I’ve long complained about the limited stores selling running shoes in Botswana and the incredible lengths runners have to go through to get shoes – often begging friends and family to bring them in when they visit from outside! But I’m so excited that things are quickly changing with Batswana entrepreneurs stepping in to address this critical need. Desperate for running shoes in July, I reached out to TishPul, a supplier I’d recently come across on Instagram selling running shoes and accessories. Initially apprehensive, I reached out to them and placed my order for ASICS GT-2000 shoes. But from my very first contact, I realised there was nothing to worry about. Within 10 days, I received my shoes in a beautifully branded TishPul bag and I was incredibly impressed by the professional and client-focused service experience.
Matshidiso Pule is the Founder and Director of TishPul. She is a mum of three, a wife, a Communications Specialist, a blogger and a runner. In this blog, I’m delighted to share the person behind the brand – how her running journey began and how an idea to start an e-commerce running store was conceived and is quickly evolving into a successful business.
The Woman Behind The Brand
Before we talk about TishPul, I’d love to hear your running story. When did you first get into running? First of all, thanks for giving us the platform to talk about our brand and our positioning. It really is an honour to be interviewed by the one and only Gaborone Runner! Well, I’ve been running for as long as I can remember. I used to race with my grandfather to see who was the fastest between us because he was super-fast, I think I must have been 6 years old. I guess the running bug bit and I started running/ racing at school. I got one medal (wooden) for being the Champion from my neighbourhood in SSKB where I grew up and two Gold Medals at the Junior National Championships in 1996 as a 15 year old from Moselewapula CJSS in Gaborone. I ran faster than other 15 year olds in the entire country in 100m and 4x100m relay respectively (I was the anchor). To this day, I still talk about those three medals, they are my most cherished ones on my Wall of Fame. I then transitioned to long distance running after motherhood because I wanted to shed weight. My motivation stemmed from the fact that I found running a bit easier and the endorphins just make me deliriously happy after each run!
I didn’t realise you’ve been running that long AND that you showed such incredible talent as a teenager! What would you say running has taught you about yourself? Definitely discipline and consistency. I vividly remember my road to the podium finish in 1996. I was actually the only girl from Moselewapula CJSS who qualified for 100m in the Nationals which is an event that is highly competitive and tough to train for. As young as I was, I followed a three step process which I still apply in my race plan to this day: Set A Goal. Plan. Execute. So everyday I’d show up at the grounds with no grass, trained with the boys who qualified for 800m and 1,500m, we’d run barefooted and I kept my eye on the race strategy. I remember I was the only one that brought a Gold medal home from the Nationals in our school team. On the contrary, long distance is a different experience for me. It has taught me to be a bit patient with myself because I’m not as lean or fast (hahaha) as I was back then, so I’ve learnt to set SMART goals in order to handle the pressure on race day and get a good handle on my expectations.
Goal-setting and planning are such key components of success. How amazing that you realised that as a young teen! Let’s talk about TishPul. What inspired you to create TishPul? How did you come up with such a catchy name? I’ve done a lot of races in South Africa and that’s where I would attend EXPOs usually a day before the race in order to appreciate specialty performance sneakers in the market from different brands with the latest technology and functionality. The EXPOs provided a great marketplace for runners from different countries and that fascinated me a lot. Before we knew it, we were navigating the treacherous waters of a world besieged by a pandemic. Along with that came extreme social distancing protocols and restricted movement across borders. I did my research and discovered that there was a niche market yearning for specialty performance sneakers and accessories that were not easily accessible in our market. I had a conversation with my husband who supported my idea. I then decided to go for it full throttle. My brother-in-law (Bashi Pule) was also very instrumental in that decision making process and I appreciate him a lot for that vote of confidence.
The catchy name is actually a combination of my nickname Tish and my surname Pule, of course I dropped the (e) because TishPul sounds better!
What are some of the services and products offered by TishPul? We supply specialty performance sneakers and accessories sourced from authorized dealers that supply international brands such as Adidas, Hoka, Asics, New Balance, Saucony, Nike and Reebok. In terms of services – we provide technical expertise on shoes selection, personal development for aspiring athletes and branded merchandise. Our corporate wellness and well-being program is targeted at Corporates with a strong running/sports culture such that runners/employees are given the opportunity to experience the fraternity of their peers whilst simultaneously achieving health and wellness goals.
