Born in Nigeria, Jide Ipaye bagged a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from the University of Lagos, worked in Multinationals such as Guinness and Total and then started his own IT company in his home country. He holds over 14 years of experience in technology and Strategy. With a shoe size to match his accomplishments, Jide struggled to find shoes to fit his size 48 feet. This is how Keexs was born; Jide decided to make his own shoes!
In order to achieve this, Jide recognised the importance of acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge to do so. He subsequently travelled to the Netherlands where he attended SLEM, an international innovation and training institute for footwear and leather industries, where he learned how to make sneakers from scratch.
Jide then teamed up with friend Moyosore Olowo to raise funds for this new venture, through a global online crowdfunding campaign where they raised enough money to help bring this project to life.
Following this success, KEEXS has been featured on numerous platforms such as Origin Africa (Madagascar), The African Fashion Week Nigeria, Heineken Lagos Fashion Week, Thomson Reuters, eNCA news, TV5Monde, Ebony Life TV, South African Fashion Week and CNN African Voices. KEEXS is positioned as the First Innovative and Social Footwear Brand in Africa.
What does it feel like being someone who wears a size 48?
Being a size 48 is usually not a very comfortable position to be in especially when you don’t have so many options for shoes. I tend to struggle quite a bit when I find shoes I love. They are not usually my size or when I see shoes that are my size they may not be what I love. Other times some of these shoe styles tend to look a bit bogus or funny due to the shoe size length.
What was the driving force for you to leave a booming corporate career to start a business that you were not sure about?
I have always had this knowing, inner desire or voice telling me that I can do more than working in a corporate environment built on other people’s ideas or dreams. Entrepreneurship has afforded me the ability to create things, take an idea and bring it to life and there is nothing more exciting than this.
Was there ever the temptation to stay back at your 9-5 job instead of pursuing your entrepreneurship passion since you worked with a Multinational that is a sought-after job for most Nigerian youths?
Several times during my entrepreneurial journey I have had regrets and second thoughts about going back to a 9-5 but even in the midst of all these challenges. My passion, as well as my extremely supportive wife and extended family, helped me tide through those extremely difficult times.
What has been your greatest motivation?
I read a lot of books, about other successful entrepreneurs and adventurers. Learning about their failures and how they have risen from some of these challenges motivate me the most.
How has your working experience influenced your path to entrepreneurship?
Working with some of the multinationals especially from the strategic thinking perspective and being exposed to business processes, systems and structures have been extremely invaluable to me as an entrepreneur. It helps me to think big, but at the same time, I know it is very important to start small.
What valuable skill or tip from your stay in the corporate world has positively affected your entrepreneurial growth and why?
Multinational have to adopt global best practices to sustain their overall growth and existence. A lot of this exposure has also been instrumental to our Global African Brand mindset at KEEXS.
What are the core features that come to your mind when you set out to design footwear for your customers?
Core features I bear in mind are;
- Comfort – The comfort of our customers is one of the most crucial elements we consider when we are designing our footwear
- Functionality – In this case, we would want to consider the intended application of the shoes e.g Regardless of if it is purely as a fashion item, sports or both. This affects the type of upper materials and constructions of the soles.
- Aesthetics: We have to consider the colours and designs on the shoes and how it applies to gender ( male or female) as well as consumer cultural preferences in some cases.
What makes Keexs unique from its competitors?
The KEEXS footwear brand is an African inspired range of casual footwear that Brings out the Cool in any man or lady. It is also for people who are expressive and unapologetic of their style choices.
Our name KEEXS originates two words KICKS which means casual footwear, sneakers, shoes with rubber- related soles and KEEK which means to peep (This refers to the Afrocentric nature of our brand and other unique design elements of our footwear that cause them to stand out).
Wearing KEEXS has three underlying secrets you should know;
1. Our designs will make you cool and stand out from the crowd.
2. You are contributing towards poverty alleviation.
3. Each product has an embellished story that will inspire you.
Our logo “The Fist Bump” is a gesture in which two people bump their fists together (as in greeting or celebration). Every time you wear KEEXS and meet others like you wearing KEEXS say hello with the Fist Bump and celebrate the positive impact we will make in Africa.
What has been your biggest challenge in business?
The biggest initial challenge we had was getting the fund to startup our business idea. The fund was finally raised through a global online crowdfunding campaign. The next was to get the products distribution and retail going in Nigeria and gradually into other international markets.
How has the reception of the Keexs brand in the African footwear market been?
The reception has been absolutely amazing as we constantly get orders, enquiries and constant positive feedback.
What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur who seeks to raise startup fund through a crowdfunding campaign?
Crowdfunding can be an extremely complex method of raising funds for a startup because there are no guarantees and it requires a lot of dedication in term of preparing the communication materials to pitch to potential backers (online financial supporters).
There are a lot of great ideas out there competing for the same backers ( therefore a lot of time and efforts has to go into studying other crowdfunding campaigns and assembly a support team that believes in your project). Furthermore, financing investment has to also go into advertising to potential backers to get their attention. Overall it can be a very rewarding experience if properly executed.
What’s your advice for young entrepreneurs who are struggling to breakthrough from the corporate life to the entrepreneurial life?
There are so many factors to consider when giving advice to people who have corporate careers and are trying to move over to entrepreneurship. For example, for those who have dependents, the risks of a complete transition could be very high and it is therefore extremely important to sit with such dependants( for example your wife) and discuss your plans in detail, share both the upside and the downside of going into such business ventures and ensure you have their blessings before plunging it. The alternative to this is to start the business idea or opportunity whilst you are employed. However, it is also imperative that your productivity levels to your employer are not affected by your business endeavours in any way or that you are using their paid time to run your new business idea.