Until February 25, this year, Horseman Shoes Limited, a burgeoning indigenous shoe manufacturing company (and its line of footwear), was only known to just a few clients it served.
Its founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mr Tonyi Senaya, together with the company’s 10 employees, remained in their modest offices at Adenta in Accra, where they committed themselves to building a world-class shoe manufacturing company whose brand of products and services would be comparable to any in the world.
Although a sizeable number of Ghanaians were aware of the brand name, Horseman, partly because of some adverts in the media and the numerous awards that the founder had won, few people and institutions actually bothered about the activities of the company and how it got to where it was.
But that is no longer the case.
Interest in Horseman Shoes, its founder and the kind of products and services it offers has gone viral over the past week.
This followed a ‘free presidential endorsement’ from President John Dramani Mahama when he delivered the State of the Nation address on February 25.
President Mahama revealed the brand of shoes he wore to the event and in the process, praised Horseman Shoes for manufacturing footwear that were comfortable and comparable to those made elsewhere in the world.
“Mr Speaker, I tell you, they (shoes made by Horseman) are very nice, very comfortable shoes. In fact, I am wearing a pair right now. Those who doubt can follow me to the speaker’s chamber after here; I will remove them for you to see,” the President said to thunderous laughter and cheers from the crowd in Parliament.
But what motivated President Mahama to wear shoes made by Horseman and later flaunt the brand on such a high profile national platform?
Although Mr Senaya told the “Graphic Business” that he had met President Mahama prior to the February 25 address, he said nothing seemed like he (the president) was going to wear shoes manufactured by Horseman.
“He met a section of the business community at Peduase Lodge, a week to the day he delivered his address, and as part of my submission, I said casually at the concluding part that Mr President, you would have to wear Horseman Shoes one day,” Mr Senaya, who was now struggling to contain the overwhelming public interest that the president’s actions had generated, said in an interview.
“When I said that, it did not seem to me that I had made a request neither to talk of him taking it serious. But when I finished speaking, he laughed and said ‘why not. I will wear it any day I get it.’ He even added that he would wear it to deliver the State of the Nation address and we all burst in laughter, taking it to be a passing comment,” the CEO of Horseman Shoes recounted.
But President Mahama meant business. As a result, Mr Senaya recollected that the president asked some of his aides to look for him (Senaya) after the function. When they met, the president’s aides requested for a pair of shoes for the country’s number one personality.
Although Mr Senaya, like other business executives, was invited to the Parliament House to witness the president’s delivery, he said he least expected to see the President in his company’s shoes; it didn’t even occur to him that he might mention the brand in the address.
“It just did not occur to me and where I was also sitting was not clear enough for me to have seen the kind of shoes he was wearing. So, when he started talking about me, in fact, I was lost for a moment. I just couldn’t imagine it,” he said, referring to the moment President Mahama talked about how Horseman Shoes started in 2009.
The president’s decision to wear the company’s shoes and subsequently flaunt it has sparked people’s curiosity in Horseman Shoes, which was founded by the 30-year old Mr Senaya.
He said enquiries about the company and its product lines as well as visits to its offices at Adenta in Accra have increased tremendously following the gesture.
“Immediately the President started talking about me, my phone also started ringing. People were just calling left, right centre; some to congratulate me, others to make enquiries about how we started, where we were, the cost of shoes and things like that. It’s just overwhelming and I just can’t hide my gratitude to the president,” he said.
Prior to President Mahama’s action, Mr Senaya said his company served top business executives and notable personalities such as Mr Rashid Pelpuo, Minister at the Presidency in-charge of Public Private Partnership (PPP), management staff of accounting firm, PwC; and Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group, among others.
The company also has some contracts with selected schools (it manufactures shoes for these schools).
Although the company advertises its line of shoes, Mr Senaya said it had not occurred to him to use one of the top executive or politician clients to do that.
He is, however, considering using the President’s voice and/or legs (wearing the shoes) for advertisement; the message would be that even the President of the Republic wears Horseman Shoes!
“And who wouldn’t want that (using the president to advertise)? The action has taken its natural course and that is why the calls and enquiries are overwhelming, but if we can also do some small publicity with it, it will be good for us and the brand,” he said.
He, however, added that his outfit would have to seek “the necessary clearance from the presidency” before it could proceed with the action.
In the meantime, however, Mr Senaya, who started the company by retailing shoes to friends, said the gesture by the president went beyond commending him and Horseman Shoes.
“It shows that no matter who you are, if you are committed to your dreams and you work hard in achieving them, you can make it, and if you do, everybody, including the President, will recognise it and even praise you in public,” he said, and thus charged the youth to stop waiting for formal employment but rather turn their talents into businesses.