And we thought it was a men’s niche, they muttered! And I say not any more. There’s a high spirited fiercely ambitious go-getter on the block, who has taken it upon herself to create a path were many wouldn’t dare to tread.
You can call her a shoe maker if you like; but actually, she is more than that: beauty, brains…
Taffi is the co-founder of Thando’s Shoes, Africa’s first portable shoe design and distribution company. It was founded in October 2012, while in the 2nd year of her MBA program at NYU Stern. Her original plan was to go back to school to build a career in fundraising/marketing for private equity firms, but then the love for shoes found her and plans suddenly changed. For that, she refers to herself as an “Accidental Entrepreneur.”
Born in Guyana, South America, Taffi moved to the U.S. and was raised in New York City. The budding entrepreneur caught the inspiration for her brand while working for a luxury brand in Johannesburg.
She remembers carrying foldable flats in her purse to help ease the pain of walking around the office in very high heels all day, and found that her coworkers had never seen them before. And so she did some research and found that such shoes were not available in sub-Saharan African market. That was all the inspiration she needed to launch out and fill the gap.
Thando and her partner, Nigerian-American co-founder JG Ayodele chose the name, Thandos, meaning love; as that was Taffi’s nickname while in South Africa.
According to Taffi, “The logo for Thando’s is inspired by a love for Africa and the pleasurable feeling of a bare foot in the sand.”
Despite the gender challenges she has faced in the industry, Taffi continues to push the bars and make room for other women entrepreneurs in the industry.
In 2014, Taffi Woolward was chosen by Forbes Magazine for a list of Emerging Women Entrepreneurs to Watch in Africa. She also finished 3rd in the She Leads Africa Competition In 2014, and was awarded a cash prize of $1,000. Taffi acknowledges that she couldn’t have scaled this high without the help and support of her loved ones; her mum especially.
“She has always taught me how to find peace in the toughest moments. As an entrepreneur things don’t often turn out the way I plan, but being able to tap into something greater than myself helps me not to give up. My mother has always lived her life that way and that is part of her legacy to me.” She says in an interview with lilianmuhammed.com.
The leading lady has a clear purpose; to influence her generation and leave a lasting legacy.
“Being in a position to influence change and being able to help others succeed is what motivates me. I want my children and the generations after them to remember me as a woman who gave back – woman who remained humble and served others.”