17-year-old South African entrepreneur, Utlwanang Mmeti launches his own sneaker brand

In 2020, the global sneaker market was said to be valued at approximately £56 billion and is predicted to grow up to £85 billion by 2026. According to the World Footwear Yearbook, in 2020, footwear production hit a new record of over 24 billion pairs of shoes produced annually with sneakers holding the largest share.

Even though this market is rapidly growing, the continent of Africa seems to lag behind such a lucrative market. Not too many entrepreneurs on the continent have ventured into the sneaker business due to low self-esteem and lack of belief and trust by local consumers in locally made brands. Many young Africans would prefer to wear foreign footwear brands like Nike, Addidas, Puma etc; therefore African entrepreneurs tend to not give it a try.

But nonetheless, this narrative is gradually changing as young and creative African entrepreneurs and designers are taking the lead in designing locally made wear and brand that look attractive, catchy and competitive. These sets of a new breed of young entrepreneurs are not taking it lightly with their creativity as they are going all out to make local produce appreciated with open arms.

In South Africa, a 17-year-old student Utlwanang Mmeti who wants his sneaker brand to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to start young has launched his own locally made sneaker brand called ‘Dapper Shooz’. Utlwanang, 17, came from a small rural town in South Africa called Rustenburg where he started his sneaker business in his mother’s garage. “I started off in a village in the North West province in my mother’s garage, you gotta start somewhere. Where are you starting from?”, said Utlwanang.

Utlwanang had the idea of creating his own sneaker brand when he was 16 and since then, he has been working on his ideas and what to put out hence the sneaker market is a very competitive market. The young entrepreneur in a social media post said his sneakers are for the average man and woman who are chasing their dream and those who unleash their potential.

It was not easy for a teenager like Utlwanang to put up something blacknificient like this. Of cause, there are challenges like getting the finance and capital to start the business, but the 17-year-old did not let his dream water down because of these challenges. He instead raised the money to start his business from close friends and families. “It was not easy of course.” I mean who would loan a 16-year-old kid from a mining village in the North West Province, now 17 years, start-up capital to start a sneaker business in these tough economic conditions?” he said.

As someone who is persistent, brave, and passionate, Utlwanang chose his brand name ‘Dapper’ with respect to his personality. Dapper simply means someone who is stylish, fashionable and neat in appearance. He even brands his sneakers as one for “the underdogs, the dreamers and the doers.”

“I went for this name because it’s easy to remember, rolls off the tongue nicely and will allow me to expand into other fashion items like apparel. At 17 years I’m in my final year (Grade 12) of high school and I’m about to embark on a new exciting journey of starting a successful multi-million rand sneaker business,” he said.

Follow Utlwanang Mmeti on Facebook

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