When they started out, Themba Makamu and Thabang Ledwaba were selling their sneakers without stock or any funding. But before they realised it, their idea had kicked off. Not only had customers pre-ordered enough stock for them to start their business, but there was also enough demand to continue financing the venture.
Vaya Footwear was founded in 2020 and started trading in 2021. The Johannesburg-based company manufactures sneakers in different colours. Each pair costs R1000 and they are delivered nationwide. It currently has eight employees and has partnered with a factory, which turns their designs into sneakers.
Ledwaba told Vutivi News that he and his partner started Vaya, which is slang for “go”, as they shared a mutual love for sneakers. Before that, they had both worked in the funeral sector between 2014 and 2015.
The idea came when Themba Makamu, who was my manager and is my mentor, approached me with the idea to start a brand, he said. He tasked me with bringing this idea to life and I came up with the decision to sell a product that we had not even manufactured yet. People loved the brand and what it stood for and they bought into it, essentially funding the business for us in a sense, he pointed out.
Ledwaba said consumers supported the local brand because it offered the same kind of comfort and style that international sneaker companies were known for. He said that when they started marketing the shoes, they found that many people resonated with their messaging “go” and that they must do everything they can to achieve their goals.
“Our vision is to push people to go towards their dreams,” said Ledwaba, who is the manager of Vaya.
“We also believe that sneakers are a form of communication, because we wanted to communicate to people to remember that every time people saw our brands, they should be reminded that they have dreams that they should work on.”
Ledwaba told Vutivi News they had considered applying for funding from the state, but were against it, for now. “We believe that the best time to start a business is when we don’t have anything because it gives us the desire to overcome certain challenges. Business has to grow gradually,” he said.
“We thus decided that at some point we will apply, but for now we want to understand the challenges of the industry and build the business from scratch. Once we reach the point where we are satisfied with our growth, we will expand through applying for funding.”