary focus of the company’s edtech products, parents and schools remain the fastest and logical way to bring 9ijakids to them. There was reluctance from some schools at first because of slow adaptation to technology and the comfort that comes from doing things the old and familiar way.
But COVID-19 has forced parents and schools to rapidly embrace new ways of doing things. Titi says that has helped more people to see the opportunities that kids can have when their learning is blended with content from 9ijakids.
It costs N500 to learn with the edtech company’s resources for 6 months, and schools have the option of paying per term. For Titi and her team, the model hinges on volume and affordability.
“We want this fun way of learning to be affordable for a huge number of kids in and outside Nigeria,” she says.
Drawing from her own unique story and work experience, Titi says that some of what she finds indispensable to building a business includes constantly researching and getting feedback. “It puts the business, whatever it is, on a customer-driven path. The more you deal with customers, the more they tell you their problems and that could lead to your next round of products.”
Her edtech company also operates in the UK. And by listening to the customers in that part of the world, she saw a need to make the company’s animated books available for people to get for their kids on Amazon.
Leveraging technology is a way of doing things for Titi, as she says, it is not something that is complicated and only for the eggheads. It is as simple and practical as using POS or a payment gateway online for more customers to be able to access your products.
“It could also just require that you make use of apps that make it easy for people to find and order for your products online, or dispatch them to customers,” she says.
Titi’s story can be described in one word; exposure. Being exposed to different company practices, and challenges, as well as brainstorming ways to solve them, has helped provide an elevated view for building her own company.
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