Armed with a bold vision and a proudly South African story to tell, entrepreneur and CEO of Bathu Swag, Theo Baloyi has earned himself the title of Emerging Business Entrepreneur of the year at the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business/Partners. Baloyi, who is a trained accountant, and the visionary behind the African-centric footwear brand, was honoured for his entrepreneurial zeal at the annual awards ceremony held on 4 September 2019 in Johannesburg.
“I was an accountant for PWC for five years before starting Bathu in 2015. I wanted to share the untold story of South African townships with the world, and thought what better way to do it than through ibathu – a word commonly used to refer to any type of shoe in township slang.”
Established in his room in Alexandra Township, Baloyi poured his savings from his corporate job into seed capital and spent 18 months working on the proof concept, research and development, and quality control, before launching the business.
Bathu’s flagship design – the mesh edition – is a sneaker manufactured 100% out of mesh material. While most sneaker brands use mesh material as a component of the shoe, Bathu manufactures fully mesh edition sneakers, with the idea to create a sneaker that blows air onto your feet as you walk, while showing off your colourful socks.
“From launching our flagship mesh design in 2015 with only four different colour combinations, we now have 13 and recently introduced two more designs, namely the Mesh Edition 2.0 and the Journey Edition.”
From only seven employees in June 2018, Bathu has grown into a successful business that employs 36 permanent members of staff, occupies four retail stores, and has a thriving e-commerce site. On a deeper level, however, Baloyi’s vision was to build a business that will empower his community by creating sustainable jobs, and give hope to the youth.
“I would drive back home to Alex and always see unemployed youth. I want to personally be part of a story that not only contributes to sustainable employment, but also inspires to everyone and reignites hope for the youth in my community.”
Turning this vision into a reality, Baloyi proudly proclaims that from the 36 current employees, 25 are originally from Alexandra Township. “We have excelled in creating employment for people in our community, and building a value chain with good corporate governance. We have a growth plan to open six more stores by June 2020 with the hope of employing more people.”
Born in the township. Designed by a dream. Built for your journey. This may be the brand’s business motto, but it also personifies Baloyi’s story of success. “I am truly honoured to be named this year’s Emerging Business Entrepreneur of the Year® and know that this will catapult the Bathu brand to new heights.”
Visit www.bathu.co.za for more information.