Sunday World (South Africa)

Umzee offers more than mere shoes

Founder travelled the world for perfection

- By Boitumelo Kgobotlo Boitumelo@sundayworl­

What better way to treat your feet to comfortabl­e and luxurious footwear while prioritisi­ng affordabil­ity, timelessne­ss and fashionabl­e designs, without breaking the bank.

Whether you are into flats, high heels, sneakers, or boots, Umzee shoes offer a wide range of personal style and taste.

Self-professed shoe explorer Tsele Khoabane-lepono, 44, travelled the world over to bring home the most comfortabl­e shoes to fellow South African women desperate for the “perfect” shoe they can spend all day walking and working in.

The brand is named after Khoabane-lepono’s sons, whose full names have been shortened to Umzi and Zuri, simply because she wants to leave a family legacy.

After her world-wide search, she finally fell in love with the shoe taste and quality from Italy and Brazil, with the latter topping her list of preference.

“I was complainin­g whenever I was buying shoes in the country, especially heels because walking in them would feel like an exercise. I was disappoint­ed in local shoes.

So, I thought it would be futile for me to complain without making a difference,” says Khoabane-lepono.

“I then started doing research and learning about the quality and comfort of shoes found in different parts of the world. This is what triggered and inspired me to travel in search of the perfect shoe for my feet.”

Although she would sometimes travel with her husband, she said the solo travels were a challenge. She did not know the cities or languages spoken, something that made it more difficult to find what she wanted, but persevered, and the search yielded huge dividends as she saw a marketing gap and decided to open a shoe store.

Khoabane-lepono says her business of selling imported shoes saw strong growth in South Africa.

The demand triggered her to open a shoe boutique at Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesbu­rg, which she launched in July.

“I sold Italian shoes for a

while but later decided the Brazilian styles were best suited for the women in this country because they are hand-crafted, well-cushioned, and made from leather,” she says.

“Brazilian shoes are unique; the shoemakers and cobblers

pay attention to detail. We are not just about selling comfort; the shoes need to be beautiful as well because as women we enjoy beauty while prioritisi­ng quality and comfort.”

Umzee offers a wide range of shoes, specifical­ly for women and Khoabane-lepono believes it is about time she worked on bringing her male range to the shelves and has earmarked the early part of next year as her target time for her men’s section of her boutique.

Khoabane-lepono also works full-time as an informatio­n technology security profession­al but sees her shoe business as her full-time job because it takes the biggest chunk of her time, and always has time for clients looking for the most elegant and comfortabl­e shoes.

“Being involved in a business that you are passionate about is key, I love what I sell.

But that does not mean you must quit your career, you can mix your work with your other passions.

“Don’t stop doing what you’ve always dreamt of during your childhood.

“In my case, I’ve always been fascinated by technology, and that’s the reason I studied IT. If you can, juggle both. It will bring you happiness.”

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 ?? ?? Tsele Khoabane-lepono of Umzee shoes.
Tsele Khoabane-lepono of Umzee shoes.
 ?? ?? Umzee shoes offer style and comfort.
Umzee shoes offer style and comfort.

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