We live in a generation where sneakers (fake or original) make up a part of almost anyone’s shoe wear collection. So widespread are they that whole businesses have been established solely to sell sneakers. Do you remember my definition of what entrepreneurship is? “The addressing of a common, widespread problem using a novel or disruptive solution, often tech-based, that is monetizable.” For my subject matter, I want you to note ‘widespread problem’. Sneakers are nice and make us look sharp and stylish however there is one problem. Cleaning or washing sneakers is not a fun experience. Solving that problem constitutes a lucrative business idea; let us talk about it.

The Rationale

We have established that the need is already there. Sneaker cleaning or washing is a service just like a car wash is a service. So do not think that it is silly or irrelevant to offer a service for cleaning or washing sneakers. Countless people are waiting for such a service to take the burden off their hands. You might want to know that there are even more associated services you can add. For example, services like sneaker waterproofing, stain removal, colour facelifts, and more can be added. So, on the surface, this might look like a weak business idea but it is laden with limitless potential.

Key Requirements

There is a range of equipment you will need for this business. I am assuming you might start small and solo so you might not need much to start with. You could start solo but with growing demand, you will need a more hands-on deck. There is a particular South African sneaker cleaning or washing business I know that now receives orders exceeding 500 sneaker pairs every month. To move faster than obviously needs more hands e.g. an average of 5 workers.

Anyways, you will need a reliable water supply, soaps, cleaning chemicals, brushes, wipes, odour protectors, shoe sprays, microfiber towels or cloths, packaging material, and so on. For small scale operations, you can make do with the items I just mentioned. If you want to go big or demand services have surged, you will need more sophisticated equipment. These will include things like washing and drying machines, applicator brushes, specialized polishes and waxes, and shoeshine kits, just to mention a few.

Your choice of location is pertinent to how successful this business can be. At the very least you start by operating from your home. As the business grows you can then consider renting some workspace somewhere. It is ideal to choose a location that is easily visible and accessible. You also have to ensure the location does not break your back in terms of rentals. Choosing a location at or close to shopping centres or central business districts would be the perfect fit.

I cannot underscore enough the importance of having an active online presence. Low-cost signage such as banners can increase your visibility as well. This type of business grows through word of mouth and referrals so incorporate and encourage that in your marketing strategy.


There is no question about the existence of a market. I am preaching to the choir when I say that almost everyone owns sneakers. Especially over the past few years, sneakers have become such a thing. The market is inexhaustible spanning across all ages groups and both sexes. You have the liberty to choose a niche you want. The use of sophisticated cleaning chemicals and machinery will give you a competitive advantage.

Do not strain yourself though; start small and systematically scale your operations. It is also worth noting that incorporating a pick-up and delivery service will boost your value proposition. You will be amazed at how this business can quickly grow – you need to be ready for sudden growth. Prospects are tremendous since depending on sneaker type and package, you can charge from an average of at least US$5 per pair.

Important To Note

In this line of business, you cannot afford to mess up people’s sneakers. You must know what you are doing lest you get in trouble with clients. Sneakers come in many different forms made from various materials. It is advisable to work only on sneakers whose material you fully know how to handle. For example, if you are well-versed with leather and canvas then focus on that. If you do not quite know how to handle suede then start by learning how to handle it before messing up people’s sneakers. Take this seriously as you get into this business!

In 2022 if this is something that resonates with you, I urge you to start this business. You can start earning a few hundred US dollars per month and grow remarkably in no time. I can bet you that chances are high that there is no sneaker cleaning or washing service anywhere close to you. Take advantage of that and lead the way by becoming an early mover in your area. In South Africa, this line of business is quite popular. Zimbabwe is as good a market and nothing should stop you if you are interested. Bear in mind also that there are infinite strategic alliances, joint ventures or partnerships that such a business or startup can enter into.