At Control Magazine, we are always in search for raw talent that is coupled with drive and enthusiasm. We came across a particular brand that represents these values in the world of sneakers. We believe that conveying a wholistic story is important so we conducted an interview with the visionary behind the brand so you can get to know her and and how she built the brand she pioneers today.
Here are 16 questions with Nondumiso Mabaso and SIGA sneakers:
Who is Nondumiso Mabaso?
Nondumiso is a 39 year old self-assured woman, born and raised in the beautiful and deeply cultural capital city of KZN, Pietermaritzburg. I grew up surrounded by strong women who did not have it easy but continuously chose to see never ending rainbows even in the darkest of clouds. I think it is here, at a very young age that I was indoctrinated into a positive way of thinking. The Nondumiso you see today is one who has been tried and tested. I have failed and failed again, I have also won many times but most importantly I have learnt and even today I am still evolving and growing each day I am blessed with. One thing I don’t do, I never give up! Through the years I have learnt to do it anyways, fear and all. I jump into muddy puddles and I also swim in ragging rivers with my gentle heart always in tow.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
I walked into entrepreneurship very naive, just like how most entrepreneurs do. You walk into it with a big dream, a few grand ideas and lots of faith in tow, expecting guaranteed success. You think “Aah this thing can’t be all that difficult”. Today I am not the same person I was when I registered my company back in 2017. Today what entrepreneurship means to me is constant work, not only just hard work but smart work too. You have to adapt quickly and be humble enough to listen to advise and change direction quickly if something is evidently not working. Someone once said to me “It is better to fail quickly cause you can get up quickly. It is much harder to fall slowly and not be doing anything about it as it tends to prolong the pace of recovery too”. I have learnt that sometimes we miss opportunities that are starring us right in the face because we are expecting them to be hidden and send us on a lifetime expedition. If there is one lesson I learnt that totally changed my way of thinking in entrepreneurship, it is the fact that you do not always need to re-invent the wheel. Technology has made so many things easier for us, we need to take full advantage of it, we cannot let innovation leave us behind. All in all my entrepreneurship journey is only just beginning and I am open to learning, adapting and growing and being challenged, not only in business but holistically as a person too.
Have you always aspired to be an entrepreneur or was it something you came across in the future when you saw the opportunity?
I don’t know if I can say I always aspired to be an entrepreneur. Perhaps the younger me just did not have the word “entrepreneur” as the first go to word to describe what I aspired to be. One thing I always knew from when I was a chid was that I wanted to be great. I remember from my teens I was absolutely obsessed with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Iyanla Vanzant and the likes. I read a lot of motivational self-help books and watched a lot of their programs even back then. I could picture myself standing on grand stages, speaking, motivating people and writing books that would encourage people to believe in their purpose. I really never knew that I would end up starting the SIGA brand, which is obviously still at its early stages. I knew my love for shoes and how they made me feel was special but, initially, buying sneakers and other shoes everywhere I went was just something I liked to do that made me feel good. I really did not know that the message I had carried all my life, a message of every single person deserving and being capable of greatness would be something I communicate to the world through my brand. Having had said that, I am still determined to stand on those grand stages and write those books, all in good time.
It obviously could not have been smooth sailing all the way when you established your business, so please tell us about the struggles you came across.
LOL, you are talking about when I started, Haa!. It is still not smooth sailing today, but the challenges are exactly what makes it all so worth it. First of all, finding a manufacturing partner that would be able to tick all the boxes for what I wanted for the brand was no easy task. I was clear on what I wanted, I had it written down on paper but I had no money and was an unknown name, nobody wants to pour their hard earned cash onto an unknown person with a written down dream and rightfully so. I kissed a couple of frogs and got some really bad samples both here at home and outside before I came across the guys I currently work with who are based in the “Shoe Valley” region of Italy. I also wanted to put out to the world a premium product but I had no funding. I was just a woman with big dreams and no money to achieve them. SIGA as it is today is still self-funded. Besides owning the SIGA brand, I also work as a Senior Account Exec for an IT research & advisory firm. A job I very much enjoy and appreciate that has afforded me the opportunity to pursue building this brand. These are just some of the challenges I am highlighting.
What or who inspired you to spearhead your own business?
My inspiration did not come from a single place. I am surrounded by armies of women and men who have encouraged me to go for it, right from the moment I, at times jokingly shared with them my desire to start this brand and the meaning behind the brand. I have in my circle, women and men who are bad ass at what they do in their respective industries, whether working for other companies or for themselves. A lot of them built their businesses and or personal brands from nothing and today they have multiple businesses under their belts, some are in executive positions where they work. These are the people that inspired and still inspire me to keep going even when the going gets tough. We do not always need to watch American TV or look at famous people to be inspired. We just need to pick up the phone and talk to that person in your life who is doing something you admire, that right there is the person that will hold your hand through your own journey.
What or who inspired you to specifically venture into sneaker manufacturing?
