Oja, an online grocery store catering to African and Caribbean products, has entered administration merely six months after receiving angel investment from Raheem Sterling, the renowned England and Chelsea footballer. The company’s founder, Mariam Jimoh, cited operational difficulties and an unexpected decline in Q1 revenues as the primary reasons for this unfortunate outcome. This comes in the wake of a challenging period for grocery delivery firms, which have been grappling with the need for constant funding to sustain their operations.
Jimoh, who launched Oja in 2020 with a single London postcode and later expanded across the capital and Birmingham, revealed that she had personally invested her savings into the business and had forgone her own salary for over a year to keep the company afloat. However, the company conducted its final deliveries in July, and though the website faced technical glitches, any orders received were promptly refunded.
Shutting down Oja’s operations proved intricate due to multifaceted legal and operational aspects, making the process significantly lengthy and arduous. Recent reports from The Evening Standard unveiled court documents indicating that Oja had been subjected to eight legal claims for unpaid sums exceeding £50,000 since March. Several employees reportedly left the company after experiencing delays in wage payments, and the company’s HR matters were overseen by Jimoh’s mother.
Reflecting on the company’s challenges, Jimoh acknowledged that the pressures of the business environment had sometimes resulted in unintended behavior. Oja had garnered notable attention and investments, raising £2.4 million in 2021 from a variety of angel investors, including industry figures like Darren Shapland and Ricardo Weder.
Despite positive momentum initially, with monthly order volumes growing at around 40%, Oja’s financial woes intensified. The company’s financial struggles came into contrast with social media posts depicting Jimoh in luxury designer attire and lavish travel experiences.
Jimoh’s aspiration had been to address the diverse cultural needs in the UK grocery market. Leaving her career as an investment banker at Rothschild, she aimed to provide a solution for individuals from different ethnic backgrounds, who often feel underserved by traditional supermarket offerings.
This unfortunate turn of events serves as a reminder of the challenges that startups in the food technology sector can face, especially in a competitive landscape that demands both financial resilience and strategic agility.