By: Sizakele Nduli
Siphelele Mnguni, who comes from eMpangeni in KwaZulu-Natal, decided to enter the shoe industry to challenge the perception that ‘izimbadada’ shoes were solely for Zulu ceremonies and customs. In 2020, he founded Zulu Swag to pursue this venture. “My aim was to make izimbadada to be embraced by not just rural populations and old people. So, we came up with something more vibrant, colourful and that appeals to youth, adults, urban, ghetto and rural populations, not just Zulu people, but all the tribes across South Africa and abroad,” Mnguni said.
When Mnguni, 39, started the business, he did not secure any funding. Instead, he relied on funds from his regular job to finance his business. “I have a full-time job, so I used money from my salary to kickstart the business,” he said. Currently, Mnguni has four employees who work full-time on the production side, and another three who work full-time in administrative roles at their shop located at Amen Shopping Centre in Durban. “I started small and was working from my house for about a year. I was only doing online orders, and as the demand grew, I needed a shop and people to man (the) business.”
When asked what the process entailed opening a physical store, Mnguni told Vutivi News that he extensively searched for available spaces in Durban. This was because where the shop was previously located at China Mall lacked foot traffic and failed to attract a significant number of customers. “We found a new store and enquired about it from the management, it was available, so we just needed a month’s deposit plus rent for moving in and that’s how we got it,” Mnguni said.
Not only does Zulu Swag make ‘imbadada’ shoes, but it also produces sweaters and hoodies. Mnguni added that the shoes were meticulously crafted and handmade. “The bottom part of the sole is a rubber material, recycled from the conveyer belts used in factories, and the top part is a synthetic leather material, with the different colour strings on top as a design,” said Mnguni, who is still involved in producing the shoes. Zulu Swag’s products can be bought at https://zuluswag.co.za/.