Changing Lives Shoe Laundry: Not Just a Shoe Washing Business

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By Akhona Matshoba

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 8 of VARSITY News.


“We want to be impact-based. We want to impact students. We want to impact people… If we know that we have changed someone’s life, we would have done a great job.” These are the words of Manqoba Mdamba, the co-founder of Changing Lives Shoe Laundry.


Image by Manqoba Mdamba


Meeting Manqoba for the first time, I was delighted to encounter such a benign and involved individual who, despite a busy schedule, still finds the time to offer a helping hand when needed. According to Manqoba, the Shoe Laundry was born out of both frustration and need. Manqoba recalls the frustration he felt having to clean his sneakers as this was a tedious task. “I got frustrated spending close to 30 minutes washing my shoes and I thought this was probably a problem for every student.” As a social work graduate, Manqoba identified a great need for employment not only for fellow students but also for young people from marginalised communities.


Noticing a food security problem amongst students in South African universities, the shoe laundry sought to solve this problem. For every pair of shoes washed, the shoe laundry committed to donating a loaf of bread to a food security programme, one of which being the UCT Food Security Programme. Passionate about social development, Manqoba notes the need for businesses to shift towards social entrepreneurship. “For a very long-time businesses have been running on profit, people right now want to put their money where it has a social impact… People are doing business for good.”


Image by Manqoba Mdamba


On Thursday, 22nd August, the Shoe Laundry won the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity for the Western Cape regional round. Manqoba describes this win as a morale boost for the team. “The vibe and the energy are there, now we are hoping to [win in] our category. We are also targeting the entrepreneurship of the year award,” he says. Vuako Khosa, the co-founder of the Shoe Laundry, is set to represent UCT and the Western Cape in the finals hosted by the department of higher education in Gauteng on the 18th and 19th of September.


In addition to this success, the Changing Lives Shoe Laundry was recently selected as one of 30 social enterprises in South Africa to receive mentorship through the Barloworld Mbewu programme. A programme designed to provide tailored support for start-up social enterprises.


When asked about the collaborations the shoe laundry has lined up, Manqoba mentions plans to work with local businesses. “Our plan includes working with a number of local businesses to encourage local job creation to boost our economy and reduce our increasing youth unemployment rate which is sitting at above 50%.” The shoe laundry recently outsourced their delivery service to Pigeon Couriers, a student-based courier service. Manqoba notes that he sees the business creating more opportunities for student businesses. “We want to create something that not only benefits us but the greater chain of students and young people.”


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