If the shoe fits! From shoe quest to thriving business, local mom shares inspiring success

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Local mom's quest to find shoes for her toddler inspired her soft shoes business. Photo: Tsepiso Tsepiso Monamodi.
Local mom's quest to find shoes for her toddler inspired her soft shoes business. Photo: Tsepiso Tsepiso Monamodi.
  • Tsepiso Monamodi started her own footwear business after looking for soft leather shoes for her toddler in Gauteng without success.
  • She started Oratile Kids with only one sewing machine, and now supplies one of the biggest baby care franchises in SA.
  • We speak to her about her business and what the future holds. 

After searching high and low for soft leather shoes for her toddler in 2017, and finding no suitable options, local mom Tsepiso Monamodi started a footwear business called Oratile Kids

At the time of her shoe quest, Monamodi wanted to buy her baby boy the kind of soft leather shoes that she wore when she was young. She only found one store with the same shoes, but they were overpriced. 

She conducted some research on soft leather shoes and found that soft, comfortable, durable shoes aid a baby's development. The more she studied these shoes, the more she fell in love with them and eventually decided to start a business.

But there was a challenge: Monamodi had no sewing machine and knew nothing about how to operate one even after purchasing. 

She found an answer from the woman she bought her first machine from, taking sewing lessons with her every Friday to be able to operate it. 

That was then. Today, Monamodi supplies three national baby stores and has seen a 34% increase in sales since working with major  retailers.

News24 reached out to this dedicated mom to learn about her business and what the future holds for her. 

Read: 'A whole family effort': How two toddlers sparked a footwear business.

Any small business has challenges

This dedicated mom of one says that she chose to call her business Oratile because the name means 'He/She is loved'.

She felt the name fitting since "the shoes were made with love."  

Monamodi says she set out to "create an authentically South African range of baby shoes".

"The shoes needed to be authentic, ethically made, fun and super comfortable as they aid the little ones on their walking journey."

But she admits that the process was not easy.

"Any small business starts with a challenge like production inputs. But once you sell, learn customer insights, you then attempt to provide what the market requires," says Monamodi.

"Making baby quality soft leather is really tough and challenging. Hence some try to enter the general baby space, but it takes practice, patience and dedication. In the beginning, rest assured, I spent my last penny. But I am also a perfectionist, so zeal and passion easily find me," she added.

But her satisfaction comes when she sees the smiles of parents, aunties, uncles or friends when they buy the shoes. "The reaction fulfils me to design more shoes. So, the journey has been hard but gratifying," added Monamodi.

Also read: Founder of 'Ghetto Gardeners' shares his journey, from prison to farming and family success.

The power of word of mouth 

The mom and business owner believes that every interaction with customers is critical because "you never know who you are selling to".

When she started her business, Monamodi was unaware that most of her customers occupied senior positions in the corporate world.

She discovered the power of word of mouth when they referred her to their networks, while others advised her on branding and packaging. She also got mentorship through her interactions with her customers.

Booming business 

The pandemic was a blessing and a curse for mom Monamodi. She was forced to use social media to sell her products. Although this was challenging, the business started booming, and that is when she caught the attention of major businesses.

Monamodi told us that she was ecstatic when Clicks Baby approached her.

"I knew being in one of South Africa's largest retail stores would cement baby soft leather shoes. For me, it's about Clicks recognising that baby soft leather shoes can be made locally in South Africa and that there is a market for them," she said.

"It is thrilling". 

Must see: Parenting the boss: why you should support your child's entrepreneurship dreams

'There are no favours in retail' 

"But there are no favours in retail... You are on a schedule and need to deliver. I remember my first order, I was late, and my poor husband had to sit there and work with me until five in the morning," she shared. 

The upside for her is that working with a large retail store taught her to be organised and have production forecasts.

'I love what I do'

Monamodi says she wants to expand to create more jobs for her community 'Mamelodi'.

"I love what I do. Imagine waking up every day to create cute, fun shoes for babies. I see myself employing more people and South African baby shoes dominating globally like our wines. There's interest in Africa to stock our shoes, and we will see what the future holds". 

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