Top Empowerment Award Young Achiever Theo Baloyi CEO of Bathu Shoes: Sneakers with a story – leaving behind a fine African footprint

Written by Topco Staff Writer


Theo Baloyi’s story is one worth hearing. Theo, who received the Top Young Achiever Award at the Top Empowerment Awards in July 2020, is the founder of Bathu Shoes.

While living with his uncle in Alexandra, Theo completed a BCom Accounting degree and went on to work in South Africa for two years and then the Middle East. It was during his time in the Middle East that the 30 year-old accountant-turned entrepreneur saw a gap in the sneaker market. He noticed that on a global level there was something missing – an African sneaker brand portraying an authentically honest African story.

After months of researching and conceptualising, Bathu was born in 2015, launching 100 pairs of Mesh Edition sneakers to the residents of Alexandra, Soweto, Thembisa and Midrand. In 2016 after releasing another 400 pairs, the Bathu website crashed a mere four hours after the announcement of the release. To say the brand took off would be an understatement.

Despite the success of Bathu, it has not been an easy journey to the top. The success of his business encompassed a lot of risk, hard work and unwavering commitment. According to Theo, his biggest achievement has been risking all his savings and investing in his business, while quitting a tax-free salary in Dubai and relocating back to South Africa. Bathu currently employs 51 people and has four retail stores, all of which happened in a space of four years

“Our sole aim is to build a proudly African sneaker brand, reignite hope and create sustainable jobs . I’m of the opinion that we are on a journey to contribute immensely in the South African economy and help create more jobs. We penetrated an industry that has been dominated by international footwear brands for years, and we have managed to create a brand that is pro-African with a world-class look and feel.”

When it comes to money, Theo is of the belief that attaching oneself to money is detrimental for both business and mentality. He notes that it was his father, who passed away in 2014, who taught him not to become attached to money. This is one of the core principles Theo uses to run his business. “He used to tell me never to have an emotional relationship with money because if I lose R10, I will lament that loss. But if I have an intellectual relationship with money, I will think about how I will make my next R20. And that’s how I run my business to this day,” he explains.

In terms of where Theo sees the company heading, he says that he would like to see Bathu having a good footprint in SADC and East Africa and having 130 employees. “We also want to optimise our value chain and end-to-end operations function,” says Theo

Maxine Volker

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