Who was Theo Baloyi before Bathu?
I’m an accountant by profession and I worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers for about five years. I spent three of those years in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. But whenever I came home, I’d see poverty and decided that I wanted to be part of change and empower our people.
How did the brand come about?
I’ve always been a sneakerhead and there’s a saying that goes: “if you consume too much of something, then why not own it?” That inspired me to start my sneaker brand. My research and development of the sneaker took about 18 months.
I started the business while I was staying in Alex, but I had faith in my dream. I wanted to create something that would tell our own stories – something we can relate to and is close to our hearts. I found that regardless of where you’re from in the township, we all call shoes “bathu”. And that is how the brand was born.
Did you foresee the success of the business?
Not really, because there’s a notion that South Africans don’t support each other or that we don’t buy local brands. When we launched Bathu, we were surprised to learn that there was a big demand for it. Our website crashed on the first day due to traffic! That was an exciting and humbling experience.
How has the business grown since its inception in 2015?
We have about five retail stores now and we employ 68 people. We’d like to reach 100 employees by June 2020. I’ve been intentional in how I shape Bathu in the market and that has helped with our growth. I ensure all profits and money goes back into the business which is why we don’t supply retailers with our sneakers, but instead open our retail stores and have our own trucks. We’re all about reinvesting in the township economy. Five years in, with no funding, we’re still at it and excited about the future.
Were you at any point reluctant or fearful of following your dream?
Of course! I quit a comfortable tax-free job in Dubai to come back home and build South Africa’s first premium sneaker brand. That was a risk, but I knew I wanted to build at home and bring back hope to my people in Alex, which is where I’m from. I was bold in how I built the brand and knew there was no quitting
Tips for young entrepreneurs:
- Your intentions must always be clear: Know why you’re starting your business and what you’re hoping to achieve.
- Be patient. There isn’t instant gratification in business.
- Use money wisely: Don’t chase fancy cars and a fabulous life. You must always put money back into your business
- Ensure that what you’re doing is in line with your calling. That way, you’ll love and enjoy what you do.