Tekkie venture blossoms

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Vuyani Ralawe and Kagiso Plaatjies are the masterminds behind Sneaker Hub Laundry, a shoe cleaning and restoration business in Lwandle.
Vuyani Ralawe and Kagiso Plaatjies are the masterminds behind Sneaker Hub Laundry, a shoe cleaning and restoration business in Lwandle.

Two local entrepreneurs have used the blows dealt by the Covid-19 pandemic to open a unique business that caters for all sneaker lovers.

Kagiso Plaatjies and Vuyani Ralawe are the driving force behind Sneaker Hub Laundry (SHL), a small business aimed at taking the arduous task of cleaning one’s much loved trainers off one’s hands and restoring them to their former glory for a small fee. The business was begun by Lwandle resident Plaatjies and Strand local Ralawe, along with Zolani Mancunga, last August and officially registered in September. It operates from Plaatjies’ backyard in Mbekweni Street, Lwandle.

Working as waiters at a popular restaurant in Stellenbosch, Plaatjies (24) and Ralawe (25) spent countless hours brainstorming business ideas while travelling to and from work. During the early stages of lockdown last year the pair were in talks with another entrepreneur on the possibility of joining his bin cleaning venture, but nothing came of the discussion.

“One day Zolani, who has since relocated to Port Elizabeth, mentioned he recently bought a shoe cleaning kit from a chain store and we should consider starting a sneaker cleaning company,” recalled Ralawe. “That same day we set up a table in Kagiso’s yard and, using old toothbrushes and the kit, we started what is now known as the Sneaker Hub Laundry.”

Somehow, these two have always gravitated towards business and always saw themselves operating in this cut-throat sector, a common thread that brought them together.

Plaatjies grew up in the Helderberg and attended Strand Secondary School, but his entrepreneurial spirit and drive saw him drop out of school in Grade 11.

On the other hand, Ralawe matriculated from Young Eagles Christian Academy in Kuils River and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in finance and investment at the University of the Western Cape.

Their shoe cleaning and restoration service specialises in refurbishing shoes of all shapes and styles, and they believe it would appeal to people of all ages, especially as shoes and its cleaning products are becoming increasingly expensive.

“People may not know the proper techniques to clean the shoes effectively,” Ralawe said. “This is where we come in, to ease that burden and create convenience. We believe that as people have their go to hairstylist and barber, they should also have their very own sneaker cleaner.”

Prospective clients can either visit SHL or use the pick-up and delivery service on offer. Items are booked into the SHL system along with the client’s details, labelled and the client is invoiced.

Photos of the shoes are captured before the restoration process commences, which includes the intense cleaning and drying, and before the shoes are bagged for collection or delivery, photos of the finished product are again captured. All of this take only two days to complete.

“We have managed to turn a sneaker cleaning kit worth R125 into a business that spends R1 000 on its cleaning stock,” Ralawe said of SHL’s success since its establishment, adding that they have between 45 to 60 clients using the service month.

“We have taken a very dirty job and we have made it fashionable and convenient. We are looking at revamping our workspace and turning it into a proper hub at a shopping mall and a mobile shoe cleaning service in the future.”

Since opening shop, SHL has also employed two high school learners from Lwandle as interns and they hope one of the interns will be skilled to manage the Lwandle enterprise as the business continues to grow. “We wish to make an impact in our community and decrease the ever spiking youth unemployment rate through the intern programme,” said Ralawe.

“SHL is still in the infancy stage and we call on the support of Helderberg residents to make our business successful – all we ask for is one pair of shoes to show you our work.”

For more information on SHL, visit the business’ page on Facebook and Instagram, or contact the on 062 500 3023, 084 413 6550 or vuyani@sneakerhublaundry.co.za.

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