Tinashe Marufu is a busy man. Trying to schedule an interview took days of negotiation and rescheduling, but when you’re starting your own sportswear brand, life gets very busy. He was in the middle of organising a braai for Road to Sparta, his fitness brand. Tinashe apologised profusely for having to reschedule the interview again, assuring me that once the event was over, he’d be free to sit for an interview. He ends the message with a personal invitation to the braai, promising that it will be a “lituation.”
We only manage to sit down for our interview two weeks later.
Tinashe Marufu is a full-time student. In his third year studying a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting, he’s always known what his career path would be. “I fell in love with accounting in high school, so I’ve always wanted to be a Chartered Accountant.” His dream has not come without hurdles: unlike the usual degree that requires two majors, a BCom Accounting has four majors. Every step Tinashe takes in becoming a chartered accountant, the harder it gets for him to reach the prize.
But it’s a challenge he relishes. The demands of his programme have pushed him to challenge himself and create new ideas – ideas such as Road to Sparta.
“The idea of Road to Sparta came to me in 2015,” Tinashe says, shifting slightly as he speaks. A self-confessed fitness junkie, Tinashe began hitting the gym in 2014 because he was overweight. “I didn’t like the way I looked. It used to bother me a lot and so I decided to work out.” When he started to see results from his efforts, others saw his transformation too. Soon people started coming to him, asking for advice, wanting to learn how Tinashe did what he did. He was happy to help where he could, but Tinashe soon saw that he could capitalise on his fitness knowledge.
“I needed a brand to back up my skills”
However, know-how is nothing without backing, and Tinashe knew that simply being good at fitness wouldn’t be enough: he needed a brand behind his name. Rather than go the traditional route and try become a product or gym ambassador, Tinashe decided to start his own brand. It would be perfect training ground for when he’d start his business after graduation. “I said to myself, you know what, I’ll start by selling t-shirts with the Road to Sparta emblem on them. Now I’ve managed to make it grow: I’ve got people selling t-shirts in Cyprus, in Zimbabwe and in South Africa.”
A few months after its creation, the Road to Sparta brand now has t-shirts, V-necks, caps, snapbacks and vests. They come in a range of different colours, and Tinashe’s currently scouting a manufacturer so that the brand can start producing tights and gym shorts. Road to Sparta recently ventured into gender neutral fitness gear with their crop tops, a collaboration between Tinashe and his friend, Blessings Chinganga. Gender-neutral clothing has gained more prominence in fashion and media, and Blessings explains how the collaboration came to be, and what it means for the future of the brand:
The Road to Sparta brand has grown tremendously over the past few months, and Tinashe believes that it’s not just down to his fitness and business acumen. The people who buy the merchandise have put Road to Sparta where it is today. “Most of the people who have bought from me are actually black. Most of the people that brought Road to Sparta where it is today are black people.” With the right mentality and the right support, Tinashe doesn’t doubt that Road to Sparta can compete with big brands such as Adidas and Puma, and if his brand is still a viable enterprise after graduation, Tinashe will pursue it full-time.
And so, Tinashe keeps pushing. With every purchase and with the expansion of its range, Road to Sparta is one step closer to becoming an established and recognised brand. It wouldn’t be where it is now without its creator, the man with big dreams and solid plans to run a proudly black African business. With plans to officially launch Road to Sparta in Zimbabwe during the December holidays, Tinashe’s well on his way to making Road to Sparta a success story and African fitness brand.
To find out more about the Road to Sparta brand and how to get your own piece of merchandise, check out their Facebook page for details.