Seipati Rakoma’s love for leather shoes drove her to start a ladies shoe business where most of the products sold are locally manufactured.
After researching the shoe industry in SA and learning about shoe design, she established CEPATTI in 2017. At first the business operated solely as an online business, then in 2019 she opened a store in Melville, Johannesburg.
“I naturally started with something that I am passionate about. Leather is a higher quality and durable product, and as a result it is the material I prefer,” Rakoma told Vutivi News.
She designs shoes for women of all walks of life, and the range spans from brogues, loafers, heels, sandals and sneakers.
“Twenty percent of our shoes are made by us, 40% made by local manufactures we have partnered with, and 40%… are manufactured overseas,” she said.
Rakoma believed it was critical for shops to give local designers a platform to sell their products.
“We see ourselves as a business that offers an opportunity for other small local shoe designers and cobblers, with access to market by marketing and selling their products through our sales channels,” she said.
“We offer them access to the market, and our store in Melville also houses shoes that are made by other shoe designers, which come in different styles. These also include men’s shoes.”
Rakoma said it had not been an easy ride running her business, often because of capital and cash flow constraints.
“You also find that often you have to fulfil different roles required to run the business. It’s been a learning curve, and there have been a lot of iterations in our business model because we learn new things along the way and therefore refine and get rid of what is not working.”
She also had to adapt her business model due to Covid-19.
“Initially there was some strain on profits, but because we are also an e-commerce business, it helped because physically our stores were affected by covid-19 lockdown restrictions,” she said.
“We’ve have had to rely a lot more on online and social media sales than we used to, and Covid-19 made that aspect more important. At first we were badly affected as we’ve had to keep the physical shop closed but once we got a handle on the online store things progressed.”
Rakoma said the pandemic also impacted the value chain in the footwear sector.
“You need to assess the impact of the pandemic on all players participating in the value chain and supply chain process . For example, during lockdowns level 5 & 4, a big chunk of our local and international manufacturers of shoe components, leather material and outsourced products have had to shut down their operations for lengthy periods due to some other Covid-19 restriction or cases at their facilities. This affected us unfavorably during several lock-downs.”
Also, due to Covid-19, Rakoma has branched out into designing berets, shawls and scarfs.
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