Karidas Tshintsholo, like most other four year olds, halted what he was doing as soon as he heard the distant and jarring jingle of the ice-cream truck. He and his friends rushed to their parents and caregivers, asking for a few Rands to buy an ice-cream as soon as the truck came to their street. Even a few Rands were precious to the mostly impoverished parents of Ekangala – the township just outside of Pretoria, South Africa – where Karidas grew up. But the small change was rustled together somehow. It was just Karidas’s mother who couldn’t buy him ice-cream. The heartbroken little boy knew then that if he wanted anything, he would have to make a plan or do it for himself. His inspiration was his mother – who could, through his childhood, get by on as little as R500 per month.
He began by selling wire cars in the “richer” parts of the township, taking a commission from sales made. Karidas says he was born with that hustling spirit and it’s only grown. The 2015 Anzisha Prize fellow began his textile business, Push Ismokol (roughly translated as ‘to hustle’ or, ‘the hustler’s uniform’) in 2011 and today, the company employs seven full-time staff.
Karidas and his team wear the unique Push Ismokol t-shirts in all different colours. He notes that the symbol – a quirkily shaped wheelbarrow – is emblematic of where he grew up and the clothing has been a huge hit with the Ekangala locals. While Push Ismokol has its own clothing line, the business designs and manufactures clothing for a range of corporates.
Karidas certainly has guts to start a clothing manufacturing company. Most brands are produced in China and Bangladesh, where cheap labour abounds and where economies of scale is achieved. And yet, Karidas wants to go against the tide. Karidas shares with How We Made it in Africa: “(A South African) business is more sustainable in the long run when you grow your own capacity to produce, as opposed to just buying from China and selling…I also strongly believe in African solutions to African problems.”
One of Karidas’s strongest qualities as an entrepreneur is his ability to be patient when prospects look gloomy in the short-term. Competing with cheap imported products is soul destroying. Yet he has persevered. Karidas is continuing his education through the University of Cape Town and has big dreams for the African textile industry.
Karidas was a 2015 Anzisha Prize Fellow. Applications are now open. Apply here.