Feb 2024 1st edition

How a youngster cracked into a shoe-making business by chance

Gabisile Ngcobo

What started as a challenge to make traditional sandals comfortable for Sisi Nxumalo’s husband to wear to a wedding is now a thriving shoe business.


Made using an up-cycled tyre soles, SoulShooz, is a South African footwear brand inspired by izimbadada – traditional Zulu sandals – that is turning heads.

“We were going to a wedding with my husband and were going to wear matching outfits and izimbadada. When he put them on, he said they were very uncomfortable and said, ‘If you can make them comfortable, I’ll wear them’,” explained the 33-year-old Nxumalo.

Determined for not turning her matching outfits into a flop, she took on the challenge.

“After 10 prototypes, people kept stopping my husband and asking him where he got them from. He told them I made them,” she said.

That is when she decided to set up an Instagram page for her company, SoulShooz, in 2019.  She then partnered with her sister Sisana Nxumalo and friend Noxolo Matlapeng to consciously recreate shoes to celebrate the importance of culture.

The three, according to Nxumalo, also did not have start-up capital but joined hands in order to get the business off the ground. They started by making a couple of shoes, sold them and used the money to make more shoes.

The sandals add a touch of style and can be worn with any traditional attire to events such as weddings, traditional gatherings or casual events.

Nxumalo, who also runs a beauty salon, said it was not easy cracking into the shoe industry. She had to learn that sometimes things do not always go according to plan. 

“It’s really tough. But it’s about perseverance and being able to stick it out,” she said.


Fast forward to 2024, the business now has 10 designs and a children’s range. It also collaborates with other smaller businesses including a shoemaker and a printing company.

The team has been receiving recognition for their hard work and scooped the Green Innovator award at the 7th Annual Green Youth Indaba 2022 and placed third at the So Creative Summit, 2022.

While they started selling on Instagram, SoulShooz is now selling online via the website Nxumalo built.

“We’re currently reinvesting the profit that we make back to the business and we’re not drawing salaries.”

However, the future looks promising, with plans to have the sandals in boutique stores and create more jobs.

Nxumalo is a firm believer that funding should never be something that stops you from starting the business and encouraged young people to just start.

“Opportunity finds you when you’re ready and misses you when you’re not. I’m not scared of failing and because of that I can keep on going. I always tell people, if you’re not going to die, continue,” she said.

For more information, you can contact SoulShooz on 076 626 2253.
Instagram: SoulShooz Website: https://soulshooz.co.za/

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