The world of sneakers and urban footwear involves big money. Think of the millions the likes of Nike and Adidas invest to make us believe we too can ‘be like Mike’ or that ‘impossible is nothing’. The barriers to entry, from design to production, distribution to retail, seem incredibly high, and that’s before you consider the superstar endorsements that almost seem par for the course.
But a local entrepreneur has taken the slogan of Adidas to heart, and, undaunted by the hurdles, started his own footwear brand, to bring African trainers to the market. The Township Dream
Characterised by a range of bright, mono-coloured shoes, Drip SA’s tagline is ‘The Township Dream’. The company was founded by Lekau Sehoane, who grew up in an informal settlement in Ivory Park. “Growing up in poverty and not having shoes forced me to create shoes and sell them to survive,” he says.
The story goes that, as a child, Sehoane came across an old abandoned pair of sneakers. Using denim and polyurethane, he breathed fresh life into this old pair of shoes. And so the journey began.
“Sixteen years later, Drip SA was my way of revisiting my childhood dreams at a commercial level,” he says.
During the intervening years, Sehoane’s career switched from running a cleaning services company to a chicken farm, but then passion won and he decided to flex his entrepreneurial muscles and create his own urban sneakers firm. He collaborated with a handful of designers to create a shoe that reflected an African taste in footwear, and help him transform the idea into a real product. The next step was to create a presence in prominent stores, a process he describes as ‘trial and error, as it was a totally new experience’.
With footwear being a primary human need, Sehoane believes he’s tapped into a sustainable marketplace and is counting on the brand’s roots to help give it local appeal. “My ambition is to make it a successful brand in Africa that is easily accessible and that Africans can relate to,” he says.
“Our target market is anyone on the continent who needs a sneaker that is homemade and comfortable,” he says. “The fashion industry is in Paris and New York, and all we do (in Africa) is wait for them to give us direction. Our work at Drip SA is to lead the local industry in terms of culture and creativity to drive the industry into what we want it to be.”
As a young, fast-growing business, the focus is firmly on footwear for now, says Sehoane, with no immediate plans of expanding the brand into other clothing items. “We always try to make sure we match the growth with the demands of the business,” he says. Drip SA has positioned itself as an online-first
store, but has also opened six brick-and-mortar stores around Gauteng and Limpopo.
In what would seem to be a hard market to crack, this local footwear brand is showing that with the right determination and application, it’s possible. You just need to take the first step. *Store numbers correct at time of press. Republished with permission from ITWeb Limited