F&K Savings is Ibadan’s leading digital savings platform founded by two upstanding gentlemen – Feyi and Folarin. These two young men are dogged, visionary and innovative. Both are graduates of the University of Ibadan – one a graduate of Economics, the other a graduate of Geography. In January 2018, they won a grant from Gov. Rochas Okorocha for the sum of N1,000,000 and in the same 2018 they became fellows of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, winning another grant worth N1,500,000. However, the story of their venture begins from the unlikeliest of places.
Here’s their story.
“In my final year, I had an extra semester so I had to go back to school. I had just four courses that semester and a heap load of free time. I decided to make the time count and be productive. I began to message people, asking them to link me up with opportunities that I could seize at that time. Feyi had posted something – I think it was an advert – on Facebook and when I saw it, I decided to contact him too. I had known Feyi for a couple of years and so I was open and plain with him; letting him understand how dire the situation was. I specifically told him I needed a job, something to make me some money.”
“Folarin had sized me up and probably thought I had some big connects; he did not know that I had nothing to offer in terms of work opportunities or anything. Since my undergraduate days, I always knew I was destined to do great things in business and so I wasn’t ready to spend one year on an NYSC program that would not amount to much for me. So, I went straight into business after graduation. Though I had the conviction deep inside of me that my path was business but I didn’t know what business specifically.
Sometime in late 2015, there was a lecturer in the department of Geography who wanted to carry out some research and was going to recruit students to assist with the research, she was going to pay N50,000. I applied, and my girlfriend (now fiancée) applied to. Before the selection was made, my babe and I had begun to project what we would do with the money if we got it.
It was in the process of brainstorming that my girlfriend suggested that with N50,000 we could start a Mai Shai-style of business where we’d sell noodles and eggs. When we discussed it, it seemed pretty easy. In fact, originally we thought of opening up the noodles and egg joint and employing a Hausa guy to manage it. As fate will have it, the lecturer selected the students that would work with her on the project and neither my fiancée nor I were selected.
With the window of earning N50,000 gone, I began to think about the idea all over again. For four months, from December 2015 – March 2016, life continued but in my head I kept thinking on the noodles idea. At the time I was selling data and that was sustaining me but I knew I needed more. I was one of the first set of people who sold data on campus at the time.
I remember that anytime we went to Etisalat office to buy data in bulk, they would make me feel welcome and even offer us drinks because we would buy as much as 150GB of data and we’d hustle and sell it all in 2 days! We made a lot of money at the time. While I was busy doing the data business, my mind kept processing the whole noodles idea.”
“It was in April 2016 that I reached out to Feyi and he asked that we should meet up at the Heritage Park in UI and just rub minds together. We were two fairly jobless guys meeting up to see what we could do together. It was at that meeting that we discovered that our individual goals aligned together. We both had a passion for business and a strong desire to make money, we knew that we could not wait on the Nigerian system to offer us jobs and above all, we were both broke. Lol.
When he told me about the indomie idea, I bought into it immediately. I loved it. The next hurdle was finding a space to setup. I began to go round UI trying to use all the connections I had to find a space where we could setup on campus but the bureaucracy was very stifling.
One day, Feyi called me and asked me to come with him and check out a space. We got on this journey and we kept going and going. I was the UI-Agbowo person and so I was very unfamiliar with the road; I kept wondering how we could be selling indomie in that faraway place. Eventually, we got there – it was a big, open space in front of Rochas College, Oke-Ado. Apparently Feyi knew about the space because he had graduated from Rochas College and he was the principal’s ‘boy’ at that time.
After we looked at the space and concluded on it, we went to see the principal and explained to him what we wanted. Immediately, he signed off the space to us for use.”
Without wasting time, we rushed into a classroom and began to plan our next step. All we needed to do was to erect a structure and start operations. The funny thing was that we were planning without money. Feyi donated the pots he used in his undergraduate days, his fiancée – Mary – donated her frying pan, grater and some other utensils to the business. I also had some pots, I dropped them too.
For the structure, we conceived a shed with wooden frame and covered with trampoline. We couldn’t leave the floor bare, we needed to cement it and make it decent. It was Feyi and Mary who did the flooring for the business. We did that over the weekend with the hopes of starting operations on Monday the 10th of April 2016.
Morning of April 10, Feyi called me and said, “Folarin, òjò ti ya trampoline o” (Folarin, the rain has ripped open the trampoline). I got there and so the damage, the rain tore the trampoline seriously. We were determined to start that Monday, and the torn trampoline wasn’t going to stop us. On that first day of business, we made N325 and the people that bought that day were people who patronize us out of pity but guess what we were not discouraged. Moving on, we decided we’d have to fix proper roofing sheets for our space.
