Ikwu Onyeka, founder and CEO of Carmart Nigeria, said determination, hard work, and commitment were key in his success as an entrepreneur.
Onyeka spoke in an Instagram Live session broadcast.
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Onyeka said he is a man of many interests – a frontend developer with experience as a social media manager and has engaged car dealerships. Onyeka said he brought these aspects of his professional life together at Carmart Nigeria, which he launched in 2019.
Carmart.ng is an online marketplace for motor vehicles (specifically cars and motorcycles). Individual and corporate dealers put vehicles up for sale on the site, and potential buyers log on to make a purchase. At the moment, it’s Nigeria’s top-ranked website in this niche, with over 500,000 monthly visits.
Onyeka revealed that he did not originally intend for the startup to be a connector for buyers and sellers.
He started with a different model – sourcing car parts from his own vendors and having those parts supplied to buyers located close to them. But matching both ends proved difficult. So he pivoted to running an open market.
Onyeka said it was not an easy space either. Several competitors already existed there. But he was not troubled.
“I looked at them before launching…” he recalled. “I was never discouraged by any of those competitors.”
His confidence stemmed partly from his knowledge of web architecture, and what it took to build an online meeting place for buyers and sellers. His background as a front-end web developer was an advantage he was going to use.
But Onyeka did face some challenges. One of these was a shortage of funding. It was late in December 2018, and he had initially planned to spend Christmas in his hometown, away from Lagos. When the idea of starting Carmart.ng arose, he jettisoned the trip and spent his travel budget on building the Carmart website.
“I used that money to buy a WordPress theme for $50,” he explained. “I also bought the Carmartng domain name for ₦4,000, because it was cheaper than a .ng domain.
“I was wary about spending a lot of money, because of the possibility that the idea might not work out well.”
Onyeka later launched the website in mid-January.
He said he remembers collecting car listings from social media and placing them on the site, where, he hoped, prospective buyers would stop by to check the vehicles listed.
“Before April, I got up to a hundred registered users on the site,” he recalled. “Then in April, I received a call from a dealer, who wanted to sell his cars regularly on the website. He also wanted to how much I charged for that, per month.”
Onyeka didn’t even have a price plan; he hadn’t intended Carmart Nigeria to earn from dealer listings. So he blurted out a fee of ₦30,000 per month. To his surprise, the dealer settled for the offer.
That dealer was Carmart’s first paying user. After the call, Onyeka decided to revise his business model. He moved the site to a new platform and launched it again. This gave Carmart Nigeria the edge needed to operate as a competitive, revenue-generating player in the online motor vehicle trading niche.
The business has experienced growth in less than two years. Buyers and sellers alike have flocked to the website in large numbers. The startup says it receives at least 20,000 auto shoppers daily. This growth continued during the pandemic.
Onyeka said his intent is to set up in other parts of Africa, beginning in the West African sub-region. For now, he’s focused on strengthening the company’s grip on the online market for cars in Nigeria.
He advised starting entrepreneurs to “acquire the skills needed. This lets you manage the business better. If you can, spend months trying to understand the business before going into it.”