BOKANG & SIPHIWE TSHABALALA: LIVING THE DREAM

Bokang and Siphiwe Tshabalala talk to us about their bold business moves, long-distance relationship and plans for the festive season.


It is a sunny Johannesburg morning when we meet the Tshabalalas. Former Miss SA Bokang (32) looks chic in a bright floral kimono, black jeans and top. Soccer star Siphiwe (33) is casually clad in chinos and a golf shirt. It is precisely a week before the launch of their SB Kids range in Jet stores. The kids’ clothing and accessories brand were founded five years ago after the power couple identified a gap in the market. ‘We wanted to bring to life superheroes that kids can relate to,’ says Bokang.

SELLING A MESSAGE
Symbols of the range are ‘Super Shabba’, a boy from Soweto who becomes a superhero and ‘Princess Bokang’, a girl who grew up in a rural village and eventually gets the biggest crown in Africa.

Super Shabba is a real person who is someone a township child can relate to, explains the Soweto-born Siphiwe (nickname Shabba).

‘It is important to tell these stories because kids who grow up in townships or rural areas are told they will not amount to anything,’ says Bokang, who hails from Limpopo. ‘We want to tell a different story.’ Blessed with a rare blend of beauty, brains and a great sense of humour, she was crowned Miss South Africa 2010 and has since added businesswoman and executive producer to her list of impressive achievements. ‘Big up to Jet for taking a chance on us, because it is challenging to get into retail,’ she smiles.


THE DREAM BECOMES REAL
The couple struggled to secure commercial shelf space for their merchandise, but finally, their range has found a home in Jet stores. 


‘We are very proud of this achievement,’ says Bokang. ‘We just want to say to young entrepreneurs that it is possible – don’t give up!’ She adds that perseverance will always pay off in the end. Funding was their biggest challenge, so the partners in business and life tightened their belts and saved towards their start-up. ‘We were blessed to be able to put money aside,’ says Bokang. ‘We know most people don’t have that opportunity.’

‘We just want to say to young entrepreneurs that it is possible – don’t give up!’


THE MAKING OF AN EMPIRE
The Tshabalalas have various other business interests including an events company, a hair salon and their respective foundations. The Siphiwe Tshabalala Foundation and the Bokang Montjane Foundation both work in youth empowerment, and in 2014 partnered with the National Youth Development Agency to promote national health and wellbeing programmes.


Siphiwe says he always had a keen interest in business. ‘The career path I took (soccer) is very short-lived,’ he says, ‘so I knew from the outset that it would come to an end, and I had to plan ahead. It’s been very challenging.’ He believes nothing worth having comes easily, so he went into business prepared to work hard. ‘Out of all the businesses I have been involved in, SB Kids is the special one,’ he beams. ‘It has a powerful message. We are telling our stories through fashion.’


THE BUSINESS OF FOOTBALL
As well as playing for the SA national football team, Siphiwe is signed to Büyükşehir Belediye Erzurumspor in the Turkish Süper Lig. At the time of our interview, it’s a month since his debut for the Turkish club, which saw enthusiastic applause from fans when he ran onto the field in his No 33 jersey. He used the league break to visit his family but had to fly back to Turkey after our interview.

Siphiwe was with PSL team Kaiser Chiefs for 12 years when the big opportunity came his way. ‘I miss the SA fans, my fellow teammates, my family, son and wife,’ he says with a rueful smile. ‘The plan was always to play professional football, play for Kaiser Chiefs and Bafana Bafana. So I have ticked all the boxes.’

‘WE CAN DO IT’
When he received news of his transfer in August, it was with mixed emotions. ‘It was my moment, and I was focusing on the positive feedback,’ says the midfielder, who is the second most-capped player for Bafana Bafana. ‘The negative feedback did not change the fact that my dream was becoming a reality. Critics made me raise my game; I took it positively and made it work for me. It was a childhood dream that happened unexpectedly. I also had to consider that I have a family.’ He says Bokang was very supportive, saying, ‘It won’t be easy, but we can do it.’

‘Focus, hard work and perseverance have helped me stay on top of my game,’ he adds. Who can forget that once-in-a-lifetime goal he scored – the first one at the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

Fame hasn’t gone to his head, though. He credits support from friends, fans and family for his accomplishments and strong work ethic. ‘People look up to you, so it is disrespectful when you don’t do your best,’ he smiles.



LONG-DISTANCE LOVE

Bokang and Siphiwe married in 2016 and have a son together, Owethu, who’s now three years old. Being apart isn’t easy, but it’s the everyday support Bokang misses the most. ‘I miss the small things like Siphiwe doing the school runs and cleaning my car,’ she smiles. However, she’ll be making monthly trips to Turkey (in fact, she just returned from her first visit) and they speak a couple of times a day over the phone.

Asked about their plans for the festive season they say travel, quality time as a couple and with family are on the cards.

‘For Christmas, I will cook up a storm,’ says Bokang. ‘We usually travel before the new year. Typically, we spend Christmas with his family because it is closer, then go on holiday with Owethu before visiting my family in Limpopo.’

BUSINESS TIPS FROM THE TSHABALALAS
  • Trust your intuition. If you meet someone and it doesn’t feel right, listen to your inner voice.
  • Don’t give up on your idea. Hold on to it, be determined and persevere. Get used to rejection to a point where it does not affect you anymore.
  • Do your research.
  • Network with as many people as possible.
  • Offer your time for free. Use the opportunity to learn.

By KOKETSO MASHIKA

Keep up with them on social media
Instagram: @bokang_m @siphiweshabba
Twitter: @Bokang_M @siphiweshabba


BOKANG & SIPHIWE TSHABALALA: LIVING THE DREAM BOKANG & SIPHIWE TSHABALALA: LIVING THE DREAM Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on November 20, 2018 Rating: 5

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