Tshoarelo Glen Machabaphala gave up a career as a metallurgist last year to satisfy his entrepreneurial itch. Seven months ago he took the leap – and launched 4Gy (pronounced foggy) sneakers, fulfilling his passion for footwear.
4Gy is a purpose-driven brand, says Machabaphala. Machabaphala’s first name, Tshoarelo, means “forgiveness”. And that is what his brand stands for, too, he says. “There is so much happening in the world right now, we have so many people who are struggling with mental health, the aftermath of Covid and so on.
The brand is about a relationship with God and asking for forgiveness.” He says that we all need to forgive ourselves too and achieve inner peace – and that we all have the power to ignite that in others too.
He wants his brand to stand as a catalyst for this notion. His ambition includes eventually owning the entire supply chain and creating employment opportunities locally.
Everything he shares is underpinned by a relentless belief in South Africa’s potential to grow and he says that a foundation of entrepreneurs is where building the nation’s economy starts.
Machabaphala grew up in a village called Fatima in Limpopo. It wasn’t an easy life, he says, but it firmly fixed his love for humanity and upliftment of people.
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Shoes were a scarce commodity when he grew up as families struggled to make ends meet, including his own. “There’s a lot of privileges that we did not have. We used to walk quite a lot of kilometres to school and many children didn’t have shoes.”
Later, during his studies, basic knowledge about computers were lacking among classmates, he says. “The lecturer asked us to move the mouse, and I saw many people scramble to find it. They didn’t know what the mouse was. Many tried to move their keyboards instead or simply did nothing, in confusion.”
Machabaphala said this is where he started seeing the potential to expose people to knowledge and opportunity – and when people are from a disadvantaged background, they are thirsty for opportunity and have a willingness to learn.
His 4Gy shoes are designed with comfort and practicality in mind. “The sneaker is made with material to assist with ventilation for sweaty feet, while the sole is designed for comfort-fit.” They are lace-ups, but can be worn comfortably without laces, too. A launch design is presently available in a variety of colours