By Thembelani Mkhize
The old saying “never judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes” is something I believe in and practise. I’ve walked from Midlands Mall to Hayfields, from Linden to Bellevue East in Jozi, and from Alex to bloody Yeoville. I’ve enjoyed plenty long (sometimes grinding) walks since my teen years, but my shoes haven’t enjoyed the road quite like I have because most of the time they were dirty.
That’s where Vuyo Zungu and his small business come in. Zungu is a 23-year-old resident of Mpophomeni, near Howick, where he runs a small sneaker cleaning service called The Shoe Laundromat.
Zungu is a passionate young entrepreneur with a boiling eagerness to learn and grow his knowledge in business. He attributes this drive to his business studies teacher Mr PS Dlamini, who he says inspired him to the point where he and another enterprising friend, Lungisani Hlongwane, started a small mobile sweets shop while still at school.
With small businesses a key driver of a lagging, traumatised economy, entrepreneurs like Zungu are a vital part of reinvigorating growth and creating desperately-needed jobs.
More Meander Chronicle articles by Thembelani Mkhize
“If I’m not mistaken The Shoe Laundromat is the first of its kind in Mpophomeni,” says Zungu. “We offer shoe and sneaker cleaning services to the public. We would also love to broaden the scope of our business in future” he added.
Zungu did his tertiary studies at the Durban University of Technology. Unfortunately, he couldn’t finish his public management course due to a lack of funds, but he was determined not to be a statistic, so he tried his luck in business. After a few failed ventures, he saw a potential gap in the Mpophomeni market and has boldly put his “best foot forward”.
“People don’t like washing their shoes,” says Zungu and he could well have been talking about me. “As you know,” he continues, “you need to have a solution for you to solve a problem. That’s what I thought of when I opened The Shoe Laundromat,” he added.
Zungu says the response he’s been getting from the Mpophomeni community has been better than expected. He also says his family has been more than supportive of his business.
“I see my business growing. I’d love to expand my knowledge about the industry that I’m in,” he says. “There’s a company which does similar work to mine, they also provide training to us stockists of their products and sneaker cleaning establishments, that I would love to attend. I’d also love to employ one or two sneaker cleaning technicians, provided I do go to this training” he added.
Zungu wants to improve his business by getting organised and starting a booking system that will help him manage his clients better.
He wants people to feel proud and confident in their shoes, so he’s making sure they walk out on the street with nothing but “drip” on their feet. And judging by his work, there will be plenty proud sneaker wearers pacing the streets of Mpophomeni in immaculate, clean, footwear.