He went from ploughing snow in the States to founding and owning one of South Africa’s hottest sneaker commodities to date
Sneaker enthusiast, Zaid Osman, is not only the owner and founder of Sneaker Exchange (SXC), Africa’s largest sneaker expo, but is also the owner of a sneaker boutique in Cape Town called Lost Property, and is recognised as one of South Africa’s most notable sneaker collectors … all of this at the tender young age of 24.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Osman and his family moved to Richmond, Virginia, USA when he was only six years old. Once there, Osman was introduced to a burgeoning sneaker culture and became instantly hooked. As his exposure to the massive variety of sneakers grew, so did his need to earn money to buy them, so not losing anytime, Osman set about ploughing snow and mowing lawns to finance his sneaker obsession. He even went as far as selling or trading his sneakers to obtain new pairs. And so, when the 16-year-old returned to Cape Town, SXC was born out of this very passion. He took a market that was showing interest in buying sneakers, and filled a gap by importing sneakers no-one could get their hands on in the country.
The inaugural SXC event in 2013 had very humble beginnings. The event saw a few dozen die-hard sneaker collectors and aficionados in attendance at a coffee shop in Woodstock, Cape Town. Since then the event has grown exponentially year-on-year, and has even been commissioned to curate sneaker exhibits across Africa. Now, the expo is officially known as the largest sneaker trading event in Africa where sneaker collectors and aficionados can buy, sell or trade sneakers as well as buy locally produced apparel and footwear, and boasts up to 3,000 attendees per event in city centres such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in South Africa.
To date, Osman’s highlights along the SXC journey have been the ones that have offered him the opportunity to travel not only within but also outside of South Africa’s borders. In 2016, SXC did an activation in Kenya where Osman found it extremely refreshing to know that SXC was a known brand in East Africa.
In July 2017, Osman travelled to Los Angeles, USA to attend Sneaker Con. Whilst there, he witnessed first-hand the fact that sneaker culture is in fact still very much alive and kicking; despite reports to the contrary. Always a supporter of local brands, Osman was pleasantly surprised to see that even big-name celebrities were supporting smaller, local brands and clothing labels; sometimes even catapulting them into overnight success by merely wearing an item of clothing and sharing it on their social media platforms. Recent statistics have – in fact – shown that 90% of Americans are more likely to trust brands that back social causes, and that the power of influence results in 78% of consumers trusting peer recommendations opposed to the 14% trusting advertisements.
Launching a rebranded online shopping platform of his own later this year, Osman was also happy to see that E-commerce is currently driving the retail industry, and it is predicted that online sales – in the USA alone – will see a growth of 12.2% increase between 2017 and 2020.
Having started his business at such a young age, Osman loves to assist and educate people whenever and wherever possible to share his skills and knowledge. “The biggest advice I can give someone wanting to start a business is to learn from their mistakes, and to really understand what caused the mistake, so you don’t repeat it,” says Osman. He also states that owning and running a business is “… not supposed to be easy, otherwise everybody would be doing it!” For him, the biggest challenge with SXC has been to remain constant but without giving up on the passion that started it all for him. “I would prefer to steer away from following trends and continue to invest time and money into building the sneaker culture in South Africa; representing what it truly means and what it offers,” adds Osman.
SXC offers not only die-hard sneaker collectors (also known as OGs or Originals Gangsters) the rare opportunity to see limited edition or exclusive sneaker designs first hand, but it also gives sneaker traders the opportunity to either trade in or sell their near-mint condition footwear to likeminded individuals. The event isn’t only for the solemnly devoted sneaker lover though: “The whole premise of the event is that it’s about sharing the love of a culture few people know about or understand,” says Osman. “I created this event so that I could share my passion for sneakers with others and so we welcome anyone and everyone to Sneaker Exchange.”
SXC has traditionally been the ideal platform for local and global sneaker brands to showcase their latest designs and activate consumer-facing campaigns. However, Osman ensures that wherever SXC events are held that local apparel and footwear brands are offered the opportunity to showcase and sell their designs, too. “There’s no denying that big-name and global brands will always hold a certain appeal, but it’s time South Africa rallies behind and supports local designers just as passionately,” adds co-Director of SXC, Tebogo Mogola who joined forces with Osman in 2015. An avid sneaker collector himself, Joburg-based Mogola shares not only Osman’s passion for designer sneakers but also works in the entertainment industry; giving him the perfect credentials as a business partner.
SXC is an authentic platform and a perfect representation of South African street culture. Zaid and Tebogo are both die-hard sneaker fans who genuinely love what they do. The energy from the artists that perform at the event is energetic and part of the success. SXC events have provided some of the best in local entertainment. In the past, SXC has hosted performances by the likes of award-winning AKA, Da.Les, Riky Rick, Reason, Nomuzi “Moozlie”, Stilo Magolide, Mashayabhuque and Nasty C.
What’s next for Osman? He plans on travelling the world to learn from different sneaker cultures, and looks forward to experiencing more of Africa first hand. Furthermore, he is busy restructuring his sneaker boutique as well as its online platform.
Pic: Warren Papier