In Africa, few entrepreneurs venture into the apparel and footwear industry owing to structural challenges and growing taste for foreign products by citizens of the ‘motherland.’ As a result, many entrepreneurs are cautious about going into that field.
In recent times, several entrepreneurs have taken the risk to go into apparel and footwear production despite the negative attitude of Africans towards products from the continent. They do so with the hope of changing attitudes towards African-made goods.
Others who are into apparel and footwear also simply take their designs to China to have them produced for them and then shipped to Africa and presented as locally made, when they are technically not locally made.
A 17-year-old South African entrepreneur has dared to be different and standing on the shoulders of earlier entrepreneurs who went into local footwear manufacturing, he has come out with his own brand called Dapper Shooz. Utlwanang Mmeti produces sneakers with beautiful designs and they come in different colors.
Mmeti launched his company over the past 24 months and was quietly developing his sneaker designs to capture a decent share of the market. Early this month, he released designs of his footwear to the public. According to him, everything was done in his mother’s garage.
“I began off in a village within the North West province in my mom’s storage, you gotta begin someplace. The place are you ranging from?” Mmeti noted in a post on Twitter.
According to him, the sneaker is for the average man and woman who are chasing their dream, those who unleash their potential. He even brands his sneakers as one for “the underdogs, the dreamers and the doers.”
To fund his business, Mmeti raised capital from close family and extended family. “It was not easy of course,” he noted. “I mean who would loan a 16-year-old kid from a mining village in the North West Province, now 17 years, start-up capital to start a sneaker business in these tough economic conditions?, he quizzed in a post on Facebook.
He attributes the successful launch of his business to his persistence, enthusiasm and belief in his ambition to kickstart ‘Dapper’, which simply means someone who is stylish, fashionable and neat in appearance.
“I went for this name because it’s easy to remember, rolls off the tongue nicely and will allow me to expand into other fashion items like apparel. At 17 years I’m in my final year(Grade 12) of high school and I’m about to embark on a new exciting journey of starting a successful multi-million rand sneaker business,” he said.
Mmeti is from a small mining town in Rustenburg, South Africa. According to him, he wants his brand to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to start young.