Like Nike. But in Wakanda

Like Nike. But in Wakanda

Meet Jabulile Gwala

She started Siko Republik.  

“Sew what?” you ask.

Well, she’s kind of a big deal in the fashion retail world. And in our Small Business Showcase world too.

There’s no such thing as a Siko Republik cape, but there should be.

Why, you ask? Because Jabulile Gwala is a superhero with humble beginnings and deserves to wear one. She “grew up in the dusty streets of Maphanga” in Katlehong.

I grew up in a space that always demanded me to be creative.

Jabu Gwala, founder of Siko Republik

It’s not surprising, then, that resilience and creativity are her two superpowers. Being the oldest of a large family that lived with her gran meant that Jabu cared for and entertained her cousins and sisters (who acted as her dolls). Wonder if this was catalyst number one?

Completing her studies in KZN was another catalyst for Jabu.

Culture crises? No, culture opportunity

Jabu had always been surrounded “by modern, Western culture” so when she went to Kwa-Zulu Natal to study, she got to learn more about her heritage and culture. “My Zulu got deeper and stronger,” she says, “and I learned how to speak it properly.” She laughingly admits: “I didn’t even know I wasn’t speaking it properly,”   

A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

Marcus Garvey

Jabulile’s love language has always been movement: “I’ve always loved to play; I’ve always loved sports.” And being active means activewear: a hugely influential fashion trend. Jabu searched for gear that she wanted to wear and that she could wear with pride. And she saw a massive gap in the market. Introducing catalyst number three. 

Ethnic dress is dress with a soul.  


Wakanda – nope, Siko Republik – Forever

In 2018, Siko Republik, an athleisure wear company that combines the “modern aesthetic of activewear with our heritage and culture” opened. And the response since then has been phenomenal.

Siko Republik is now endorsed by big brands and it’s been worn by Miss SA’s top 10 finalists and several celebs.

It’s also made its TV debut a few times. Like the time it featured in Big Brother Mzansi – and crashed Siko Republik’s site (the type of overwhelm most SME owners would happily have).

But it’s not to say it’s always been easy.

“The beginning is tough,” Jabu says – with a catch in her throat – “and it’s tough for everyone.”

As she explains Siko Republik’s journey, the Small Business Showcase team gets teary-eyed and goosebumped to the max.

Jabu’s advice to entrepreneurs?

“Surround yourself with people who will encourage you,” she says, and very importantly, keep in mind that “everything that happens to you is happening for you.”

Last but not least: “Find what you love and start with what you’ve got!”

Get fit and look fab while doing it:

P.S. Know someone else who likes to look good while working out? Know a small business owner? Is Jabu’s story giving you all the feels like it did for us? Share this Small Business Showcase article far and wide: