Cape Town youngsters leave a life of selling drugs to start their own maintenance business

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Keenan Williams, Riyaaz Christians, Jamie Joshua, Faygan Smith, Shakeel Wittle, Dylan Eley, and Dillon Jongbloed started their own maintenance business. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Keenan Williams, Riyaaz Christians, Jamie Joshua, Faygan Smith, Shakeel Wittle, Dylan Eley, and Dillon Jongbloed started their own maintenance business. (PHOTO: Supplied)

When they told their parents they were going to start a maintenance business, it did not go down well. Their moms raised eyebrows when they took brooms and cleaning materials from home to start their cleaning company. 

But today the seven young men behind Oddjobbi have proved their parents have nothing to worry about – their business is thriving.

Riyaaz Christians (16), Jamie Joshua (16), Dylan Eley (17), Faygan Smith (17), Shakeel Wittle (18), Dillon Jongbloed (18), and Keenan Williams (21) launched a maintenance service to support themselves and serve their community.

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The guys hard at work washing a wheelie bin in Bonteheuwel. (PHOTO: Supplied)

“My mother is very proud and excited about what we started, and she wants to see us successful one day,” Dillon says. 

All childhood friends from Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats, the youths have always been business-minded. Through a mutual connection they had been selling drugs in their community, but it wasn’t the kind of life they wanted to lead. 

“We first started selling dagga on a street corner,” Dylan tells us. “We thought it wasn’t going to work out as it puts us in danger. We decided to stop that and opened the maintenance business instead.”

They’re being mentored by local businessman Shuaib Sayhn and came up with the idea for their business after noticing a lack of maintenance in their community.

cleaning, business, community
For them it is not just about earning money but it is also about keeping their community clean. (PHOTO: Supplied)

“The Cape Flats isn’t well maintained when there are no elections,” Shuaib says. “The boys are trying to take care of that.”

Shuaib (34) is a small business owner and has worked in catering, printing and branding. He runs a printing and branding business called Just Sayn in Bonteheuwel, which he started in 2016. He’s teaching the budding entrepreneurs of Oddjobbi how to run a small business and training them in financial literacy. 

With his help they launched Oddjobbi a month ago. Their service now covers washing bins, grass cutting, sweeping pavements, painting and any other odd jobs.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. “At first the community was against us because we were known for selling drugs but now, we’re getting a lot of support,” Dillon says.

car wash, work, small business, cleaning, boys, bo
Last week they hosted a car wash to raise money for uniforms. (PHOTO: Supplied)
car wash, small business, car wash, work, small bu
The community supported their initiative. (PHOTO: Supplied0

Once the community saw just how serious the youths were, they threw their weight behind them. They now operate from 10am to 6pm on weekdays and also meet in a makeshift office in Shuaib’s garage between 3pm and 4pm every day to discuss business ideas.

After the municipality’s weekly garbage collections on Thursdays, the guys go from house to house to offer their services. They charge R10 to wash a bin and R50 for a monthly bin cleaning service. Other costs are based on the size of the task.

To date they’ve made about R 3 000 profit, which they’ve used to buy paint, a grass trimming machine and cleaning products to expand their business.

But for Shuaib, it’s not just about the money. He wants the youths to get a proper education so they can have a brighter future.

Dylan is a matriculant at Athlone High, Riyaaz is in Grade 10 at Bonteheuwel High, Jamie is in Grade 10 at Harold Cressy, Shakeel is in Grade 11 at Bonteheuwel High and Dillon matriculated last year. Keenan dropped out of school in Grade 8 due to drugs and gangsterism and Faygan recently dropped out of school too. 

cleaning, boys, bonteheuwel
The guys have stopped selling drugs and are now focused on expanding their business, Oddjobbi. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Shuaib is encouraging Faygan and Keenan to attend night school to complete their schooling. All seven youths are also doing online business courses but find it a bit difficult as Afrikaans is their home language and most courses are offered in English. 

 “You’d be surprised how brilliant these guys are. It’s just the language barrier that gets in the way,” says Shuaib, who helps to interpret the course work for them.

Recently, they also held a car wash to raise R1 200 for uniforms. A Good Samaritan responded to the post on their Oddjobbi Facebook page and sent them the money they needed. 

The aspiring entrepreneurs believe they’ve already learnt a lot and are appealing for sponsorship to help realise their dreams. 

“I’ve learnt about success, how to run a business, and how to be patient with my teammates,” Faygan says.

“It brings enjoyment to us as friends and our bond grows bigger each day,” Jamie says.

They now have their sights set on opening their own basic needs centre where they will equip other youths with business skills.

“We want to encourage other youngsters to do what we did and start a business,” Keenan says.  “We’re happy that as young boys we can make a difference in the community.”

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