What do you want TishPul to be known for? We are a brand that is staying true to who we are by following our dreams, doing something we are passionate about through perseverance. Our sneakers are bold and make a fashion statement. We pride ourselves on being an experiential brand that inspires through athletism while our core values are inclusion and diversity. Creating shared value in our community is my motivation to inspire and ignite hope for the youth especially those that aspire to be our national pride in future such as Amantle Montsho or Isaac Makwala to mention but a few. The year 2020 has taught us all that there really is no need to fear change, but that we should instead embrace it as a highly positive force in our lives.
That’s a powerful statement – embracing change and seeing it as a positive force…. When I ordered my shoes back in July, I did so via WhatsApp. So you can imagine my excitement to see that you’ve now transitioned into an e-commerce store with a website! What can your customers now expect with this new format? Hahaha! Creating a unique shopping experience for our clients is our number one top priority. So having initially taken orders via Whatsapp during the proof of concept stage, we needed to scale up the business and we took the necessary step to launch a fully commercial brand with an online store as a start to cast the net wider to increase our reach. Customers can now expect a hassle free and secure online shopping experience at a click of a button in the comfort of their own homes. The shopping journey concludes with payment solution using your bank card, how convenient is that!
As well in an effort to connect with our customers on a human level and to diversify our marketing to include foot traffic alongside web traffic, we hosted our first pop-up store in September. The pop-up store allowed shoppers to come in to touch and feel the products, try on different sizes and see the breadth of products on offer as well as the diversity in our range. The pop-up shop provided an ideal opportunity for us as an emerging, digitally native brand to trial a brick and mortar space. We know how our customers like to interact with brands. They want to shop, have a picture on-site to share with friends and try on the shoes. So we incorporated those elements into our pop-up. We want to continue to build trust with our customers and establish a better connection with them. We feel it’s a good way to do that through a pop-up so see you at the next one. It will be bigger and better!
I can’t wait! As part of your website you’ve also started the TishPul Blog. What can your audience expect to read? Another hat I wear is that of a Journalist/Communications Specialist. I love expressing myself through written word. On the blog we are going to cover an array of topics of interest, ranging from training plans/race strategies, running sneakers reviews, interviews and inspirational stories within our running community and thought leadership articles on issues pertaining to health and fitness to rally behind government in order to fight common comorbidities. So look out for TishPul Titbits…
That’s such an important dimension! So this is a question I often get asked so I’ll throw it to you too! You’re a mum, a wife, a businesswoman, a runner, and a blogger. How do you balance it? What keeps you going on those days when you’d rather be on the couch? Hahaha, what works for me is structure and routine. I’m such a “To Do List” Mom because that helps me to plan better and manage my time effectively. I do have lazy days, more so now than ever because of Covid disruption. So I meditate every morning without fail and I literally stick to my training plan no matter what. Of course on lazy days I’ll huff and puff through it but at the end of each workout I then pat myself on the back for having the willpower over self-limiting thoughts.
What are some of the goals you’d like to accomplish with your business? And on the personal front – what are some of your running and fitness goals? On the business front, I’d like to scale up the business and intensify our Shared Value initiatives in our community. On a personal front, I’d like to train for a sub-4 Marathon next year. It was supposed to be this year in celebration of my 40th birthday but then Covid hit us hard, so next year it is happening! My Coach is going to be very happy to hear this…hahaha!
I’m so excited that you will still pursue that goal in celebration of your 40th! Talking about celebrations, as Christmas is around the corner, this is an extremely important question…what do you think runner friends would appreciate as small gifts? Runners don’t do small, it’s “Go Big or Go Home”, so definitely a nice bright pair of kicks from TishPul is always a good idea!
Well, I for one hope my friends and family take your advise! So from running with your grandfather to winning gold medals on the national stage to running marathons as a mum, I loved your story! Thank you so much for taking the time to share it with all of us. Thank you very much, Shathiso. I had fun!
How’s that for some Monday Motivation? Please be sure to connect with TishPul on all social media platforms – Facebook and Instagram. To check out her e-commerce store – visit here and to access her blog, go here.
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.