There are gifts and there are gifts, you receive some gifts and in as much as you’re very appreciative, you have little or no use for it. This problem is exactly what gave this month’s passion to profession personality -Toyosi, the idea for her gift store – The Little Big Kid Company. The Little Big Kid Company is synonymous with well packed and attractive functional gifts.
My first visit to the Little big Kid company was on a rainy day in March 2019. I had gone in search of the owner as I wanted my book- Mum, My Superhero stocked in their store. I remember walking into their Ikoyi branch and being attended to by two courteous ladies. Their service, ambience and the store layout really impressed me. A lot of the items on display also caught my attention, catchy, practical and very useful items. ‘This lady sure knows her stuff’, I said to my sister.
I didn’t meet her at the store but just a phone call later, we agreed to meet that evening at their flagship store in Lekki. We had a very natural and easy meeting, it was like we had known ourselves before. I knew immediately that I had to talk to her again. I wanted to know how she started her successful chain and how in such a short time she was able to achieve what she has.
That particular visit was short, and the chance finally came last December. So allow me to introduce you to the lovely brains behind The Little Big Kid Company, Toyosi Banjoko the gift expert.
Christmas at the Little Big Kid Company
December is usually busy at the Little Big Company. I sat on a chair tucked in a corner of the store and watched as customers trooped in and out. Some lucky little humans would be getting awesome Christmas presents I thought as I watched the ladies at the desk wrapping different lovely packages. The store looked like a little Santa’s workshop. It was early morning and the store was already so busy. I felt like a little kid myself, Christmas was definitely in the air 🎄.
Toyosi waltzed in and we went up to her office for our meeting. She explained that they were getting ready to set up their pop up store at Eko Hotel’s tropical Christmas wonderland. She told me a little about Christmas at the Little Big Kid Company. Their Christmas package includes a special delivery by elves on Christmas morning, ‘oh, to be a kid again’!
A gap filled
How did you start this was my first question as we made our way to her office on the 1st floor. I couldn’t help but admire the lovely gifts neatly arranged around the room.
“I studied Information and system sciences and got a good job as a client-based manager with First Group, an international property company in Lagos. Coming back to Nigeria, I’d always known I wanted to start a business, I was initially leaning towards rentals. While I was pregnant with my first child, the idea for a ‘mummy and me’ store crossed my mind. At the time, most people had to go the market to purchase baby supply. I thought it would be a great idea to have a store where people who didn’t like going to the market and were not travelling out of the country to deliver, could get their baby supply. I thought I’ll add things like maternity wear for mums, rooms for yoga sessions etc”.
We settled down into her comfortable office and she asked if I was comfortable before she continued.
“I wrote my business plan but had to shove it aside when my baby arrived. I got really busy with caring for my baby and dealing with being a mum. Whilst I was still sitting on my plans, my sister in law started a similar business so I knew I couldn’t go ahead with it and started looking for an alternative business. Then came my daughter’s 1st birthday party where she got tons of gifts, but only one stood out, that was my eureka moment – I realised there was a gap in that market. I went into action immediately, made some purchases on my next trip abroad, created a website and I started my business.
Another thing that came to my attention was the lack of proper gift packaging. Gifts were usually just dumped in a carrier bag, sometimes some will get a gift bag. I’m very particular about packaging, I quickly took that as an add-on to the business. I would take pictures then and send to people, package and dispatch orders after work.
The perfect name
The Little Big Kid Company came from a play on words. I knew that we were going to be stocking toys that will appeal to “kids” of different ages including adults 😃. It’s more or less saying we are all kids at the end of the day. I was also playing on the size of the business, meaning we’re this little store but we are big as well.
I had been toying with different names, a friend of mine suggested ‘Toddler Town’ which sounded good but I later thought it was restrictive. “The Little Big Kid Company just stuck. I liked the playfulness of the name. Also, little kids eventually become big kids and they can still get amazing stuff from us so “The Little Big Kid Company” was perfect.
Employee to Entrepreneurship
I started my business whilst still working full time. Juggling work, business and raising a family was working quite well till the kids started growing older and I realised I needed more time with them. I gave my notice at the office but my boss suggested part-time work with reduced pay. An additional source of income was a good idea as I don’t like to be overly dependent on my husband or anyone, I believe women should be independent, (there should be something coming in that is theirs, no matter how little). This arrangement also worked out well but after a while, I realised the home and business needed my full attention, I finally left my job to focus on my family and business which was already growing steadily.
Three stores later…
After running my business from home for 2 years I knew it was time to get a store. We (The Little Big Kid Company) opened our first store in 2014 at this location, but at the time we only used part of the first floor. I didn’t have a lot of stock then so I knew I had to maximise the space. I decided to use a bigger part of the store for rentals. We hosted baby showers, birthday parties, different events. This gave us additional income as the store was growing. By the end of 2015, I realised the store needed more space. We expanded the store by filling up the 1st floor.
In 2016, a mainland location became necessary, I thought Magodo would be a great location because it has a good number of young upper-middle-class families which is our target market. Unfortunately, by the 6th month, I quickly realised it was not working. Customers would actually come from the mainland to our Lekki shop rather than the Magodo store. I think the complex route of getting into Magodo affected the store. We still needed a mainland store so we turned our gaze on Ikeja.
