An innovative, environmentally friendly and first of its kind sneaker care product; designed, manufactured and distributed by sneaker specialist – Sneaker LAB from South Africa’s Mother City is taking the world by storm, and it’s all thanks to its founder and CEO – South African-born entrepreneur, Jo Farah.
After returning from the United States in 2008 with just one thing on his mind – to help cure South Africa’s conundrum by creating jobs for the unemployed, and in-turn fostering economic growth, Jo invented a one-of-a-kind sneaker care product, and put shoulder to the wheel to establish his business in 2013.
“After being abroad for so long, missing home and keeping an eye on the goings-on here; it one day dawned on me that I wanted to be part of the solution to the plethora of challenges South Africans face. The only way to do that was to come back,” Jo said.
Coming home became part of his plan, and building and developing a local brand of good stature, and elevating it to a global status was his goal. Once sustainable, it would be his contribution to directly addressing SA’s alarming levels of unemployment. Starting a sneaker care product range was a natural choice, especially considering Jo’s passion for sneakers, street wear and urban culture.
He also wanted to create a complimentary product to accompany the list of sneaker brands that has inspired him over time. Jo’s work behind the scenes commenced in earnest and in no time he conducted enough research to support his theory – there was a gap in the market for branded sneaker care products. He knew that he was on a good business wicket.
“There already was a range of non-branded products on the market, but my research revealed there was a healthy appetite for branded, environmentally friendly sneaker care products. That spoke directly to my business model,” he said.
Today, Sneaker LAB has placed Cape Town on the map with its premium global status – it’s the only sneaker care product range in the world to be GreenTag certified, environmentally friendly and biotech driven. Its products are water-based, readily biodegradable, and the packaging is suitable for recycling. The business also operates internationally, in 50 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the USA, and is growing by the day.
Jo says he’s most proud of the business’s exponential growth, and working towards becoming the “number one sneaker care product in the world for the world” has become his number one priority. Today Sneaker LAB’s products reach around 3 000 plus doors internationally, up dramatically from 25 doors locally when it started out five years ago.
And to ensure the business always pays it forward, for every product sold globally, Sneaker LAB donates a portion of that profit to GoldYouth.org – a South African organisation committed to developing young African leaders.
When asked if there’s one thing he wants customers around the world to know, he responds: “actually there are two”. Sneaker LAB was nurtured and developed in SA.
“Few people know that we’re a proudly South African business, and we’d like them to start making that connection. I love and am so proud of the fact that we’re making a complete success of a brand that’s been rolled-out in Africa, in South Africa no less,” he says.
And that’s not all, people also need to know that he’s centred his business model around giving back and making a positive contribution to the countries in which Sneaker LAB operate. His main aim is for Sneak LAB to leave a lasting impression on everyone it comes into contact with, in more ways than one.
Of the challenges associated with his role he says getting staff in the business to believe in themselves at all times and to reach their full potential are two of them, along with always being an inspirational leader who they can respect and look up to.
When this sneaker head is not at the office, you’ll find him at home cooking one of his much-loved meals, taking the long road in one of his classic cars, which have become collector’s items, or simply enjoying a glass of wine in the company of friends and family.
“I enjoy some downtime. It gives me time to do a bit of reflection and introspection, to analyse myself and improve where needed. I’ve made it my mission to learn something new about myself and the world around me every day, because just when you think you’ve figured it all out, you realise that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.
-Adapted from a press release