Theo Baloyi is someone who doesnt need introduction. His shoe brand, Bathu, is taking over South African streets and walkways. Despite the lockdown, the Bathu shoe company is expanding and opening new stores across the country. He shares with Blazon Magazine a little about his journey building the brand while creating job opportunities in our communities. The entrepreneur and his enterprise continues to exude Black excellence and inspire hope in many.
From Accountancy to Sneakers? What made you make the change?
Growing up I had always been collecting sneakers and been a big fan of what’s cool or trendy on the streets. In 2015 I had most of the latest sneaker editions in my collection, but the irony was they were all international footwear brands. That’s when I decided to start a proudly African sneaker brand. As the saying goes “If you consume too much of a product or service then why not own it?
What’s a typical ‘Theo Baloyi’ day like?
I joined the 5am club, prior the lockdown, so I start my day very early with Gym & meditation or personal development before I get to work. I normally get to the office around 9/10am then I start the grind by putting my to-do list together. My day ends very late as I get to finish work around 9/10pm. I enjoy what I do and I work with lovely & inspiring team, so throughout the day I engage with the team and other stakeholders, I enjoy this as I am a people’s person.
Who will you say are your role models in business?
I’ve got a lot, but I was first inspired by my late dad. Whom was a male nurse and quit his job to later become an estate agent, he taught me a lot about risk & loss principles being brave towards your dreams? I also enjoy Vusi Thembekwayo’s teachings and his philosophies around business modelling, building equity and the principle of wealth creation. I’m slso inspired by the late Dr Richard Maponya, Christo Wiese and Johan Rupert on how the have managed to build a solid value chain over the years .
What do you think about mentoring in entrepreneurship? And what are you doing to raise other successful entrepreneurs from the hood.
I am a product of a solid 9 year Mentor-Mentee relationship, when I was doing my undergrad I was mentored by Richard Asherson, who was with Investec at the time. Richard relocated to London four years ago, I learned a lot through him and I embody most of his entrepreneurial traits. That being said, I do believe in mentorship programs and as the saying goes, charity begins at home. I currently mentor some of our junior employees and I plan to start mentorship program with other entrepreneurs which we plan to host on a quarterly basis.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a black entrepreneur?
We are a self-funded business, till this day we don’t have investors in the business and have never received any sort of funding from Government or SOE’s. So the biggest challenge was using my own savings as seed capital and building our working capital over the years, as cashflow is a critical part of the business. Secondly was winning the consumer behavior/spend, convincing our people that we are as good as international footwear brands.
People will point you out as an example of Black Excellence. Can you share some things that drive and push you in growing the Bathu brand.
We have two core principles in our business – to re-ignite hope for our people and create sustainable jobs in our communities. We started the business in a room in Alexandra, to date we employ 74 people and with a 3700sqm headquarters in the heart of centurion. To see the little impact we have created in such a short space of time keeps me going because I can only imagine what more we can do together in the next coming years.
What crosses your mind when you see people rocking your sneakers?
It’s a very humbling experience, by default I just get a sense of gratitude..
What are your plans for conquering the African and global markets?
We are planning to penetrate Africa in the next 5 years, starting with the SADC region in 2021, East and West Africa in the following years.
Among all your awards and accomplishments, which one do you feel like ‘Mama I finally made it’.
Personally, it will be the most recent one. Transformation Champion of the Year at the BBQ awards, this is a collective accolade as it was awarded to Bathu and not Theo Baloyi .
Any plans to stamp your feet in other business endeavors?
Not as yet, for now my primary focus is building Bathu.