“We stayed faraway from Oke-Ado, Folarin stayed at Agbowo while I stayed at Mokola so we had to leave our houses as early as 6am/6:30am in order to link up and head to the shed at Oke-Ado. We had to have set up in order to make noodles for our student customers who would be going to school early in the morning. That meant we had to be there by 7am. We were so happy to be selling noodles and making money by ourselves. On my convocation, I didn’t attend; I was at the noodles shed selling.
In fact, one time, a former classmate of mine who graduated with a first class was driving his mom past our shed and then they stopped and he introduced me to his mom. I was wearing my knickers, sweating from turning indomie but I was super proud of what I was doing.
Eventually, as patronage increased, we expanded our operations from just selling noodles to selling real meals – Jollof rice, fried rice etc. – and making deliveries all over Ibadan. We called it F & K Meals. We did all these from that same shed.
While we were truly enjoying doing the indomie business, we were also taking stock because we believed we could do more. It was during one of those periods when we sat down and we were having our moments of introspection that we realized that, as students, we had more money to play around with than we did now that we were graduates.
I made at least N20,000 per week from different businesses while on campus and we concluded that if we had made more judicious use of all the moneys we made as students, we would have had a bigger business operations than what we had going on at the shed.
We also reckoned that, if two of us had similar stories of making cash in school then, many others too would have the same experience. It was then we thought of creating a savings platform where young people could save their money so that they won’t end up being broke during the rainy days. Since our F&K Meals shed was in front of a school, we decided to do a test run with the school.
We approached the principal again and told him we wanted to help the teachers and the SS3 students inculcate a culture of savings. We created a structure and a timeline for which they could save. This was in the late 2016. When we saw how excited and pleased the participants were when they got their moneys back, we were motivated and we decided to remodel it and open it up for a larger audience to access.
Apparently there was someone who had tried to do the same thing with helping people save their money but due to mismanagement, the whole thing flopped. That gave us something to study and learn from. We dissected the guy’s operations – his model, found the loop holes, learnt a few things and then in early 2017 we launched our digital savings platform.
We called the platform F&K Savings.
It was as we were doing all these that we realized that we couldn’t do it all by ourselves and so we realized that we needed a business plan. At that time, we thought we were doing something innovative which no one had ever done before. We had no idea that digital savings wasn’t a new thing. However, what made ours stand out was our business model.
Our business model was original and was birthed from our own first-hand experiences which we had discovered was peculiar to the demography we were looking to capture so it didn’t bother us that a few names already existed in the digital savings game already. Because Folarin had worked on something close to what we were trying to do, we decided that he would focus on F & K Savings while I focused on the F & K Meals.
We created fliers and he would go into UI and do the marketing – spreading the gospel of F & K Savings through word of mouth and through the fliers. We had no funds from anywhere so it was the money we were realizing from the meals that we were pumping into the operations of F & K Savings. Before we began savings, Folarin and I used to do the cooking together for the meals but once he was on to the Savings, we had to get someone new – a lady – to join us on the Meals.”
“F & K Savings began to grow so quickly that at some point, I had to call Feyi that ‘Baba, this thing has grown beyond me and I cannot run it all by myself.’ I made him see that the nature of the business of F & K Savings was totally different from that of F & K Meals. The Savings required close monitoring 24/7 and it was highly technical. It was then that Feyi joined in the operations of F & K Savings full-time while we left F & K Meals in the hands of the lady who joined when I first left.
We based the operations of F & K Savings inside UI and so we began to strategize how to capture the audience we needed to reach on campus. I reached out to a friend, Dara, who now takes all our official pictures, to link us with influencers on campus. We got one or two influential students to help spread the word about F & K Savings and that was how we steadily began to grow. Unknown to us, Rochas Okorocha and his daughter had been following our journey all the way from the noodles phase to Meals and then to the digital savings phase.
On January 24 2018, Rochas Okorocha gave us a grant of One Million Naira (N1,000,000). Nothing about our lifestyle changed when we got the money – we continued with life as usual, we didn’t do any flexing because we knew that we had to make the most of the money. When we got the money we had to decide what to channel the money into – Meals or Savings? We took a leap of faith and put the money into Savings.
