Tinashe Zano Saved 2 Years to Start a Business: Barefoot Beginnings to Powerhouse Entrepreneur

Tinashe Zano Saved 2 Years to Start a Business: Barefoot Beginnings to Powerhouse Entrepreneur

  • Tinashe Zano grew up in a poor community where many young children walked barefoot to school and people borrowed shoes to use overflowing pit toilets
  • Zano pushed to better his life and became an accountant, but he was driven by a desire to make a change in underprivileged children's lives
  • In an interview with Briefly News, the 34-year-old said he worked a full-time job while saving for two years to fund a sneaker company that gives back to the community
  • Tinashe Zano was named one of Briefly News' Young Money Makers, a project that highlights the entrepreneurial journeys of inspiring young entrepreneurs

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Tinashe Zano is the founder of sneaker brand Aspire
Tinashe Zano is the founder of Nspire, a proudly SA sneaker brand. Images: Supplied
Source: UGC

Tinashe Zano is a powerhouse accountant and a driven entrepreneur seeking to make a difference with his business. To fully comprehend his passion for social change with his sneaker brand, Nspire, we need to walk a mile in his shoes.

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Tinashe is no stranger to poverty

Tinashe Zano grew up with his grandparents in a rural community. The chartered accountant and businessman witnessed firsthand the debilitating effects of poverty, and it ignited a desire to make a difference.

While speaking to Briefly News, Zano recalled seeing kids walking barefoot to school daily. These children had to brave harsh weather conditions without something many people take for granted.

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Other people in the village would beg to borrow someone else's shoes before using the pit toilets that were overflowing with human waste:

"So you just get there, and you find someone just waiting for someone with shoes to ask for shoes to go into the toilet.
"It stuck with me. I was growing up like, 'Why was it always like that?' Now that I got a chance to become an accountant, being in different spaces where you can afford shoes, why not start a business that also helps others who are still in that situation?"

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How Tinashe Zano self-funded his business

Starting a business is one of the most challenging things — if it were easy, everyone would do it. Tinashe faced two major hurdles at the start of his entrepreneurial journey: funding and finding a skilled team willing to join a start-up.

"This is a very capital-intensive business, and you need to pay for everything upfront. It took me over two years of saving up to pre-fund the business. Finding the right people was equally challenging as the best talents are often employed by big companies."

Zano knew that patience was a virtue. He started saving two years before launching his business and self-funded his company without the help of investors. While his team was still expanding, he brought on board capable professionals who will grow with Nspire and help bring his vision to life.

A jack of all trades: Tinashe Zano designs the sneakers himself

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Zano is the creative force behind Nspire. He gained the skills after discovering the Sneaker Essentials course at the New York Fashion Institute.

"Everything I learned there—from sneaker history and design to marketing—helped me conceptualise and launch my business. The assignments I submitted became the foundation of my brand, from designs to the logo," he recalled.
Woman wearing Nspire sneaker
Tinashe Zano is the creative force behind Nspire's sneaker design. Image: Supplied
Source: UGC

Balancing life and saving to start a business

Zano had a clear goal in mind and made sure not to stray from the path he set out for himself while saving up for the business.

His background in finance proved advantageous, and Zano shared a crucial tip for aspiring entrepreneurs:

"Always have a budget and stick to it, no matter what stage of life you are at. It's easy to give in to conveniences like ordering food, but if you have clear goals, you need to stay focused and disciplined."

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How to have a good work-life balance

The 34-year-old accountant owns a firm in addition to his sneaker business but maintains a healthy life balance through proper planning. Zano uses task setting and deadlines to help him manage his workload while still making time to relax.

Tinashe told Briefly News about his strategy:

"I plan two weeks ahead, breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable pieces. I also ensure to block out time for rest, like not doing any business work on Saturdays. This approach helps me stay organised and prevents burnout."

Dealing with scepticism from loved ones

Your family and friends are either your biggest supporters or biggest critics. Unfortunately for Zano, his loved ones fell into the latter category. The accountant revealed that he faced scepticism from people close to him at the start of his journey, but he has remained focused on his goals.

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"Always remember your 'why'. Even if others doubt you, stay focused on your goals. Successful entrepreneurs often tell me that their first business wasn't what they ended up doing, but starting was crucial," he added.

As for professional support, Zano received mentorship through SAICA, the governing body for chartered accountants. He was connected with a mentor who challenged him to think creatively, even after the programme ended.

A brand that aims to 'Nspire'

Looking at the future, Zano hopes to open a store or two. While online shopping has boomed over the past few decades, limitations exist. The entrepreneur hopes to see people trying on the sneakers in his stores one day.

But his number one priority is to make a difference. Zano partnered with an NPO to give back to struggling communities like the one he comes from.

For every pair of Nspire shoes sold, money is donated to buy school shoes for underprivileged kids. Tinashe Zano walked a mile in their shoes, now he's making sure they never have to walk without them again.

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Girl holding Nspire sneaker
For every pair of Nspire shoes sold, a school kid will get a pair of school shoes. Image: Supplied
Source: UGC

E-commerce queen earns over R200k a month selling online

In another Briefly News' Young Money Makers exclusive, Noluthando Gama has found great success through dropshipping and selling online.

Gama has earned over R200 000 a month selling on various online platforms, including Takealot.

The 22-year-old shared with Briefly News her passion for entrepreneurship and how she has grown her business.

Source: Briefly News

Maryn Blignaut avatar

Maryn Blignaut (Human-Interest HOD) Maryn Blignaut is the Human Interest manager and feature writer. She holds a BA degree in Communication Science, which she obtained from the University of South Africa in 2016. She joined the Briefly - South African News team shortly after graduating and has over six years of experience in the journalism field. Maryn passed the AFP Digital Investigation Techniques course (Google News Initiative), as well as a set of trainings for journalists by Google News Initiative. You can reach her at: maryn.blignaut@briefly.co.za