By Bimbola Oyesola
The country may be in recession, but this may also be a golden opportunity for those who can look beyond the problem to launch themselves into successful entrepreneurship. Owning a car wash business can be a great way to make a living. If you choose a good location, buy the right equipment, provide fast, efficient service at competitive prices, and market yourself well, customers will come and your business will thrive.
Nigeria is blessed with good weather, but either in dry or rainy season, people must wash their cars, and there couldn’t have been a better time to invest. More so, washing vehicle by oneself with a sponge, a bucket of water is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Consumers are increasingly turning to professional car wash services making them a lucrative business option.
The beauty of this business however is that it requires less capital and you may not need to worry about the commitment of your workers as most often you can base their income on the number of cars washed by individual.
You can equally make some cool cash by the side, providing refreshments for your customers while waiting for their cars to be washed. However, operating a successful car wash business also requires a significant investment and great planning. Here’s what you need to know before you begin.
As with any venture, this is the first and most important step. Visit other car washes, learn more about the latest technology and equipment, decide on the type of car wash you want to run, and figure out how much it’s going to cost and how you’re going to finance it.
Look at other car washes in the area you’re considering as well as around the city. Find out which ones are successful and why, and on the flip side, which ones are not and why. Learn from their mistakes and benefit from their successes.
The more detailed, the better. It should include your investment, financing and projected profits, and all costs such as taxes, permits, construction, employees, equipment, licenses, liability insurance, marketing and any other business expenses.
Equipment suppliers and manufacturers
Whether you decide to run a hand wash, in-bay automatic or self-service will, in turn, determine the equipment and supplies you’ll need.
Right place, right time
Location: Of course it’s important – in any business it is carefully considered (or should be) before purchases are made.
Car washing is no different: But what should you look out for, specifically, in site selection?
High traffic flow: If you’re in a quiet place, away from the main road and have a limited number of vehicles driving past, you’ll obviously have less customers. While you may be able to slowly gain a loyal customer base, you just won’t have the best turn over.
Target market: Research the type of people living in the area – is it an elderly neighbourhood? Families? Young professionals? Is there a typical kind of car that this demographic drives? As a result of this research you can tailor your car wash to your potential clientele.
Population density: Your car wash will be more profitable if in a more densely populated area.
Proximity to other businesses: Local corporate businesses could bring you consistent trade if you are suitably located. A regular fleet of company cars would be a welcome revenue stream.
Signage: It should be clear, concise and bold – this is particularly relevant for passing trade, so it should be visible from a distance.
It’s simple: If you don’t market your business, you won’t make a profit.
Using a variety of marketing strategies will be most effective in selling your business.
Never under-estimate the personal branding– showing the personality behind the car wash and getting people to trust you and your services will help build a loyal customer base.
More traditional marketing strategies are, of course, a must: leaflets, ads in the local newspaper, yellow pages, and effective signs.
It is the age of technology, hence online marketing can also be used, including a website informing potential customers about contactable links.
Time management and cost should be considered when marketing your car wash. For example, lower cost marketing initiatives such as leaflets and flyers will generally take less time to implement.
Cohesive branding is also a part of successful marketing. Like the signage, make sure that it is clear and consistent on all products, staff uniform and signs.
Firstly, make sure that you have enough start-up capital before you enter into any deals – and that means more than the cost of the car wash. Every new business needs a significant contingency fund.
Be realistic about how much you’re investing and the return you’ll make – consider all factors (location, population).
10 countries implement ECOWAS CET
From Uche Usim, Abuja
Ten West African nations have fully implemented the Common External Tariff (CET).
The CET is one of the instruments of harmonising ECOWAS member states and strengthening their common market.
ECOWAS Director of Trade, Gbenga Obideyi, who disclosed this in Abuja said the tariff came into effect this year.
“Nigeria, Ghana and eight other countries within the West African Monetary Union (UEMOA) had implemented the CET.”
Others are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
Obideyi revealed that member states were expected to implement the common tariff within five years, adding that the remaining five countries would begin implementation of the CET soon.
“The CET came into force in January 2016. Coming into force means all our member states are expected to implement it.
“However, in the CET, like every other policy, there must be some transition period. If you consider the fact that we have a five-year transition, all of the countries are still within the five years.
“The UEMOA countries already had a CET so when ECOWAS CET came on board, it was easy for them because they were already practicing it and they took off immediately,” he said.
