Theo Baloyi, founder of the sneaker brand, Bathu. He has found success with the brand and has seen it enjoy exponential growth in a heavily contested market. File photo.
Theo Baloyi, founder of the sneaker brand, Bathu. He has found success with the brand and has seen it enjoy exponential growth in a heavily contested market. File photo.

Young entrepreneurs develop local brands

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published Jun 20, 2021

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SINCE 1998, South Africans have been called upon to buy local products. Proudly South African was established in 2001, born out of the 1998 Presidential Job Summit that was convened by Nelson Mandela to support the buy local campaign. The challenge, however, was that when it comes to some products there was almost nothing South African to buy.

Enter young South African entrepreneurs who are making it possible to buy South African sneakers, luxury leather bags, and fashion wear that celebrates local culture. Among these young entrepreneurs are Inga Gubeka, Theo Baloyi and Laduma Ngxokolo.

The response to Inga Gubeka’s tweet was remarkable.

He had written: “I’m just a boy from the village of Engqeleni (Eastern Cape) with a dream that some day my brand will be recognised internationally as one of the best luxury leather goods brands to come out of Africa. watch this space… And this is where I started in 2018”.

Gubeka ended up selling the entire range of his luxury leather bags. Finally, South Africans had an alternative to the French and Italian luxury leather bags.

On the Inga Atelier product website, Gubeka is described as a boy who grew up in an underprivileged and marginalised village in the Eastern Cape, where people live below the poverty line and are not exposed to fine things. It describes him as someone who grew up making wire cars and little clay cows and houses.

His background story is similar to so many other young South Africans and yet he rose above those conditions to create a product that is worthy of national recognition. Gubeka is not alone. He is part of an unofficial club of young South Africans who are finally developing products that South Africans can buy, as opposed to buying European and American products with little relevance to them.

Another member of the group of young local entrepreneurs is Baloyi. He is the young man behind Bathu, a sneaker brand that has been named by Brand Africa as one of 2021’s most admired African brands.

Baloyi said that during his travels he had noticed something was missing – an African sneaker brand, portraying an authentic African story.

That had motivated him to start his own. As they say, the rest is history and today South Africans can finally feel free to heed the Proudly South African call, at least with their sneaker range.

The unofficial club of young entrepreneurs also boasts another award-winning designer, entrepreneur and creative artist who has elevated home-grown South African fashion to another level – Ngxokolo the founder of the MaXhosa brand.

When he started, Ngxokolo had a desire to explore knitwear design solutions that would be suitable for amakrwala (Xhosa initiates). His initial vision was to create a modern Xhosainspired knitwear collection that would be suitable for this market.

As a person who has undergone the process, Ngxokolo felt that he had to develop premium knitwear that celebrated traditional Xhosa aesthetics.

His designs capture the hearts of South Africans with their strong cultural links to his own heritage.

The MaXhosa brand is considered locally as a fashion brand that qualifies as a luxury in the sea of international brands.

Through the MaXhosa brand, South Africans can wear a Proudly South African brand with confidence.

Inga Gubeka, Theo Baloyi, and Laduma Ngxokolo are shining stars of young entrepreneurs who made it possible for South Africans to embrace the idea of buying local products.

What they have achieved is critical for the South African economy and should receive the necessary recognition. These young entrepreneurs are responsible for their own success, through their design quality.

South Africa struggles to encourage locals to buy local products as they compete with seemingly better products from other parts of the world. What these young entrepreneurs have done should serve as a case study in developing local products that can be embraced by society. This is important, partly because it is one thing to develop a local product but quite another to ensure that people can embrace such products above other products.

South Africa will have to develop more local products if it is to stimulate the economy. Gubeka, Baloyi, and Ngxokolo can show the nation how it can be done.

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Wesley Diphoko is the editor of BizTech.


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