We can’t forget our icons, says brand as it shifts energy from Makhadzi to ‘struggling’ Vusi Thanda

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This year Kicks Sportwear celebrates two years.
This year Kicks Sportwear celebrates two years.

Despite the recent controversies in the media regarding an ongoing legal battle over failed partnership with popular musician, Makhadzi and her record label, Open Mic Productions, the founder of Kicks Sportswear Sammy Mhaule says they’re ready for a fresh start. 

The Tembisa-born and bred CEO remains optimistic about the future of the new sneaker brand as they celebrate two years of growth. 

To mark the two years, Kicks announced their partnership with retail giant, Mall of Africa where they’ll be hosting an event to honour and celebrate the life of Vusi Thanda, where all proceeds will go toward finding him a new home during his time of adversity.

The event, which is set to take place at Mall Africa on 29 October will be supported by some of SA’s biggest stars with performances from actor and musician, Brian Themba, comedian Mashabela Galene, celebrated praise singer Jessica Mbangeni, and DJ Sbu to name but a few.

“Kicks Kokovha is a brand owned by Kicks on which a brand ambassadorship agreement was previously signed. However due to the legal matter pending, I’m limited on the information I can share at this stage as we are due to attend court. I can only hope that this matter can be settled in a manner that is fair for both parties,” Sammy says. 

“The journey of entrepreneurship in South Africa can definitely be described as a bumpy ride and it’s been no different with Kicks. Despite all the challenges and growing pains, we have not lost our drive and commitment to do what we do and do it well. Celebrating two years in the business is a really important milestone for us, especially because of how challenging the road has been. Now we look forward to a great future, and we’re just so excited to be launching this new range because it really speaks to our resolve to keep moving and remain champions whatever the cost,” he says.

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In its two years of existence, they have reached many strides. 

“In this economic climate where some businesses don’t seem to survive past five years, 2022 saw us win an MEA award as Best Sports footwear brand in SA. We have successfully been able to introduce a new range called Kicks Champion X which so far is receiving good reviews and is currently on pre-order."

The shoe business is not an easy one, but Sammy says they are tackling it head-on.

“Kicks was established during Covid-19 with no funding or support from the government or banks. I had to sell my car and house in order to have the capital to keep moving with Kicks,” he says. 

“Being a new entrant in the current market is challenging on its own as we still find that some people still do not believe that SA can produce a good quality products that can compete with the international brands. That on its own needs a full marketing budget to educate our people.” 

His goal is simple, and that is to be one of the biggest shoe brands in the country. 

“We have a retail rollout plan from the December opening of our flagship store at Kempton Festival mall, and for the period of 2020/2023 we plan to create 75 permanent jobs as per our growth and retail rollout," he says. 

“We believe there is a real opportunity for incremental growth in the sportswear market, especially among those who enjoy trying new brands that are locally made. Kicks sportswear is very excited to be able to provide an alternative for consumers with our great sports brand Kicks,” he says.

“When you think about the best sports brands in the world, we want to you think about Kicks Sportswear at the top of your mind. We specialise in sports feel-good sneakers and accessories from contemporary to athletics made with quality and legacy endure. We understand and know all too well that as part of your day transitioning from sports to lifestyle must happen with ease in recent times. We are obsessed with creating sportswear of all kinds, we are dedicated to producing sportswear that keeps you mindful. We believe sports have the power to change lives and the change we want, need to start with us.”

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They started off selling 600 shoes per month and since then that number grew to 2000 to 3000 per month.

Sammy describes himself as a serial entrepreneur.

“My entrepreneurial journey started when he was just 14 years old.”  He started selling ice cream in his neighbourhood of Tembisa in Gauteng. 

“As a child growing up in the township, I was met with several challenges including poverty.” His parents struggled to financially support him and his three siblings which is why he started his ice cream business in the first place. He kept the business going until he went off to college. 

“While studying motor engineering at Ekurhuleni West College, I secured an apprenticeship with BMW. Once completed, I was offered a full-time job by the company. However, that didn’t last long as I wasn’t passionate about the work” he says. 

He resigned shortly after and did not tell his parents. Quietly, Sammy enrolled in a short course in business and marketing and attended lectures each morning while his parents thought he was going to work.  

“After a year, I finally told my parents - who were not the least bit impressed when they found out. Without a job or money, I persuaded my father to help me buy chickens that I could sell.” 

But when the chicken market became oversaturated, he had to look for another job.

“While paging through a newspaper one day I saw an advert for a marketing officer position in the UK. I didn’t know anyone in the UK but took a leap of faith and applied. Three months later, I was on a flight to England to fill this new position. During this time I launched other business ventures from selling perfumes to shopping bags before returning to SA in 2012.” 

His education includes New Venture Creation - Wits Business School, Microsoft Marketing and Sales - London College.

“I am an award-winning serial entrepreneur who’s passionate about building brands and the township economy. I am also a contributor and mentor at Startup School and the Township Entrepreneurs Alliance (TEA) - an organisation established to empower township entrepreneurs with knowledge and skills sharing. To date, TEA has directly impacted over 6000 entrepreneurs.”

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He knows what it is like to be poor.

As part of their two-year celebration Kicks plan on also giving back to the community that raised them.

They will start off by donating to veteran actor Vusi Thanda, who a few weeks ago appealed to social media followers to help him with funds. Donations have since come pouring into the Emzini Wezinsizwa actor’s account and he managed to raise R100 k. 

Kicks are also pledging to do their part for the actor.

“Vusi Thanda is an icon and South African actor who has made a positive contribution for many years in the entertainment industry,” Sammy says.  

“It’s only right that we seed back into someone who has entertained us for many years, no matter our background. We remain with a big dream of remembering and honouring our Icons.” 

Sammy says they are hoping to raise as much money as possible. 

“Our aim is to contribute to the day-to-day running of his life and hopefully that would give him the break that he needs until he is able to find work again,” he says.

Sammy and his team recently met up with Vusi who gladly gave them his blessing. 

“Our meeting was during the DJs The Hustlers corner and after hearing his story an idea was born to raise funds for him, together with DJ Sbu we saw it fit that we act and support this icon,” he says. 

“Hearing his story, I felt compelled to assist knowing his great contribution to the art and culture industry. We all have been affected by COVID-19 and I believe that with every little help as Kicks we want to help in whatever way possible to keep him moving. So, on the day of the event, we will make Kicks sneakers available for sale and all proceeds will go toward his funds.” 

Kicks is a regular contributor and supporter of many charity organisations. 

“However we plan to create a platform that will honor one icon each year with our partnership with Mall of Africa, who have been very instrumental in making this happen.”

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