1. My love for superior quality and comfortable sneakers.
2. The message I wanted to pass on to the world, the message of greatness and consciously stepping into it, relentlessly!
Do you have academic experience in the study of any business relations or is it just your “street smarts” ?
In all the craziness of working tirelessly to grow the SIGA brand and working full time, I am also a part time student currently. I am in my final semester of study towards a BCom Degree in Financial Management. It has been a long 3 years but I’m excited that its drawing to a close. I do believe in order to be able to effectively manage my business, I do need to have some education around effectively managing finances. The rest is a combination of street smart and valuable skills I have learnt throughout my career in Technology sales, engaging at C-level.
Besides SIGA sneakers, do you have other business ventures?
So SIGA Sneakers is one product of SIGA Fashions as a registered entity. We have recently introduced other apparel items such as Tracksuits, Tees and golf shirts. We will continue to add more into our Stepping Into Greatness Already family of product as we grow organically. I have wild dreams and I find myself having to reign myself in sometimes. One of my biggest dreams is opening our first SIGA National & International Stores. For now we are mainly an online store with the ability to dropship to our customers anywhere in the world straight form the Italian Handcrafting labs of our manufacturers. We believe in organic growth and right now our focus is growing brand recognition and ensuring that our tribe of clients can find us with ease.
Please tell us more about SIGA sneakers.
SIGA Sneakers is a sneaker brand under my company SIGA Fashions which was first registered here at home in 2017. The name SIGA is derived from the statement: “Step Into Greatness Already!“ It is a unisex sneaker line that is designed for the Bold & Confident, made from the finest Italian leather. Our sneakers are individually handcrafted in the Le Marche region of Italy, a region fondly known all over the world as the “The shoe valley”. Each design is meticulously constructed by a skilled network of selected Italian artisans – there are no finer hands in the field. The handcrafting and the materials used are state-of-the-art. Our goal was to bring to South Africa, not only a strong, luxurious, long lasting sneaker on the same level of quality as some of the world’s most famous & expensive brands in the market but we wanted to do so at a good price. So far our clientele has agreed we have delivered on this goal 100 percent.
Do you think being a woman in business still poses a challenge in your growth?
Oh definitely! As a woman in the sneaker industry especially, I am cognisant of the fact that I am going to constantly have to work very hard and very smart to get this brand to where I envision it to be. Fortunately over the last 5 or so years it has become less and less strange for women to hold down their own, both in and out of the boardroom. So far I have received lots of support from all gender orientations in this industry that I am practically new in. I am really grateful for this and it shows that the wheels are moving in the right direction. It also helps that I have built a very solid career in a predominantly male dominated IT Sales industry over the last 15 years so I am really not new to such challenges.
In percentages, please tell us the quantity of men and women under your employment.
SIGA is still growing. We currently outsource a lot of the business functions i.e. marketing, sales, the graphics team, bookkeeping etc. If I was to give you the total number of people that work for SIGA from these outsourced teams I would place it at about 11 people in total currently.
Where is SIGA situated?
We are based out of my home office in the Roodepoort area for now. We are an online business for the most part, with the ability to take customer appointments for sneaker sample viewing prior to order placing.
Have you had any collaborations with other businesses?
Not as yet. We are however very open to collaborations that make sense for the brand in the future.
Most businesses, if not all, had to prove their proactiveness during this pandemic, how has SIGA adjusted?
I think every small business has felt the pinch during this pandemic. At SIGA we felt the pressure quite a bit, especially since on top of our own country being hit hard by the pandemic, Italy was also one of the hardest hit countries by Covid-19 so we experienced delays from the actual handcrafting of our clients sneakers during the Italian lockdown, right down to delays in the shipping times. Fortunately our clients were very patient and understanding that as a global society, we are all experiencing this for the first time. Our manufacturing partner are back in full swing now which means our orders are flowing much smoother again. On the brand visibility front we took a decision not to slow down when everyone else was slowing down. We have remained very active on social media to ensure our clients know we are still available to service their superior sneaker needs. We have also been featured on a few Social media influencer pages which is always helpful for the brand. Overall we really had to think outside of the box and find creative ways to keep engaging our potential clients during this difficult time.
Where do you see your establishment in the next five years?
A solid, well known brand with a number of stores in well thought out locations across the country. Still rated very high when it comes to quality and really a healthy business all round with a good number of excellent permanent staff members comprising of a super strong design team to take us to the next level of innovation in our field.
In conclusion, as it is women’s month, please leave a message for all the young girls and women of our country, encouraging them to strive for their own independence.
Stepping into one’s greatness starts with a single step towards ones calling. You really just need to start, do it scared, do it shaking and do it with everyone around you telling you its not possible. Do it anyway! And remember that only you know of that seed of greatness that lives within you, it is therefore YOU that needs to water it. We slay in heels and sneakers, in and out spaces we were once told we could not slay in. We can slay all our dreams just as much because Women are unstoppable, we really are unstoppable.