Street 101 5 lessons the Yaba Market boys will teach you about business

Yaba Market is one of the most iconic markets in Nigeria, and the boys there have a notorious reputation.

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In Yaba, everyone wants you.

Whether it is the Mallams calling with “dollar, pounds sterling,” or the market women calling you to buy anything from plastics to tomato.

Perhaps, nothing makes Yaba market more iconic than the swarm of always annoying cloth sellers.

If you look beyond all that ‘stock, stock jeans’ they keep buzzing in your ear, you can learn a thing or two from them. Or five.

1. “Oya come carry am like that.”

Two stores sell the same items side by side. One belongs to the Yaba boy, the other, another random seller. When the other seller gives you a price and you beat it down, they’d give you a face like you’re the cause of all their problems.

The Yaba boy on the other hand, will reluctantly sell to you. Yes, he makes profit, but not as much as he wanted. He’d probably do this ten times, and in the long run, he’d be re-stocking while the other trader has managed to not sell anything.

That’s turnover. Guess whose goods always look fresh and new every time? Guess whose store you’ll be going to next time?

2. The ‘feel-good’ formula.

Guinness spent millions of dollars on strategy and execution for its “Drop of greatness in every man” campaign. So did MTN on its “You have all it takes to be better”, and Stanbic IBTC on the “Moving you forward” campaigns. Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” run had people go in desperate search for bottles bearing their names. This is feel-good marketing, that method where they make you forget for a minute that what they really want is your money.

The truth is, it produces great results, but Yaba boys have demystified the millions of dollars in one simple statement;

“Fine girl. Fine boy.”


Nobody is ugly in Yaba, nobody is too fat, too thin, too big or too small. Everyone is the right kind of beautiful. They will always find your perfect fit. Which brings us to the next gem.

3. The force network is strong.

It is almost impossible to walk into a shop in Yaba, and hear someone tell you, “we don’t have”. What you’ll probably hear is “Let me go and get it for you.” Then they’d walk through the entire market to their colleague who has the exact product, and bring it for you.

There is a sense of trust a client gets when he knows the person he’s doing business with can always meet all his needs. So lets say you’re an events photographer, you want to have a network of event planners, make up artists, MCs and everything that makes an event great. You want to be that go-to person for everything.

You’ll never run out of referrals that way.

4. “I shall not leave you until you bless me.”

Jacob said that, but Yaba boys made it a motto.


The persistence you find with Yaba boys can only be matched by the one you find at Upper Iweka, in Onitsha. Two things happen, you either tell them to back off, or you end up in one of their shops. Although it doesn’t make it less annoying.

Remember those annoying pop-up ads you you see when you open a webpage? Same principle.

5. Die-hard hustle.

When you walk into a shop in Yaba, you see a man, with many of his apprentices swarming around him. What you probably don’t know is that, he started out by the road side, begging clients to come into his boss’ shop.

The method is straightforward; Struggle –> climb the ladder –> bring more people up the ladder.


“The ultimate success is when everyone around you is successful.”

These words hover over Yaba and makes it one of the most thriving markets in Nigeria.

Own these words and wear them like a badge.

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