LEARNING CURVE | Motherwell shoemakers ‘pioneers’ in combining old and new school style

Sibongiseni Mnikina, left, and Masibulele Matshaya, owners of Bambanani Fresh Art in Motherwell
UNIQUELY STYLISH: Sibongiseni Mnikina, left, and Masibulele Matshaya, owners of Bambanani Fresh Art in Motherwell
Image: SUPPLIED

With their passion for shoes and the belief that what one wears says a lot about your personality, combined with their strong work ethic, Sibongiseni Mnikina, 30, and Masibulele Matshaya, 31, decided to venture into shoe manufacturing.

Bambanani Fresh Art currently has three official designs — the slip-on, lace up and boot.

The business, which is based in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth, strives to be a trusted name in the shoe manufacturing industry.

Please share some background on yourselves and how the business was started?    

We started the business as a shoe repair shop, but as time went by, our interest grew from shoe repairs to shoe design and manufacturing.

We had this vision of owning a factory one day but we did not have formal training so we travelled to Durban for a workshop on how to design and make shoes, and we used that training to empower ourselves and the people we’ve worked with.

We then expanded to a shoe design and manufacturing company, based in Motherwell.

We have been trained for business by NYDA, CCBSA, DTI and other organisations and individuals that have played a major role in our success.

It is due to a combination of hard work and experience that we are able to succeed in the work we do.

Our goal is to reach the international market.  

What is your core service?

We manufacture shoes as our core business.

Through the use of the best leather skins and hides, we produce the most comfortable shoes, finished with an African touch, shown by the thick stitch, ensuring durability.

What makes your business unique?

Our business is currently in the centre of Motherwell, which is perfect for recognition and establishment within our specific market.

High quality, durability and the fact that our product is handmade with prices that are better than other handmade products, makes our business unique.

Our main product advantage is the style we are introducing — it is old school mixed with new school leather crafting. We are pioneers in the craft.

If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?

You must have an extreme passion for footwear design, be hardworking and a perfectionist — paying attention to detail — while believing wholeheartedly in your ability to succeed, with a desire to express your talents and ultimately fulfil your potential.

What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?

When we started our business we had a lack of tools and equipment to get our business off the ground.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?

We recommend training in basic business skills before starting a business.

What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?

We have logistical challenges with our suppliers — the timeframe it takes for the leather and shoe heels to come to us can be improved.  

What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?

Always invest in your business.

How do you define success in your business?

By having a growing clientele and keeping our clients happy.

What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?

Bambanani Fresh Art is owned and run by the same people.

We are the business owners, and the employees.

We are both responsible to ensure growth in our business.

We have developed a structure that ensures that we put out a valuable product.

What kind of advertising do you do?

We use social media and word-of-mouth for advertising.

What is your company’s vision?

To be Africa’s most preferred leather handcrafted footwear company.

What is your target market?

Our clients at the moment are 95% male, aged 16 and above.

We have only tapped into the local market.

We have reached every race/ethnic group in SA.

What have some of your highlights been in running your business?

When we completed the P1 Raizcorp programme, to us that was a big highlight.

How important is social media and an online presence for your business?

Social media is very important for our business as news spreads very fast on social media.

How many people do you employ?

There are two of us in the business.

Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?

Yes, by reaching the international market.

We have not put all our plans on paper yet, but watch this space.  

How did you acquire funding for the business?

We applied for funding from Sofisa & Phillips Development Agency, which funded our factory shop project.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?

Working with your peers makes it easy for the business to run smoothly.

What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?

There is no variety of manufactures of leather, raw materials, components and skills development.

What do you believe are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?

Have knowledge about the industry you are working in, the product you are manufacturing, the business you are operating.

What do you believe are the key traits of a successful employer? 

Pay a person what they are worth.

Be systematic and organised.

Keep your employees happy and upskill your employees.

What do you wish people knew about your industry?

We don’t just make shoes, we create an experience. We make feet feel good.

Shoes say a lot about a client’s personality.

We endeavour to make our clients stand out and give them a chance to express themselves by the shoes they wear, creating a sense of uniqueness.

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