Meet Brand South Africa Play Your Part ambassador, Jabulile Gwala, who uses her platforms to drive fitness and wellness around communities in South Africa.
Growing up in Katlehong, the Head of Marketing and CEO of In Good Company and Siko Republic, loved fitness, played netball and was involved in athletics.
A few years later, Gwala’s love for exercise took a backseat as her booming career demanded her undivided attention.
In 2017, after battling an extremely tough year, Gwala decided to let off some steam in the gym, resulting in a future brand opportunity.
As Gwala struggled to find gym wear on the market with an African aesthetic, she decided to merge her love for both fashion and exercise, birthing the idea of Siko Republik, an athleisure wear brand that has the Nguni-print at the centre, created for the African body shape and size and can be worn in and out of the gym.
She is also currently working on a new project focused on holistic wellness in schools to educate on both mental and physical health.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Gwala shares her thoughts on women taking fitness and health more seriously and her desire to expand her brand across the African continent.
I have always loved fashion and being active. 2017 was a very tough year for me so I spent most of my time at the gym, literally 2/3 hour sessions at times on a daily basis. I really enjoyed my time there and therefore wanted to start dressing up for my sessions. I started shopping around for gym gear and realised that I couldn’t find something in the market with the African aesthetic. This is when the idea of Siko Republik was born.
We know In Good Company focusses on hosting platforms where women and members of the youth can share ideas and knowledge on how to attain gender diversity and inclusivity in the African economy. Please tell us more about Siko Republik.
Siko Republik is about the culture of movement. It started with a strong desire for representation in a category that I had fallen madly in love with – athleisure wear – but evolved into a dialogue about African culture and how it continues to evolve. We explore the culture of movement and how many of us are choosing to live healthier and fuller lives.
Have you always had in interest in fitness and health?
“When I started working, I stopped exercising due to time constraints, but I found my way back to it.” – Head of Marketing and CEO of In Good Company and Siko Republic, Jabulile Gwala
I have always loved fitness from playing in the dusty streets of Katlehong, playing netball and doing athletics at school. When I started working, I stopped exercising due to time constraints, but I found my way back to it. I’ve always loved dancing, stepping and running so I do a lot of that now.
Why do you think more women are getting into fitness and health more than ever before?
Health is wealth and we know that now. We are aware that we need to watch what we put into our bodies to manage a lot of lifestyle diseases. We have access to information like never before which allows to learn of practises that are good for us.
We also live more fast paced lives, so we need the energy to get through our hectic days.
How can women get involved in your projects?
Women can find us on our social media platforms or visit our website to see what we are working on. A new project that we will be launching soon is focused on holistic wellness in schools. We will be going on a school’s tour to educate on mental and physical health.
As a Brand SA Play Your Part ambassador, please tell us about this partnership and how it impacts the work you do?
“The partnership allows to connect with amazing South African’s who are doing great work for their communities and learn from them.” – Gwala on her partnership with Brand South Africa as ambassador.
Brand SA Play Your Part is all about active citizenship which is at the core of the work that we do at Siko Republik. The partnership allows to connect with amazing South African’s who are doing great work for their communities and learn from them. Brand SA also supports ambassadors through their other initiatives like Buy Local, etc.
What are some of your career highlights to date?
One of the winners for the Best Stand at Durban Business Fair. We came in thir place and the brand wasn’t launched yet. We won based on the unique offering and this gave us the confidence to push the brand even when it was tough.
The brand was endorsed and fully supported by the amazing fitness influencer Takkies from Rocking in Heels which gave us massive brand exposure and resulted in the brand being launched at a fitness festival targeting 3000 fitness bunnies in November 2018.
We were then invited to showcase at the Brand South Africa stand at the Buy Local Summit shortly after and then we showcased at the Travel Indaba held in Durban later the same year, both massive platforms for the brand. This gave us an opportunity to connect with other businesses and sell our product.
We ended the year with another win, we came second place as the Local Brand to watch in 2020 in the active wear space.
In 2020 we were awarded an opportunity to host a pop up store at the Mall of Africa for a month through Brand South Africa’s Buy Local drive and we later dresses the Miss SA Top 10 finalist for one of their workshops.
What keeps you motivated and gets you out of bed every morning?
The pursuit of happiness.
What is your definition of success?
Doing the things that you love as often as you can and living a joyful life.
What is one fun fact about you that people in your industry do not know?
I really have to psych myself up to network especially in big crowds.
Who are your favourite women in the sport marketing industry?
I wouldn’t say I have favourites because I enjoy all of them. I’m loving how they continue to challenge the status quo and how they are changing an industry that has been defined as male dominated for the longest time.
What are you still aiming to achieve in your career?
I am looking to grow the brand and expand to other African countries.