OPIO, Egypt’s leading DTC (Direct to Consumer) everyday women’s wear brand has raised USD 300,000 investment in a seed round from AUC Angels, local and regional angel investors along with follow-on funding from Flat6labs Cairo.
Launched in 2017, Opio started as a digital native vertical, capitalizing on the long-abandoned Egyptian apparel industry and the surge in online shopping demand. OPIO commissions white label and toll manufacturing women’s wear apparel to different manufacturers and offers it to it’s ever growing customer base at affordable, competitive pricing through its digital platform www.opioshop.com
OPIO caters to people’s desire for simplicity. They seek to eliminate the hassle of researching brands and choosing from numerous options, to make the shopping experience more effortless. The company develops strong ties with local manufacturers, markets, and distributes their own products without using middlemen, which enables them to reduce costs, interact directly with consumers, and provide a seamless start-to-finish buyer’s experience.
“What I see in this market is a huge supply-demand imbalance.” said Shady Mokhtar the co-founder and CEO of OPIO, adding “Egypt has thousands of manufacturers with exceptional manufacturing capabilities yet, a total lack of modern day customers requirements, up to date fashion trends and marketing know-how, specifically in digital marketing practices.”
“On the other hand we’ve witnessed some jaw dropping internet penetration in Egypt the past 10 years, a hyper exposed gen Z, with very limited online offerings.”
“We’ve proven that we can develop a value proposition that can easily compete with international brands, Egypt is full of design and creative talent. Backing this up by relentless focus on customer experience we are confident that we can easily add a strong mark on the local and regional online fashion market.”
Added Reem Abdellaftif OPIO’s Co-founder, Creative Director and Designer-in-Chief.
Over the past couple of years, OPIO’s focus was in developing strong supply chain capabilities and bring onboard a team with a diverse caliber, from digital marketing specialists, to tech experts, as well as fashion design and creative teams. The company acquired talents from reputable e-commerce companies to gain a deeper insight into scaling.
Yaser El Khereji CEO of Albasateen trading company and one of OPIO’s lead investors, says, “We were impressed with Opio’s unique value proposition, We are planning on providing OPIO with the logistical infrastructure they need to set up a strong foothold in the GCC region. With a special attention to localizing the brand to further appeal to the target demographic.”
Mariam Kamel from AUC Angels said, “OPIO has been very responsive to market trends, both in terms of how it interacts with its clientele, and how it reacts to changes induced by the recent developments in the digitalization of the shopping experience. They’ve revised their business plan when they’ve needed to, and established key partnerships where it was beneficial. Shady and his team move fast, and always have news to share on what’s coming next.”
Opio addresses a unique market opportunity that manifested itself with the outbreak of Covid-19 and the major shift by Egyptians towards on-line transactions, the highest of which being in fashion (as highlighted by a MasterCard survey) and an strong team that share a passion for the fashion industry,
strong belief in the creative talent in Egypt, and the operational knowhow needed to deliver an a-class customer experience.
Flat6Labs is a true believer of the OPIO brand and the team behind it and is a proud partner and investor. “We stand behind the team as they take the business beyond borders and scale into a regional and an international brand”, commented Marie-Therese Fam, Managing Partner of Flat6Labs Cairo.
Issued by AUC Angels
Rhoda Aguonigho: Building a Fashion Hub for African Creatives to Create, Connect and Collaborate
Rhoda Aguonigho is a Fashion entrepreneur and cultural & creative industry advocate who is very passionate about the Creative industry in Africa. As a consultant, she has worked with several fashion entrepreneurs, teaching them how to launch their businesses and achieve their brand goals. As a project manager she has worked on some of Africa’s top fashion events and programs like Lagos Fashion Week, Lagos Fashion Awards, The Leap Project and many more. Rhoda is the Founder of Lhaude Fashion network an organization that creates opportunities for emerging Fashion Talents and the Creative Director of Rholabel. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on her journey as a fashion entrepreneur and her passion for the creative and fashion industry. Excerpts.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about yourself and your brand, Lhaude?
Rhoda: My name is Rhoda Aguonigho and I am a fashion entrepreneur. My work in the fashion industry includes consulting, project management and also running a couple of fashion businesses. I am currently the founder of Lhaude Fashion Network. A fashion organization that creates opportunities for emerging fashion startups and creatives across Nigeria and Africa to thrive and grow. We do this via our various initiatives and our digital community platform. We run a digital hub that is currently home to over two hundred creatives across Nigeria and we are spreading that to Africa in the next couple of months.
Alaba: What attracted you to the fashion industry and what do you intend to achieve?
