Rose Azuike is the the founder of Eyecare NG, a healthcare promotion and marketing service provider. Founded in June 2018, the main focus of the start-up is to promote public eye health while supporting the growth of professional eye care businesses across the country.
It is public knowledge that almost all entrepreneurs are inspired by events—past or present. For Rose, three things inspired her to set up Eyecare NG.
First was an eye health scare she had towards the end of 2017. Second was the strategic marketing gap she identified in the sector. Third was her love for online and digital communications.
Health business is not an all-comers’ affair. So, a mere peep at Rose’s curriculum vitae shows why this business is a perfect fit. She has Doctor of Optometry degree from Abia State University Uturu; master’s degree in Public Health (MPH) from the University of Sheffield, UK, and a certificate in Leadership and Management in Health from the University of Washington, USA. Rose is also certified in Development Project Management, with solid experience in different capacities as an optometrist, public health professional and eye care marketer.
For the entrepreneur, rising cases of eye problems present an opportunity and also a challenge.
“On one hand, the high prevalence of eye-related problems presents an opportunity for us and the eye care sector as a whole,” she says.
“One of the major challenges the eye care sector experiences is poor eye care-seeking behaviour by the Nigerian people. Most people do not go for annual eye checks. They visit eye care centres only when they have obvious eye problems and many of them go in late after other (non-professional) care options have failed. So with many people having eye-related problems, there is an opportunity to inform, educate and motivate them to take care of their eyes, seek eye care from professionals and avoid patronising quacks. This also presents an opportunity for us to boost eye care service utilisation and product purchases for our customers through our marketing activities.
“On the other hand, high prevalence of eye-related problems is a problem for society. Eye care is better when handled with a preventive and prompt treatment approach because eye problems— particularly severe vision loss and blindness—present an economic burden to the society. Loss of productivity due to severe vision loss/blindness, for instance, is a problem for the eye care sector because a person who is unable to work and earn an income due to severe vision loss or blindness may not afford to pay for his eye care/vision rehabilitation bills,” Rose explains.
Rose understands that this is 21st century, so, she is tapping on technology to market eye care products/services and promote positive eye health behaviours.
“We have a website that has a directory of professional eye care centres, a large collection of eye health information, a marketplace that showcases eye care products from authorised distributors and genuine retailers and a marketing blog for eye care businesses,” she discloses.
“We also have accounts on different social media platforms. The most active ones are Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, we do email marketing, SMS marketing, search engine marketing, WhatsApp chats and phone calls,” she says.
The entrepreneur started from home with about N500, 000, a computer and a website. About half of the fund was used to obtain tools and resources for web design and maintenance as well as for initial marketing activities. The remaining half was used to hire and pay an eye care professional that wrote the eye health articles on the website as well as a digital communications assistant.
“I didn’t borrow any money when I started,” she discloses.
Rose explains that what makes Eyecare NG unique is its application of behaviour change principles to marketing.
She explains that many marketers, particularly those who have worked with Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies, have an assumption that consumers are mainly influenced to use services or buy products based on price.
Rose points out that while pricing plays a role in influencing the use of services and products generally, its influence does not hold in many cases in eye care business.
Her reason is that seeking eye care is a behaviour that is influenced by a lot of other factors beyond costs.
She says that Eyecare NG is unique because it is industry-specific.
“We strictly promote and market eye health and eye care businesses. Being focused has helped us understand the industry better and specialise in the field of eye care marketing.”
How are Nigerians buying into your message? Rose responds that she has been getting positive responses from the public—including eye care enquiries and messages, among others.
“However, the response from eye care businesses has been quite slow. We have a few businesses who have bought into what we are doing and some have even given us testimonials. That said, a lot of eye care businesses seem sceptical. We are less than six months old and so we know that will change over time,” Rose says, confidently.
The female entrepreneur has expansion plans. “The eye care market in Nigeria remains largely underdeveloped and we see many opportunities for eye care promotion and marketing. With adequate funding and right partnerships, we will expand,” she says.
Like any other entrepreneur, Rose faces some challenges.
Her key challenge is getting professionals who own eye care centres to understand that the practice of eye care is different from the business of eye care.
“Some of them understand this and it is usually evident in the way their practice and other eye care related businesses are structured. However, there are quite a lot of them who are finding it difficult differentiating the call to be an eye doctor from the responsibility that comes with running an eye care business. They focus on practising their profession and do not have a proper system that takes care of the business functions that are beyond their skills and capacity. Therefore, we have many eye care practices that do not intentionally market their services and many of those who do, don’t have a strategic marketing plan. They actually carry out random acts of marketing and this greatly limits the potentials of their practices. It a challenge because we can’t help businesses whose owners do not know or believe that strategic marketing is important for the success of an eye care business,” she states.
Rose has some advice for the upcoming entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurship is hard work and things don’t always go as expected. One thing I have found out that keeps one going is a growth mind-set. Many people say ‘passion’, but I don’t completely agree with that. Passion often inspires the business but it is your mind-set that will determine whether your passion for the business will grow or die when you encounter challenges. So, before you start a business you love, make sure you develop a growth mind-set and continually build on it.”
Tags: eye care business