There’s no business-like shoe business for Kwano entrepreneur Bandile Ntukantu and his ‘Plett Tekkie Wash’.
“I started exactly the day after my contract expired with my employment at the Bitou Municipality. When I realised my contract was not going to be renewed, I knew I had to make a plan,” says Bandile.
With only a few days to plan, Bandile looked around and came to the realisation that there had to be a service in demand within his community. With a great passion and a love for shoes (one could call him a “sneakerhead”) and having developed a distinct routine to look after his own sneakers, the idea to open a sneaker laundry seemed like a viable plan.
He gathered his old brushes, towels and cleaning solutions and started his business from home. With the help of his good friend Ayabonga Rhafuza, Bandile converted his garage space into ‘Skoli and Plett Tekkie Wash’. The funky mural art, Skoli clothing range, cleaning and storage equipment make for a very cool backdrop for his popular social media posts.
Opening a new business like this does have its challenges. Starting from his home was easy but, over time, it has become an obstacle to not have a more central location to run the business. Growing a business to include clients from outside the township is another obstacle because these potential clients could be skeptical and worried about typical township hardships and habits; a break-in could mean the loss of clients’ shoes. To put minds at ease, Bandile has taken security measures to keep sneakers safe. But dealing with the stigma of the township is another story.
Over time, he has been able to purchase better cleaning solutions and was joined by a friend, who is also an artist, as the number of shoes coming in for cleaning became too much for one person. This allowed him to add the service of detailing and further customizing shoes by painting them. The latest addition to his team is a schoolboy who delivers the shoes back to clients when requested. The delivery service is at an extra fee.
As good as Bandile is at running a sneaker cleaning business, the service he offers could be much better if he had the necessary brushes and imported cleaning solutions used by most sneaker laundries.
Bandile knows sneakers. He says, “every sneaker material determines the type of brush that should be used, you can’t use hard brushes on shoes with soft materials because you could ruin or even tear a client’s shoe. Most of the shoes I clean, and detail are expensive. My clients take pride in what they wear so it’s always important to use a suitable brush to avoid any issues.”
And Bandile knows marketing. He says, “I’m an intellectually curious person and I understand very well that we live in a digital world, and I have taken full advantage of the social media networks in my community such as WhatsApp and Facebook. But, if I can single out a game-changer for me it would be a hashtag trend that was going around social media. I think it was the #Helpmepromotemybusiness challenge. I have never participated in these Facebook challenges but when I noticed the reach of the trend, I hopped on it and boy did my business trend!!! I had a picture with my branded banner to go with it and people kept sharing it and my phone started ringing non-stop to this day.”
The future is bright for Skoli, and Plett Tekkie Wash. Bandile is ambitious and hopes to purchase a washing machine and to properly furnish out the space to be more welcoming to his clients.
He says, “in a year from now, I would love to partner with relevant brands, brands that produce detergents or any shoe cleaning solutions. I will have advertising opportunities across my digital platforms – including short video clips showcasing our cleaning and detailing regime and at the same time selling their brands. This is a huge market, especially because this new generation is sneaker-crazy and just having what I call an Instagramable sneaker laundry. LOL because people love taking pictures! But baby steps first to get there.”
What is Bandile’s main piece of advice to young entrepreneurs? “Try and do with what you have, find a product or service in demand for the area in which you live. If you wait for capital, you will never start your business.”
Oh, and as far as his business goes… he comments, ‘there will never be a shortage of dirty shoes!”