You’ve got to know when to run…
The mainland store moved to GRA in June 2017, the reception was okay but business was slow. We later realised that even though it was a high network area, it was not our target market area as most residents are older. We had a difficult decision to make!
Another opportunity for expansion came up in Ikoyi, since we had a lot of clients from Ikoyi we went for it and opened our Ikoyi store in March 2018. We had 3 stores in total at that time. I decided to focus on locations where we had an audience and closed the Ikeja store in June 2018. Then the opportunity for a store on Admiralty Way came up. I didn’t mind having 2 Lekki locations because Admiralty Way is very commercial and certainly more visible, however, Admiralty Way store has surprisingly been slower. People still prefer to come here (flagship store) even though the location is not central.
People, people people
When I started the business it never even crossed my mind that we’ll grow to 3 stores. We recently expanded our flagship store and are even thinking of more stores. The growth has been mainly based on referral, people will always refer you when they get quality products and great customer service. Quality is guaranteed at all our stores, quality service, quality products and great ambience.
Our challenges have mainly been erratic exchange rates. The exchange rates have been extremely unstable! When I started this business the exchange rate for Pounds to Naira was 200, it’s now 650! It’s the same story with the dollar.
We don’t produce, so that eliminates any serious challenge with electricity. I also have an efficient system for clearing my goods, I try to reduce the stress from that as much as possible. I limit my involvement by paying experienced people to handle it, that takes away the head-ache even if it’s at a cost, my peace of mind is important.
Sometimes sales are slow and could be discouraging but I get myself up and keep going. I get encouraging feedbacks from customers, sometimes out of the blues, this keeps me going.
My competition is myself, my concern is how to do better than I did last year or last week… I have created a niche in the business already. I have worked on the service and have ensured we stock quality, unique products. I don’t feel threatened by competition, I believe I put enough into my business and I have confidence in what we have built. To be honest, when we started, there were not too many stores like ours, with the quality of products and service that we were providing.
Our products are curated with great care, we are big on quality and practicality. We’re not a toy store but a kids gift store. We stock kids room accessories, proper gadgets for kids, family games etc. We try to stock unique things, we now stock gifts for mums and dads, since they spend time here getting things for their kids it makes sense to have gifts they can pick for themselves. kids can also come in store to pick something for mothers and fathers day.
I do see more nice gift stores now and it actually makes me happy. It’s a large market, we can’t cater to everybody. I actually know some people who do something similar that I am quite close too. We advise each other and even refer customers when we are out of some products customers need. We cannot cater to everybody, the market is big enough for all of us. Some people come here and complain to whoever referred them that they didn’t see anything. It may be that they didn’t see what they are used to, but it just shows we can’t cater to everyone.
In the next couple of years, we plan to have stores outside Nigeria. We could start with west Africa, maybe Ghana. I used to be nervous about expanding outside of Nigeria but not anymore. Covid has made me realise that one just has to move as life is just so fickle. We stock some distinct products that would do well anywhere in the world.
We are also planning to open a store in Abuja, once we can get an Abuja store up and running successfully we will then look at other parts of Nigeria.
Letting my hair down
I unwind with my friends, I like to go out to dinner and have a good time. I try to combine my ‘me time’ with my sourcing trips, I take an extra day or 2 when I go on those trips, just to relax. Something else I really enjoy is Art, I enjoy art in all its forms, I enjoy going to art exhibitions, stage plays and things like that.
I also enjoy interior designing. It’s something I do in my free time, I actually just signed up for an online course, I find it very relaxing.
Retail therapy (splurging)…
I’m a very content person. I’m all about comfort, I think I’ve outgrown grown splurges. There probably was a stage in my life I was like but I honestly can’t think of anything. Now that you say this it won’t be a bad idea to splurge on something good. I should spoil myself a little, I’ve worked really hard, Lool. This year I won’t mind splurging on an iPhone 12. I’ll try to save up for that.
If I had superpowers
The high level of poverty in Nigeria bothers me, I would love a power that could help alleviate poverty. I hate to see so much poverty in the country! I do my bit, I wish I could do so much more…
All that matters
I have come to realise that entrepreneurship actually takes more of your time. I’m lucky to have a super supportive and hands-on husband who has made the journey smooth. I am also blessed with domestic staff that have been with me for years, this has made my work/life hassle-free.
I have dedicated Sundays for a full family day. We go out for meals, to the beach, movies or watch a play. I make time for the kids, play with them, pick them from school, gist with them. We always celebrate birthdays, I take loads of pictures and videos. I try to create great memories. My mission is to raise grounded, content and happy children. Parenting is hard work and I try to put everything into it. After all, family is all that matters.
Thank you Toyosi, we love your store and are amazed by what you have accomplished in just a few years.
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2 thoughts on “Passion to profession – Toyosi Banjoko”
I would love to visit this store…soon I hope.
TO THE BEST EVER …. THE LITTLE BIG KID COMPANY TO THE WORLD .. GOING PLACES ALL AROUND THE WORLD