We divided the money into two: one-quarter of the money was used to rent a proper office, employ few extra hands and the remaining three-quarters was used for investment. After we set up an office, we decided to widen our target audience. We didn’t want to be available to only the online people, we employed agents whose goals were to reach the folks offline.
In 2017, we applied for the Tony Elumelu Foundation grant with F&K Meals but we weren’t selected. Then, in 2018, we applied for the grant again but this time with F&K Savings. When the selected fellows were announced, F&K Savings wasn’t selected. However, an organization partnered with the Tony Elumelu Foundation which created an opening for 210 extra entrepreneurs to be a part of the fellowship. Mails were sent to us all to re-apply and so we did. Through all of these, we did not pay ourselves a dime as salaries. We paid salaries to staff but we did not have a salary.
Rather than re-apply, we were planning to apply again in 2019. However, few minutes to the close of application, we just decided to re-apply for what it was worth. September 20, we were planning some things for our F&K Foundation when a mail came in that we had been selected for the fellowship and we got a grant worth One Million Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N1,500,000)
The business of digital savings is a highly competitive one – that means you have to be innovative and you must not stop evolving. People who use your platform don’t want to see the same thing again and again, even if it is the outlook of your site and presentation, something has to be different and stand out.
When started out, if you saved N1000 with us, what you got back in the end was the same N1000. We had to figure out a way that our customers would have a little extra on top of what they put in. If we had continued the way we started, we would have been out of the market by now. Right now, for us at F&K Savings, we want to see our customers save with purpose; call it Purpose-Driven Savings.
We started F&K Savings about the time that MMM Ponzi schemes crashed and that made it extremely difficult to convince people to save their hard earned money with us. Imagine you walking up to someone who just lost money to MMM and asking them to save with you, a digital saving platform that doesn’t have a big name. Many perceived it as another form of Ponzi. Really, it was a high hurdle to cross. Then, again, because it is a digital platform, it can with a perception challenge – for example some customers would complain when you direct them to use the app for their transactions and all.”
“You know the product is a digital product and so getting a developer to meet our specification was a challenge. The first guy we got, he spent almost 3 months to develop the platform. He kept coming up with excuses and all; in the end we launched with a half-loading website. I remember sharing the link with a WhatsApp group I belonged to and the feedback I got from members who clicked on the link was that the page was showing ‘Error 404’. I remember one of the guys commented and said, “Feyi don’t disgrace our class o!” I remember that comment well because it drove us to do more.
Thing is, there’s a difference between someone who starts a business with N1000 and someone who starts with $1000. Definitely, our competitors had money to play around with; to hire the best developers and do all sorts; we didn’t have that. We didn’t want to give up so we began with what we could afford because we did not want to give up merely because we couldn’t afford the top shelf developers. So we started with what we had. It was one of Folarin’s friends whom we shared the dream with that began to help us with the tech issues. He is a developer who bought into the dream once we shared our vision with him. He asked for stake in the company and that was it.
One time, we went for marketing on campus and a young lady said to us ‘you guys are the owners of F&K Savings, right?” I answered yes. She asked: ‘do you have an office?’ I answered ‘yes’. Then she said: ‘if you guys are the owners and you are out here doing marketing then that means you don’t have workers in your office that’s why you’re doing this by yourselves.’ She was coming from the angle that, as owners, we shouldn’t be out by ourselves and that we should have marketers all over. She was trying to establish that the business was small but we didn’t let it get to us.
The next day, I was in UI again because we knew where we were going. Even now that we have workers and things are a lot better, we both still go out to the field for awareness and marketing. So, I’ll say the perception of small beginnings was a challenge too at the start.
For us, hindrances are like push-ups. We don’t dodge challenges, we face them head on. We understand that if we faced our challenges, the end result would be growth. And that has been our reality till date.
There are a number things I would call our wins – it is hard to put a finger on one thing as the biggest. For example, moving into this new office here in Bodija is a win that comes to mind. When we moved to our Mokola office, we thought we had achieved something big and huge and we were thinking we’d spend 4-5 years there before moving but we didn’t even use up to two years there.
Also, a little while ago, we discovered that we had had over 10,000 users on our platform. We came from talking to one person to the other, growing our users from one to ten to 100 and then on to 10,000 users.
Our goal was to have at least 100,000 users but we are grateful for how far we have come.
F & K savings is the leading digital savings platform in Ibadan. They have been featured on Techpoint Africa – the largest tech media platform in Africa. You can read about their interview here: https://techpoint.africa/2019/10/08/fk-savings-fintech-solution/
Also they moved from their Mokola office to their new office in Bodija on the 26th November 2019