Clean­ing sneak­ers and mak­ing money

Vuk'uzenzele - - Youth - Al­bert Pule

a fresh idea has won 26-year-old town­ship busi­ness­man Lethabo Mokoe­nathe the South African Youth Awards en­trepreneur­ship top prize.

Lethabo Mokoena gave up the se­cu­rity of a salary to clean shoes in Davey­ton in Gaut­eng. For the 26-year-old for­mer Sony brand ac­ti­va­tor, it was an award-win­ning de­ci­sion.

Walk Fresh, his two-yearold sneaker and shoe pol­ish­ing com­pany, em­ploys four other youth and is this year’s win­ner of the South African Youth Awards en­trepreneur­ship top prize.

The com­pany is grow­ing, Mokoena told Vuk’uzen­zele. The jour­ney has not been easy but the re­ward has made the strug­gle worth­while. “It’s bet­ter now and things are start­ing to look up,” he says. “En­trepreneur­ship is not what peo­ple want us to think of it. Peo­ple want to glam­or­ise it. That’s why a lot of entrepreneurs are de­pressed, be­cause this is very hard.”

Mokoena is proud of his achieve­ments, but he is not ready to put his feet up and rest. There is room for growth, and more ser­vices to of­fer his cus­tomers. Cur­rently, Walk Fresh cleans sneak­ers, pol­ishes shoes, re­fur­bishes leather, main­tains and re­fur­bishes suede and sells shoe laces. In a few years, Mokoena says, “We will be a one-stop-shop for footwear.”

First steps

Walk Fresh was born out of Mokoena’s frus­tra­tion. A few years ago he was a grad­u­ate who had com­pleted his stud­ies in pub­lic re­la­tions and cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. But he had not fig­ured out what he wanted to do with his life.

“One day we were sit­ting with my friends and one of them was clean­ing his mother’s shoes. I asked him, ‘Why you don’t get paid to do that?’ That’s when the guys started laugh­ing. At that mo­ment I saw an op­por­tu­nity to start this kind of busi­ness.”

His friends still laughed when he shared his busi­ness idea, but he pressed on. He used his trans­port money to buy his first batch of clean­ing ma­te­ri­als. Walk Fresh be­gan op­er­a­tions on the same veranda where the idea was born but has just moved into new premises. Point­ing to over 300 shoes wait­ing to be col­lected or cleaned, Mokoena says, “To­day, we are here. We’ve been here for only two weeks and in a month or two, we will know if our num­bers have changed.”

Walk Fresh uses town­ship laun­dro­mats as drop off or pick up points for cus­tomers. They prom­ise a three-day turn­around, and Davey­ton res­i­dents get free de­liv­ery.

“En­trepreneur­ship is not what peo­ple want us to think of it. Peo­ple

want to glam­or­ise it.”

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