There had never been a laundry business in Stinkwater until enterprising couple Thapelo and Thandi Tshabalala took a chance and decided to open one in the village two years ago.
The couple came up with the idea after Thandi, who is married to Thapelo, was retrenched from her job at a laundromat in Pretoria.
At the time Thapelo had only part-time work, so they decided to venture into business. In this peri-urban settlement about 55km north of the Pretoria CBD, entrepreneurs trade in various sectors including car repairs, hair salons, shisa nyama, liquor and general stores. But there was a laundry.
Fortunately, Thandi had learnt the tricks of the laundry trade and the couple decided this was their niche. They decided to operate from a new section of the village called RDP – hoping that business would be good, but within three months they were facing disaster as most of the households in the area had their own washing machines.
“We had only three clients during those three months,” says Thapelo. The business still had to pay rent and the salary of the employee they had taken on board when they started operating.
“It was a total failure,” says Thandi. So, they folded the business briefly. When the covid-19 lockdown regulations were eased in mid-2020, the couple decided to try again. This time they found space at a premises located in what is essentially the village’s central business district, so the regular high volumes of human traffic worked to their advantage.
They started gathering clients from among professionals such as teachers who did not have the time to wash their clothes, youth busy with hustling and even from local households. Thandi says there was a lot of scepticism from some initially, after all, there had never been a laundry business in the village.
But as months went by they saw a steady rise in customers. As demand for their services grew, they created a monthly account for regular clients. While Thandi ran the daily operations at the laundry, Thapelo focused on collecting clothes and blankets from clients who could not travel to the premises, such as pensioners and the disabled. He also started to market the business more systematically.
To step up their business, Thapelo could potentially use the MTN Made For Skhokho, a prepaid plan made specifically for small and informal businesses. The MTN Made For Skhokho bundles include Voice minutes, social and business data from as little as R49. Thapelo could start communicating specials with existing and potential clients on WhatsApp and social media without worrying about the cost of data.
In February last year they moved to a new premises along the main road connecting the village to the townships of Soshanguve in the west and Temba in the east.
They currently employ two people and have about 80 regular clients. But the business is not without challenges. They are sometimes forced to buy water in containers which they transport using their bakkie owing to regular water outages in the area.
The couple plan to expand the business and create more jobs. One of their plans includes contracting unemployed people who have their own cars to act as agents that will go around the neighbouring villages collecting laundry while earning a commission.
To register for MTN Skhokho click here.