Sometimes the African and Caribbean ingredients we grew up on can be difficult to find – especially on the current grocery delivery services. Boyede saw this gap in the market and an opportunity to partner with ethnic grocery stores to provide a much needed service. He developed Oja Express to solve this issue. We caught up with the entrepreneur to learn more about his journey to create a platform that works with African and caribbean grocery retailers rather than replace them.
What is Oja Express?
OjaExpress (Uh-Jah) is a grocery delivery platform, which allows U.S. consumers to shop for their hard-to-find ethnic groceries in a convenient and efficient manner.
What inspired you to launch this company?
Many small grocers lack the technology infrastructure to sell their goods online, and lack the ability to use the Internet to engage and attract new customers. Many ethnic/immigrant consumers find themselves travelling long distances in order to access the cultural groceries they were raised on, to the point that it becomes a hassle. As we all know, food is an essential aspect of any culture, so we wanted to create a tool that makes it easier to maintain cultural ties through food.
What sets apart your business from the many African online grocery stores popping up?
I think our distinguishing quality is that we are a same day-Hyperlocal company. We work with the brick and mortar stores that are already in existence to help them maintain their current customers and reach new customers. Also, we pay a lot of attention to our customers behaviors by engaging with them on an ongoing basis, and utilizing their feedback to improve our service.
What are some of your biggest challenges so far in developing OjaExpress?
Our biggest challenge right now is keeping up with customer demand. We are primarily in Chicago and Washington D.C. but we we get a lot of out of town orders from customers in California, Michigan, and Atlanta, to name a few. Due to the high demand, we are working to launch OjaExpress in different locales, as well as serve those that might not live in a population dense city.
Our biggest success has been the amount of growth we’ve had since the day we were founded, and the team we have built in the process. As a startup, we are learning from each and every order and growing to serve even more. We utilize every customer interaction to get better, and that has paid dividends.
Our team is based in the U.S and on the continent. We have had interns, and team members go on to work for major corporations in the US, based on the skills they have acquired working with OjaExpress. Most people will see team members leaving as a bad thing, we see it as a good thing. We want our people to grow. We want to create a company that anyone from any culture can feel welcomed, challenged, and grow.
What’s your favourite African ingredient to cook with? And what’s your most popular item delivered?
My personal favorite is Gari (cassava flakes), used to make Eba . I love to eat Eba with Ogbono soup (Ogbono seeds, spinach, palm oil) and assorted meat. I prefer to down this meal with an huge glass of water, but if I am feeling gluttonous, Malt.
On our platform, Milo, Ovaltine, Ghana yams, Ackee, SaltFish, many Grace brand products (Seasonings), Maggi, and goat meat are the most popular items people order.
What advice would you give to an emerging entrepreneur in the food & tech space?
I would advise people to assess the food supply chain, and look for areas where there is a true need and you will be able to meaningfully contribute. There’s a lot that goes into getting food on our plate, so there is room for others.
Where can our readers find you?
Visit our website at www.ojaexpress.com