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Meet 12-year-old shoe maker

By Dumisani Nsingo

Frank Simali might be turning 12-years-old in June, but he has already shown some traits of ingenuity which surpass his age.

Frank Simali at his family’s shoe factory, Millennium Footwear, in Belmont, Bulawayo
Frank Simali at his family’s shoe factory, Millennium Footwear, in Belmont, Bulawayo

At this nascent stage of his life, parts of his abilities have already been translated into achievements. He has already exhibited a rare talent.

Never mind his boyish looks, worse still his shyness, its expected of any child in the face of a stranger or an adult but astute as he is, the lad quickly wards that off and “slowly warms up” and engages well after initial hesitancy.

Little Frank has over the last two years contributed nominally if not enormously into the coffers of the family’s shoe and leather products manufacturing business, with possibly thousands of people from various walks of life strolling the streets clad in his FK trademark designed flat pump shoes.

With the majority of his age-mates spending the better part of their evening poking buttons and joysticks of their video games or watching action packed movies in the comfort of their living rooms, Frank chose to dedicate the better part of his time to attentively watch his parents making various shoe designs.

After a week of scrutinising his mom and dad working on various shoe designs, Frank mastered the art and came up with his own flat pump shoe design, which was to be known as the FK after the initials of his name. By that time he was only 10-years-old.

“I used to watch mom and dad coming up with various shoe designs and since I’m good in art, an image of this shoe type came into my mind and I set out to draw the design and showed it to my parents. It was “wow”, when I saw my parents admiring my design,” he said during an interview at his family’s shoe factory, Millennium Footwear in Belmont, Bulawayo.

There is surely something unique about the young chap. With most of his age mates probably dreaming of taking their professional career paths as teachers, police officers, nurses with the most ambitious ones contemplating becoming medical doctors or pilots, Frank is already thinking big… he wants to be an architect. Rarely do youngsters aspire for such a rather sophisticated profession.

“Of course, since I’ve a passion for drawing, I’ll continue coming up with footwear designs but it won’t be for long. I’ve already decided to be an architect when I grow up, that’s the career path I’ll take,” he said.

Frank, who is a Grade 7 pupil at Hillside Primary School, is also academically gifted as he always takes first or second position in class. He is also part of the school’s Public Speaking, Quiz and Spelling Bee teams.

As the adage says, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, the young Frank also has a social life, which is no different to his peers.

“I take time to play with my friends. My hobby is playing chess and tennis. While at home I take time to feed chickens and rabbits,” he said.

Frank had words of encouragement and wisdom to share with his peers: “It’s always wise not to listen to those that are bent on discouraging you. You have to follow your dreams and one also needs to honour their mother and father for raising them. I’m forever grateful to my parents for giving me an opportunity to go to school and giving me a platform to pursue my dreams”.

The Simalis are proprietors of Millennium Footwear, one of the country’s fastest growing shoe manufacturing firms whose products are marketed at various local clothing outlets including big retail chains and trendy ones.

“Their leather products, especially the exotic ones, are sought after on the foreign market, with Frank’s FK flat pump shoe also making its mark yonder.

“Frank’s flat pump shoe is one of the biggest sellers. Initially it was a men’s shoe but we further re-designed it to come up with one for ladies and of course we’ve since introduced different shades of colours,” said Frank’s father, Stuart.

He said as parents they are doing their best to nurture Frank and his elder brother Stuart Junior (20) while giving them an opportunity to pursue their innate talents and skills. The Chronicle