Why fake products flood Nigerian market
By Charles Nwaoguji
Every country has its own challenges with substandard goods and products, whether manufactured locally or imported, but Nigeria’s case is higher than normal.
Daily Sun investigation revealed that Nigeria loses about N50 billion annually to importation of fake and substandard products.
The preponderance of fake products in almost all spheres of human activity in the country is alarming. A significant percentage of these counterfeit products are targeted at the Nigerian market, thus making it one of the world’s largest markets for fake and substandard products.
The counterfeit business is also huge in the technology sector, generating huge income for the perpetrators at the expense of the consumers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and the national economy. For instance, billions of naira is spent annually for the importation of counterfeit mobile phones and pirated computer software. Pirated books, music and films, powered by Chinese technology, are readily available in the Nigerian market.
From computer and ICT products, building materials, machinery, cars and spare parts, handkerchiefs, towels, to keys and padlocks, fake products flood the market daily and they are mostly from China and Asia. The Asian Tigers are here but more with substandard and economically wasteful products.
The government body responsible for designation, establishment, approval and declaration of standards in respect of materials, commodities, structures and processes, certification of products in commerce and industry, their promotion at national, regional and international levels, throughout Nigeria, and the enforcement of same is the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON). Their mandate is enormous, the challenge is gargantuan, they are restless, committed, doing their best but the influx of fake products continues without abating.
Only last month, the Acting Director General Director of SON, Dr. Paul Angya, disclosed to Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN) at a capacity building programme organised by SON, the organisation’s readiness to enforce standards.
He said today, for almost all items in the market, there are original and fake products displayed side by side with impunity, and the buyer decides, depending on his purse.
But the worrisome aspect is that the crooks are thriving too much in this business, he noted, stating that some of them import substandard products from China, and paste the name and logo of standard and popular brands on them and sell.
“Others even open up products like television sets, change the internal components and sell. This is where all genuine companies exporting to sell in Nigeria need to collaborate with the SON Conformity and Assessment Programme (SONCAP). Established since 1971, SON has changed and is actively involved in inspection of goods and quality assessment at the ports and borders of Nigeria, considering the economic and health/safety implications of influx of substandard goods into the country. But fake products are everywhere,” Angya said.
The question then is, why is the impact of SON so little felt by the people? The many problems of importers drive them into cutting corners to make some profit.
First, they pay import duty, NAFDAC fees, SON dues, shipping agent fees, clearing and forwarding fees, wharfinger, wharfage, stevedoring conservancy dues, animal and plant quarantine dues, and many more, before the containerised goods leave the seaport. If any of these government officials or departments is not pleased, he simply raises an issue against the importer to the Customs, which elicits some enforcement action against the man. At the end of the day, he settles, with more cost, and he sells at a loss. Next time, he asks the exporter to reduce specification and quality in order to recoup his losses on the earlier consignment, and it subsequently becomes a habit.
Second, where the officers in charge of a particular section in the ports’ clearance process come predominantly from one ethnic group, they use their position to promote the interest of importers from that group and punish or put importers from other or perceived rival ethnic groups at a disadvantage. The net effect is that the disadvantaged importer struggles to also make some profit by importing poor quality products. Greed, corruption and ethnic manipulations have played together at the seaports to land substandard products in Nigeria, complicating the challenges of SON.
In addition, with Nigeria as a dumping ground for all sorts, due to absence of government encouragement for production and manufacturing, many want to import from China, the known centre for fake, cheap and substandard products.
They all find patronage for the questionable products they import because of our huge population and continuously depreciating naira purchasing power.
The market for fake products has become large because the majority cannot afford the high cost of the original standard quality products. Fourth, the Lagos seaports have been so balkanised among the ruling class and their cronies in what they called concessioning, which has made the place look like a mad house.
Any conscientious citizen who used to visit the Lagos seaports of Tin Can and Apapa in the early 1980s to 1990s, will shed tears for this country over what presently obtains there. The ports have become the shame of their past glory.
The work of SON needs to be known by all and sundry through more education, more campaign, more information to the consuming public. The cooperation between SON and the consumer protection agencies need to be enhanced in the interest of the people. SON on its part cannot continue to treat symptoms by destroying the importers’ goods alone, which only impoverish Nigerians. The battle must now be carried beyond our borders to China and Asia.