Rhoda: Honestly, I don’t think there was a major thing for me except that when I was pretty much young, I just watched a lot of lifestyles and my interest in the fashion industry was more of wanting to design outfits. Then, I started styling, writing and then grew into becoming a magazine fashion editor, I started to do project management, working at fashion events, etc, and that is how I have grown in the industry.
I intend to achieve an ecosystem in Africa where the fashion business is sustainable and profitable, a system where creatives get constant opportunities to grow and thrive, where there is no gap between the emerging creatives and the top professionals.
Alaba: What were your initial challenges starting off?
Rhoda: I would say the first challenge was access. At the time I started, I was in school, and not in Lagos which is the fashion capital. I was running a fashion organization and needed fashion experts. But things started to get better as I finished school and was able to get into the fashion industry fully with a job.
Another challenge would be funding. You don’t have a lot of organisations giving grants or funds to fashion businesses or initiatives. Being an organization putting together events, initiatives, and needed funds to execute them. There was no amount that we could charge the participants that would cover the cost.
Alaba: How have you attracted members and grown the organisation from the start?
Rhoda: value! People gravitate to where value is given. From the very beginning, in 2017 when we had our first event which took place in ile-ife, Osun State. We had the Style infidel and a fashion designer – Samuel Noon come down to ile-ife. It was a Lhaude network cocktail and a networking session between grassroots, emerging grassroots creatives, and fashion experts. We have various initiatives, a business incubator program, business advisory and mentorship schemes.
Alaba: What issues have proved to be the most challenging in your attempt to help support fashion designers in Nigeria?
Rhoda: I would say a mindset problem, which comes from lack of proper fashion education. Some of these creatives you are trying to help grow are not even as invested as you are in the development of their businesses. I mean we have those with great mindsets, but to a large extent, especially local creatives who have not had the opportunity to be exposed to the fashion business properly or on a large scale. They don’t see the importance of certain things like PR, Accounting and Bookkeeping, Business models, the core business part of fashion.
Alaba: How has technology impacted the fashion industry?
Rhoda: A lot of things are changing, gone are the days when you have to travel abroad for International fashion courses. You can sit in the comfort of your room and access courses with coursemates across the world. Technology is helping to widen access to the market, improve collaboration among fashion enthusiasts, experts and make the fashion community across the world much closer.
Another way is how technology is cutting down on waste. With 3D fashion, designers don’t have to create a physical collection to present. They can do it via 3D and clients select what they want and the designer makes the actual pieces. But in situations where people don’t like it or people don’t receive it, those samples are wasted.
Alaba: The term Fashiontech is still quite new. What is your opinion on this invention?
Rhoda: Yes, Fashion tech is quite new and I am so excited because the possibilities are limitless. Initially, it was just on the e-commerce level, connecting and building networks. But then it grew to 3D and now NFTs. I see innovations coming out of the fashion and tech industry and feel like there is still so much to learn and catch up with.
I mean, Africa, Nigeria, in particular is still growing but I don’t think we are doing so badly. I think orientation is getting so better, people are getting more aware, adjusting and beginning to adapt to technology in their fashion businesses. We still need more education on FashionTech, this is one of the things Lhaude is actually looking into more for next year.
Alaba: Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern fashion industry?
Rhoda: One of the things that excite me is the Fashion Tech like I mentioned in the previous question. The fact that innovation is limitless. I am so excited about the innovation, new ideas, new technology that are to come out from fashion with technology. Another thing is how as an African, there are no limitations to how you can express your creativity or culture, there are no border limitations, because of tech, we can express it to the whole world.
The third thing is building community. It is so amazing when you meet people from other cultures or countries who are interested in similar things as you. That is, as a fashion executive in Lagos, I can connect with a fashion executive or designer in London, Scotland, Australia, etc and we are building communities connected by our passion and drive for creativity, regardless of cultural differences.
Alaba: Where do you see Lhaunde Fashion Network and the Nigerian Fashion Industry in the next 5 years?
Rhoda: I see Lhaude being Africa’s foremost fashion community. The fashion hub where creatives across Africa and the globe plugin to Create, Connect and Collaborate. I definitely see Lhaude building a world-class hub for fashion creatives, where they get access to everything they need to build, to thrive, and to grow.
I see the Nigerian Fashion industry as one of the leading fashion industries across the world. An industry that will be known for innovation, creativity, and originality. With a rich culture and creative people leading the fashion sphere across the world.
Alaba: What piece of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Rhoda: My advice to them is, be resilient and innovative. I would say to not give up, be resilient and do not just be comfortable with the state of your business or your business idea, constantly innovate, constantly grow. The idea for Lhaude came in 2016 and it didn’t start until 2017. At that time, I was still in college. It was quite difficult running an organization and building a career simultaneously.