Jabulile Gwala’s journey from Katlehong to Paris, Afro-style

Like all great start-ups, Jabulile Gwala’s business, Siko Republik, is the product of three key things: passion, resilience and spotting a gap in the market.

Each of these elements alone cannot guarantee success. Even the hardest workers and the most resilient entrepreneurs will not find success if there is no market for their product.

But if you get the balance just right, the result can be magic. “Beginning is always tough,” says Jabulile, the eldest of 12 grandchildren who grew up with their grandmother in Katlehong. “I had nothing but an idea and my dreams. But if you keep doing what you are doing, and surround yourself with people who see you and encourage you, you will succeed.”

Jabulile launched Siko Republik because even though the leisure athletics wear sector is gaining popularity (and therefore competitors), there was no Afro-centric offering in the market. She spotted a gap, took a chance and hasn’t looked back – even when things got tough.

“Always remember that when a door closes its to your benefit,” she says. “Things don’t happen to you, they happen for you. Looking back, I can see that I didn’t get deals I wanted because I wasn’t ready for them. I needed to grow my foundations to be in a position to receive what I’ve been looking for – the big deal, the funding, and everything that comes with it.”

It's been an amazing journey, one that has seen Sika Republik creations grace runways in Zurich and Paris. “Even local media attention has crashed our website and we’ve been working through a backlog of orders,” says Jabulile.

It’s clear that internationally, the African diaspora is gaining attention – and Jabulile has positioned herself and her business perfectly to take advantage. She’s not a big brand name yet, but we’re watching this space!

To support Jabulile and her business:

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About the Author

Elisheva Gilbert
Chief Marketing Officer, Sasfin Holdings Limited

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