My Top 4 @okadabooks Company Rejections And What I Learned From Them #TheCubicleEntrepreneur

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RejectionsBeing rejected is tough but having your entire business idea rejected over and over again and in different phases of growth is even tougher!

And since starting in September of 2013 we have experienced our fair shares of rejection. In fact the rejections have been so much, that I have become an expert in rejection.

But the thing with rejection is that the more you get it, the better your company becomes. Because each rejection teaches you something new about your business that you were not aware of … provided you are paying attention!

So below is a compiled list of My top 4 @OkadaBooks rejections and What I learned from Them

#1  Being Rejected by A Top Phone Brand (The “no” Rejection)

This was when we just started out in 2013. I was excited, I felt okadabooks was the best thing since Glover Court Suya (without the diarrhea).

I emailed and called the representatives of a big phone company in Nigeria that had just arrived in the country. And managed after several calls to schedule a meeting with their Company Representative at Chicken Republic (the one on Awolowo Road)!

I had my colorful brochure ready, my nicely pressed shirt, my smile glistening, and my canned speech on why OkadaBooks would be the next Amazon of Nigeria.

The only problem was that okadabooks just didn’t have the numbers, we had barely 3000 users and our growth rate was nothing to write home about.

I remember this, because the company representative interrupted me right at the beginning of my canned speech to find out how many users we had. When I mentioned 3000, all the blood seemed to rush from his face as he proceeded to show me a chat service they had started which had over 5 million or so users.

Needless to say our meeting ended, it was basically a “no” you are not yet big enough to mess with us. But that was the rejection I loved, because it was honest, it was immediate, it was sharp and it had legitimate reason. My partner and I embraced and worked to build our numbers. We understood that to talk to certain brands you will need to show appreciable user growth and numbers.

Today we have over 83,000 143,000 users and are accruing users at a rate of 1000 per week. And since that rejection we have been able to work with top brands and are about to secure our first investment deal.

Lesson #1: Sometimes you are not yet ready.

#2 Being rejected by A Major Publishing Firm (The “no but not no” rejection)

This was another rejection that happened early on in our journey and went on for awhile, it’s what I call the “no but not no” rejection.

Part of our strategy was to convince top publishers to put their books on our app (no-brainer). Some were receptive, others said no, but one publishers in particular said “no, but if you do ABC we would put our books on your app.”

So we spent money doing “ABC and even DEF” and went back to this publisher. And they looked at our app, after weeks of silence, they came back, and said “no, but if you do, GHI and maybe JKL, we would put our books, just do that.”

So we ran off again, back to our computers, working on putting GHI and a little bit of JKL together. Ran back to Publisher, publisher looked at the app and said “this is getting better, really impressive, but do you think you can do XYZ.”

And that’s when we realized it. This publisher was telling us “no” the long way.

This is the worst rejection, because they give you hope that you can please them, and you spend time and resources trying to please them only to be denied over and over again.

By the time you realize they are not really that interested in your product you have wasted your time. Time that you could have used to do something more productive with. What we learned from this rejection is that you should not build a product to please a particular publisher, but rather to please a wide set of publishers. Additionally, because a person wants ABC done, does not mean ABC has to be done. At the end of the day you as a company have to weigh the pro’s and con’s of a company’s request and see how it fits with your vision.

So at the end of the day, we ignored the publishers requests and just focused on building a better product. Not for one particular publisher but for all publishers that fit our company goals and vision.

And guess what? Last year, the 2013 “no but not no publisher” reached out to us and we finally are carrying their books.

Lesson #2: You can’t please everybody, but if you make it sweet, enough people will come and eat.

#3 Being Rejected by Yet Another and Even Bigger Phone Brand (the “yes” rejection)

Sometimes rejection can actually come with a “YES.”

As a company we had started picking up steam in our second year and with that steam is how I found myself in the swanky Lagos offices of a major phone brand company in Nigeria. We were meeting because OkadaBooks was selected as one of the local apps that would be showcased for the launch of their new phone … 100,000+ phones to be precise … It was going to be big for us.

But there was a catch .. it was not as simple as emailing our app file to be uploaded, we had to modify our app to fit the phones system. We were emailed a set of modifications we needed to make. We hired external developers to help ensure we hit the deadline, we ran around, had late night phone calls in different time zones, what motivated us all the time was 100,000+ phones!

With such a strong motivation, it was easy for us to hit our deadlines, we were told to do ABC extra that was not part of the initial agreement and we did it. We were told to do DEF and again we did it. We kept doing and doing, and finally on the day of the launch … nothing.

They said something about a glitch somewhere, regardless of the explanation, it did not matter because our app was not in the phones!

We did not get the big 100,000+ user installs we expected and we had spent a lot of money and time modifying the app. We could be angry we could be upset, but we had not signed any agreement with anybody!

Lesson #3: Sign the damn agreement and don’t get caught up in the glitz of the swanky office.


#4 Being Rejected By A Really Major International Publisher (the “silent rejection”)

I think this is one of the hardest rejections to deal with.

We had been trying to contact this big international publisher for months. We had established a contact with them, written up a draft contract but everything went silent for more than 11 months. Emails not responded to, calls not picked. But then out of the blues, we got an email response,we found out that said guy had transferred to another department.

He connected us with his replacement. She was more pro-active, we scheduled a meeting, she was interested, she said to send a bunch of documents, which we did. And then silence. Absolute silence and till today silence…

This rejection sucks, because you get no feedback whats-over. You are only left to speculate…

“are they working on a prototype” “was my mouth smelling over the phone” or “are they interested in a competitor”

And speculations mixed with silence grow into virtual reality. You start believing your own speculations. You start doubting your product.

What we learned from this rejection, is that not everyone is going to find time to tell you they like you or they hate you. Some are just too busy.

So the best way is to disconnect from the silence and to not dwell on it. But rather proceed in doing the things that have made your company successful in the past.

Lesson #4: Don’t duel on the silence, move on …


Not so Breaking News: If you run a start-up business, you will get rejected! #fact

But how you deal with the rejection is what matters, you can let it knock you down or you can use it (cliche warning ahead) as stepping stones to success. So brace for the rejections, they will happen and like Tony Robbins says

“Success is buried on the other side of Rejection”

So go grab your rejection badges and cash them in for tremendous success!



Words by Okechukwu Ofili of
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8 comments on “My Top 4 @okadabooks Company Rejections And What I Learned From Them #TheCubicleEntrepreneur

  1. This is so encouraging because I recieved a rejection email yesterday about my business plan & the annoying thing is they said it in a somehow nice way.
    Perseverance is key.

  2. funmi adebajo on said:

    Thank you very much for this beautiful piece. Very timelytoo “…if you can make it sweet, will come and eat” is definitely an action point for me.

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