Fresh Kicks On the Go with Happy Feet

Posted on April 12, 2018

Growing up in the townships of South Africa means learning how to sustain yourself with little resources, using a few skills that many of us discover along the way, and knowing how to leverage off the ever vibrant and bustling sense of community. This is exactly what Ofentse Dakisa is doing with his mobile sneaker cleaning business – Happy Feet Footwear Laundry.

With over a year and a half in business, Ofentse states that his creative juices started to flow when he realized that people value their footwear but do not have time to give them proper treatment.

Based in Mohlakeng, Happy Feet started off with a few family and friends as clients but social media soon propelled the business to attract more business.

“Social media is cost effective. I use it to it to market my business, showcase my services and communicate with potential customers.”

He has simply taken advantage of people’s desire to uphold an image: “image is everything in the township, people tend to easily relate to you if you’re all cleaned up.”

Starting out in an unconventional business has come with its fair share of surprises though: “I remember one time during my early days I used the incorrect revival colour on a client’s shoe which changed the shoe’s colour from navy blue to purple!” It’s the will to continue navigating through such curveballs that has pulled him through some of the worst times in the business.

“I knew from the onset that business would come with dark days…  working with different people with different demands, but giving up was never an option – even when there were no customers at all!”

Unemployment and a lack of land ownership are some of the unique challenges faced by township entrepreneurs when it comes to growing the business.

Majority of unemployed people come from townships [which means that] we as township entrepreneurs face greater challenges. Landownership and access to decent working premises is an issue which results in a lack of certainty knowing that the business will not close or move.

Footwear laundry is a new idea in the township so Ofentse relied heavily on his research to uncover the facts and make sure that he will provide a service that customers are willing to pay for. “Throughout my research about cleaning sneakers, I noticed that people don’t use the right techniques and products to clean their shoes.  This made me see the potential in this business.”

Ofentse’s ability to employ available resources to not only build a business to support himself but to also encourage much-needed change in his community is a powerful display of creative thinking. This, in a time of rampant youth unemployment in South African communities, makes his story even more worth telling.