MANAGING DIRECTOR, BATA SHOE KENYA PLC
What do iconic East Africa brands Bata, Isuzu, EABL, KEPSA, KWAL, EADB and DSTV have in common? At the helm of the corner suites at these brands are a rare breed of some of the most talented powerful women. One of the new generation of women CEOs is the ostentatious, confident and stylish Jeddidah Thotho.
Since opening its Kenya office doors in Limuru just over 80 years ago, Bata has become a recognised heritage brand with over 2,200 employees in its Limuru Factory, 115 retail stores and 18 depots across the country. From the inception, Bata’s Managing Director office has been a preserve of men.
In a new beginning and a first for the country, Kenyan born female leader Jeddidah Thotho was appointed the first female MD on February 2020, strait from her commercial director C-Suite.
Jeddidah Thotho is a corporate finance graduate of St Mary’s University in the USA. She credits St. Mary’s University for aiding in her success. “The background, the foundation, the value systems and the rigour of the university education I got at St. Mary’s has got me to the space I occupy at this particular time,” she quips.
Armed with a wealth of experience after 11 years with Sears Holdings Corporation in the USA, Jeddidah moved back to Kenya in December 2010 and immediately interviewed for senior executive positions. Initially, she worked for Deacons in top executive positions, a fashion retail company franchising brands out of South Africa. Later, an American investor – Liberty Eagle Holdings, wanted her help with bringing fashion brands, like Mango and fast-food brands like Pizza Hut and Subway, into East and Central Africa.
Bata Shoe Kenya PLC, recognising her talent and potential, had head-hunted her at the dawn of 2019. She joined Bata, as the commercial director, leading retail teams to sell shoes through different channels including retail stores, depots, wholesalers, export markets, various sectors/institutions of the Government of Kenya and E-commerce platforms.
Freshly promoted to Managing Director shortly before the advent of the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020, Jeddidah quickly prioritised employee safety, instituting handwashing and social distancing in factories where workers needed to sustain daily work. She also prioritised the safety and wellness of customers in stores by adding sanitisation, having sales associates wear masks and implementing social distancing. Bata then began sewing masks for its employees and sharing the extra masks with the local community around Limuru and its environs. They converted chemical drums into handwashing stations in firm’s neighbourhoods and donated more than 100,000 shoes to health care workers and their families throughout Kenya.
To maintain the business amid the Covid-19 Pandemic, Bata restructured its human resource architecture, operations, and the retail store footprint. During this time, Bata increased its online presence, revamping its website and boosting its customer service on social media. Through Jeddidah’s leadership, Bata has expanded rapidly into the export markets of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, DRC Congo, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Ghana.
Jeddidah Thotho is a highly accomplished and innovative senior-level executive with over 20 years of critical skills and experience, including a long-term career with a Fortune 100 company. She sits as an Executive Board Member at Bata Shoe Kenya PLC, Kenya Associations of Manufacturers and Famous Brands.
Growing up, Jeddidah always wanted to be a leader and has held leadership positions from a young age. She attended Loreto High School, Limuru, where she was a games captain. In the USA, whilst pursuing her degree, she was a hostel leader, so it was only natural when she relocated back home to continue excel in various leadership roles.
As a role model to her daughter and son, Jeddidah hopes to inspire the next generation, especially young girls, to know that a less-than-stellar school grade does not spell the end of a successful career. “There are many opportunities in life to discover your passion,” she opines. “Work hard, be smart, leverage your networks, and things will work out. You will have a successful career regardless of gender, race or age.” With this philosophy, Jeddidah has mentored hundreds of young girls and women to design the careers that they want, as they search for meaning and purpose in life and career paths.
Jeddidah also mentors others, “her children”, to whom she imparts wisdom. She aspires to create transformational change in society and states that as a leader, she has a fountain of knowledge to deliver. She acknowledges her personal responsibility to make a difference and inspire others.
In her space, one experiences business social impact, sustainability, business advisory, women empowerment and leadership insights. According to LinkedIn, Jeddidah hopes that she serves as an inspiration to young girls to be the best version of themselves.