Mr Jawo learned how to make shoes in Ivory Coast while visiting his uncle in 1989. He was the one who introduced him to the shoe business. In 1992 he came to The Gambia and established his own business.
In the beginning, he did not have many materials. He was repairing shoes on a small table. When he made little profit, he bought some leather and made two or three pairs of shoes. After he sold them, he bought more materials and made more shoes. This is how he slowly developed his business.
Today he can make 50 to 100 pairs of shoes per month. His shoe designs come from his own ideas as well as from his customers. They are always looking for the latest designs, so shoes are selling out fast. The price of shoes differs depending on the design and type of footwear. They also make shoes for resale, so they have special deals with resellers.
Their customers are coming from The Gambia and abroad. The highest demand among Gambians is around main holidays like Koriteh (a 3-days celebration at the end of Ramadan) and Tobaski (two months and ten days after).
Omar has nine sons and five daughters. One of them lives abroad, the rest are still young and going to school. At the same time, Mr Jawo is teaching them how to make shoes. He hopes they will take over this business when he gets older and cannot work anymore.
In his opinion, new generations are unwilling to learn skills and work and only think of going to Europe. Whenever he wanted to teach some young men who came to his workshop, they did not stay long as, in their opinion, they didn't want to waste time being taught how to make shoes. They did not believe it was a profitable business. Therefore, he decided to teach his children. Although it is hard as they are still all going to school.
Dikorie has now finished college, but he used to go to school and work with his father until the closing time of the shop. Sometimes it wasn't easy.
His first shop was in Serrekunda. After ten years, he opened a new shop on Kololi road (Senegambia Junction). Some of the people who attended a workshop in the Ivory Coast thought The Gambia was too small for this business, and there are not many people who can afford to buy handmade shoes. He, as a Gambian, choose to come to The Gambia and help his own people and children.
Mr Jawo has developed the business mostly through word-of-mouth advertisement. His son is nowadays using social media to post about new designs. He plans to strengthen their online presence further so more people can find them.
Many Gambians would like to have shoes made in their favourite design, but they usually go to Dakar to get those. Some who have realized that Mr Jawo and his sons are making them in The Gambia prefer to buy them here.
If you want handmade shoes from The Gambia, please visit Mr Jawo Shoe Maker shop. It is located on Kololi road, very close to Senegambia junction.