We drive to Tshepo Sedumo’s home in Atlasville, an affluent part of Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, to learn about the loud speakers he makes in his quiet neighborhood.
We get lost and suspicious security guards start trailing us before we find his double-storey house. Sedumo welcomes us in and offers us something to drink.
The 24-year–old entrepreneur, from the Free State province, is tall and light-skinned, and runs his business from home.
When he was growing up, his family of five moved from province to province as his father found work around the country. In 2001, his father secured a job as an accountant in Johannesburg; from then on the City of Gold was home.
“My life began when we came here; I made a lot of changes, new schools, new environments, big city, it was meant to be,” says Sedumo.
He was always a DIY person as a young boy; he liked messing around with things he found around the house. That’s because he never really had toys, he says. Sedumo passed the time by putting random things together which he enjoyed and kept him off the streets.
In high school Sedumo learned new skills and started using power tools, like drills. However, he was an accounting student – he studied BCom finance at varsity, but still did handy work in his spare time. Later, spare time became full time as Sedumo dropped his studies to pursue a business making boomboxes.
It was a simple start – it all began with wooden boxes and hinges. Sedumo put computer speakers in the boxes and connected them to the iPod he had recently bought.
It wasn’t the best design but it worked well and people loved it, he says. Encouraged by this, Sedumo wanted to improve his product and make his speakers sound better.
“As time went on, I added moulding on the inside to make it steadier; I worked on it to a point where I actually messed it up. I overworked it,” he laughs.
He kept trying different styles but couldn’t settle on something he was happy with, until he went to YouTube for ideas to better the speakers.
In 2013, Sedumo, for the first time, tried to build something that is battery powered.
“Most of my information didn’t come from school. I learned, on the internet, of a few things, bought some components online and built something that was ugly but powerful and worked with auxiliary. A year later, I decided to use a car stereo and built it into the ugly speakers and that boosted the power and had auxiliary, a SD card slot and USB; it was great,” he says.
YouTube is where his idea was sparked. He saw a boombox made from cardboard, but Sedumo thought it would look better in wood and gathered more research online.
In 2014, he built his first boombox, using wood and veneer. It worked well, the sound was great and it was portable. His friends suggested he make a business out of it.
“For me it was just to have a sound system and to impress girls, and that’s how I started to lose interest in my studies,” he says.
Sedumo failed his second year and decided to take a break. He turned his attention to boomboxes and has never looked back. His heart was never in school, his passion was in boomboxes and his business Grove Audio was born.
He took it seriously, experimenting with different styles, builds and material, including a backpack boombox.
Sedumo loves hip-hop and associates the music with a boombox. He says the boombox also brings back nostalgic memories for people older than him, like his mom, who owned one when she was younger.
In 2016, Sedumo released a range called Grove Audio G2 (Groove 2). Priced at R2,000 ($150), and able to play for 10 hours using Bluetooth, they sold out within a month.
“I want to differentiate the boomboxes; there is the G series and the S series which are special boomboxes and in 2017 I want to come with the R series; large boomboxes for rent to house parties, etc,” he says.
Sedumo’s custom-made boomboxes are available online, and occasionally at pop-up markets around Johannesburg, and selling internationally.
Sedumo is making a name for himself by creating old-school boomboxes with modern technology. Like the songs they play, these boomboxes are sure to be a hit.