Africa-Press – South-Africa. Bathu Shoes was recently named number 10 in the Top 100 of Brand Africa’s Most Admired African Brands. The business was founded by Theo Baloyi, a former accountant, six years ago and has garnered acclaim across Africa. The entrepreneur said he named the brand Bathu (people) Shoes because it was for them.
“Bathu set out to be a sneaker brand that Africans can proudly affiliate with – from Africa for Africa. We are passionate about igniting hope within African communities and we remain committed to creating sustainable jobs,” said Baloyi.
The business now employs more than 300 people at their stores. Before Baloyi started the venture, he noted the trend of colourful socks at the time, and saw that shoes did not make them visible, so he wanted to develop a shoe that would showcase people’s styles.
When he started the business, Baloyi relied on his expertise in corporate finance to help him on his entrepreneurship journey.
“The experience I gained from working in a corporate setting stood me in good stead. I leveraged the insights and experience of the right people and used influencer marketing at the right time. I also had a lot of support from influential people.”
The award-winning entrepreneur said he did not need help with financing and used his savings and leveraged value chains and stakeholders across a network of service providers.
“I had no background in fashion or retail, but my consulting experience had taught me to learn and adapt. I spent 18 months studying the manufacturing and retail business, and how to optimise supply chains, while at the same time refining our shoe design.
“There were a lot of surprises and some failures along the way, but our launch was more successful than I had hoped. We now have 30 bricks and mortar stores and our online store which supports customers across the continent. The online store has over 150 000 sessions a month, with a good conversion rate,” said Baloyi.
According to Bathu Shoes, the business sees a lot of repeat customers. It has strong bases in East and West Africa. Baloyi said he has plans to expand across the continent.
He said he faced some challenges when he started the business, such as the fast-changing trend cycles.
“Trends change fast in the fashion sector, and you have to move with them. You must also learn about buying patterns or you risk producing the wrong styles and quantities of stock at the wrong time.
“As an emerging and aspirational brand, we also face the risk that others will try to replicate our approach and methodology in the counterfeit market. We have seen counterfeit products emerging, so we educate consumers and make sure our brand equity is strong enough,” he said.
For entrepreneurs just starting out, Baloyi said they must have a very clear vision, a strong brand story for their businesses, and clearly identify the target markets.
“Learn as much as you can about the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, finance, sales, and marketing.”
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE