August 22, 2023

The UK’s First Digital Supermarket For African And Caribbean Food Has Shut Down

Mariam Jimoh, the founder of African and Caribbean goods and foods online delivery service Oja has announced the digital supermarket is shutting down.

Oja – Digital Supermarket

In 2020, British Nigerian Mariam Jimoh launched Oja, which means market in Yoruba, as the UK’s first ethnic digital supermarket focusing on African and Caribbean goods. 

After struggling to find the Nigerian food she grew up with in her local supermarket chain, Jimoh was motivated to leave her corporate career and work towards a solution. The result was Oja, which promised fast and eco-friendly delivery of local ethnic goods across London.

Jimoh, a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree, told MyLondon that since it launched, Oja has expanded its product offering, catering to cultures from Nigeria, Somalia, North and East Africa and the Caribbean. It also recently began offering a Halal range and sold beauty and haircare products.

In 2021 the startup raised $3.4 million in a pre-seed round led by LocalGlobal and earlier this year, announced it had secured a pre-seed extension with backing from footballer Raheem Sterling.

The Closure of Oja

Today, Jimoh released a statement on Twitter announcing she has decided to close Oja. Jimoh cited struggles with funding sources and unexpected dips in Q1 revenues and shared that Oja made its final deliveries on July 30 this year.

“What was the result of months of grueling stress in the midst of chaos, rejection and struggling to create a brand I felt was important for this community ended up causing enormous pressure,” she wrote.

“It’s been a challenge to walk a path less travelled, but I’m grateful that I’ve not had to do it alone.”

Jimoh shared that she had put her savings into the company and didn’t pay herself any salary for over a year.

The Oja team have also released a statement to reassure those who placed orders that their refunds will be processed immediately. They extended their gratitude to everyone who has supported them on their journey to this point.

Staff Claims

The news comes amid legal claims from former employees and suppliers who say they cut ties with the business after months of unsuccessful attempts to get paid.

Court records obtained by the Evening Standard reveal that Oja has faced eight legal claims for unpaid sums exceeding £50,000 since March.

Concerns center around CEO Jimoh’s management, with internal messages displaying dismissive attitudes towards payment concerns.

For example, employees complaining about their lack of pay were told to “stop talking” to Jimoh and “go to HR”, Jimoh’s mother.

There is no indication that high-profile backers like Sterling were aware of the financial issues.

Customer complaints about missed deliveries and ignored refund requests reflect the company’s internal turmoil.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.