Being a business owner for almost 30 years, Kobe’s golden nuggets of wisdom about his challenges in business and how he’s overcome them are invaluable to an aspiring business owner. We paid Kobe a visit at his shop and chatted about his humble beginnings, the lessons he’s learned along the way and how his thriving business came to be.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Kobe, and I was born in Ghana. I run a small business. I started as a shoemaker on the street. After some time, I decided to get into leather work.
I’ve been a business owner for close to 30 years now. I started on the street, fixing shoes, until I started Kobe’s African Creative. I haven’t achieved all of my goals yet, but I have hope that I will.
How do you feel knowing that you’re able to support your employees?
I’m happy that I can help others who are trying to improve their lives. Someone I used to work with came here just the other day, gifted me some money and said, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without you”. That makes me feel very happy that I could help him.
I have four employees who rely on work from me to make a living and survive. I feel good, but there are a lot of challenges. It’s not easy, but I do what I can. Sometimes, I even have to find a way to assist them in paying their rent.
Who taught you how to work with leather?
I learned how to work with leather from my uncle. He used to fix shoes. When I was younger, I would sit with him after school and learn how to repair shoes. I didn’t study leatherwork or anything like that. I learned it all from my uncle.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I’ve never worked for anyone before. I’ve always had my own business and made money with the skills I learned at home, like panel beating, shoe fixing and leather work.
You have to remember that no one is going to put food on your table – you need to work for it to be able to provide. I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning asking God to help me.
Tell us about your plans to grow your business.
My goal for the future is to collaborate more. You have to work with others to achieve more. You can’t do it all alone.
What role has your community played in helping you run your business?
Our community works as a team. If something goes wrong, we sit and talk about it and move on from there. Our community always helps each other out. Sometimes, they come to me if they need cash and pay me back using my iKhokha card machine.
Who has inspired you in your journey as a business owner?
I came to South Africa thanks to my uncle’s help. But, I met an old lady on the street many years ago who helped me start my business. She’s passed on now, but she was an artist. She picked me up, took me to her office and helped me move my business away from the street. I’ll never forget her. She always stood by my side and used to tell me, “Kobe, you’re here when it’s raining. You’re here in the middle of winter. No matter what happens, you’re always here. I wish you all the best.”
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from her?
I learned a lot from her. She taught me the value of hard work. To build yourself up, one step at a time. She was also the most supportive person I’ve met. She even bought me a ticket to go home to visit my mother, and when my wife passed away, she was there supporting me through it all.
How has iKhokha helped you run your business?
Without iKhokha, I think I would be on the street. I thank iKhokha because their Cash Advance has helped me a lot. I don’t think I would’ve survived without the money I received. Thanks to iKhokha, I am where I am now.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?
If you want to start your own business, be firm and be strong. Be smart with your money and always keep track of how much you make and how much your expenses come to. It’s also important to learn about the business you want to run. You don’t have to go to school for it but try to get some experience so that you know what to do and where you want your business to go.
Inspired by Kobe
Kobe's journey is a powerful reminder that anyone can transform their dreams into a thriving business with determination, support, and the right mindset. We hope Kobe's story has inspired you, just as it has inspired us, to pursue your entrepreneurial aspirations with unwavering determination and faith in your ability to succeed.
Treat yourself to a handmade piece of local artistry from Kobe’s African Creative. Pay Kobe a visit at the Rosebank Art & Craft Market.