McIntosh NgwenyaBy McIntosh Ngwenya|September 21, 2022|8 Minutes|In Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow

Tie up your laces and run!

For millennials growing-up in the township, All Star, Reebok and Jordan sneakers were gloried footwear. Owning a pair of them felt like royalty, but recently - the invention of Bathu shoes by Theo Baloyi, Drip Footwear by Lekau Sehoana and Landlords Footwear SA by Rashid Thobega have revolutionized and disrupted the sneaker market in South African townships.

Rashid Thobega was born and bred in Krugersdorp, Mogale City in the west of Johannesburg. He is the son of a staunch ANC member and a comrade with a wide array of connections but paradoxically, he chose a different path that does not have any political affiliations. Instead, he chose the road less travelled into the cut-throat world of shoe entrepreneurship.

Thobega grew up in an overcrowded hostel, where the lifestyle is a reflection of structural poverty, and he highlights that his humble beginnings inspired him to be aggressive, disciplined and unapologetic in pursuit of his entrepreneurship ambition.

In addition, he recalls with nostalgia that his entrepreneurship spirit stems from the Hip Hop music genre he listened to in childhood years, he says ,“The 90’s Hip-Hop to be specific, that genre had content which was very educational and informative – also, the stories of Hip-Hop musicians rising from rags to riches made me to have a strong conviction that anyone has got the abilities and potential of being raised in down-trodden environments and still grow-up to achieve dizzy heights of success”.

In as much, as Thobega had a passion for entrepreneurship at an early age, he didn’t venture into entrepreneurship soon after matric, due to scarcity of funds and not having a concrete business idea. Therefore, when he matriculated from Coronation Secondary School, his first job was being a labourer in construction.

“I was digging trenches and housing foundations in Ran en Dal and other estates around Krugersdorp. I wanted to buy myself Converse Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers, as my parents were now financing the needs of my younger siblings, ” he says.

Initially, construction work is associated with migrant workers and those who grew-up in the villages, hence for Thobega  a township lad to be humble enough to work in the construction speaks volumes about his strong-will, determination and meticulous work ethic. Instead, of waking-up to chill in the corner, play dice, join gangs and spend days roaming in the streets with other unemployed youths, he distanced himself from such unproductive routine and toiled with pick, shovel, dust and mud.

From his construction earnings, he saved enough money to do a security course – a course that enabled him to be employed at BOSASA.

While working as a security guard at BOSASA he empowered himself academically by enrolling at UNISA to study Travel and Tourism, then he upgraded his studies when he did a course called Thought Leadership for Africa’s Renewal with Thabo Mbeki Leadership Institution (TMALI). These courses enabled him to be promoted twice at BOSASA, first as a receptionist, then secondly to be a Tender coordinator of the group. Despite being promoted twice and having a decent monthly salary, his passion and calling for entrepreneurship was so strong, that he felt that there is gap in the market for local created shoe brands. Therefore, he decided to become a shoe entrepreneur and started Landlords Footwear SA.

Prior to starting his brand, he did intensive market research of which he says, “When l initially conceptualized the Landlords sneakers idea, l wanted to know exactly what was happening within the Footwear space in Africa and who are the major players in the field. I took a trip to East Africa and also embarked on a journey to West Africa. While in Makola Market in Ghana, l had a life-changing conversation with one local Ghananian shoe maker who was manufacturing shoes and selling them in the market, l returned to South Africa determined to give birth to my pregnant business idea”.

Thobega says: “Landlords Footwear is a symbol of ownership, this is me saying whatever space you occupy in your private life, own that space. We are a new breed of young black people who want equity stakes, we want to control our own destiny, and thus the sneaker brand is called Landlords”.

The life of a shoe entrepreneur is a hectic one; his schedule is always tight as it includes brainstorming on shoe designs, manufacturing quality, and reliable shoes. Networking for potential clients through social media or aggressive selling behind his VW polo which he jokingly said was a mobile shop, as the landlord’s shoes are not on the shelves of any retail store.

“l have no intentions of being shelved by major stores yet, but if an opportunity arises and it makes financial sense we might go for it”. In addition,Thobega  asserts that “…the toughest thing in retail is inventory management – if you have too-little stock, you’ll be out of stock and potentially lose sales. On the flip side, if you have too much stock, then you must do clearance sales to get your inventory turnover ratio to appropriate levels, thus losing money”.

When asked about the business lessons which he learned from COVID-19, he joyfully responded saying, “Mac, it’s funny how we sold over 500 sneakers in three months using paid Facebook ads. You see, any child who trains and educates themselves about how things are done will make something out of nothing. During the first lockdown when everything came to standstill, l took that indoor moment to study Digital Marketing online and l got a certificate from Google. By empowering myself with digital marketing, l mastered the technique on how to run an online based business”. With the world has gone digital, digital marketing is a much needed business skill as it equips an entrepreneur on how to market his/her product, sell and do transactions online.

Thobega’s motto? : “Life is a marathon, tie your laces and run these laps”.