Walking the talk with clean kicks: OffBeat Sneaker Services re-inventing the shoe care business in SA

Everyone wants to walk the talk… but walking the talk requires one to be wearing clean kicks. Now, we all know that clean kicks requires a lot of work.. but what if we told you that there is a convenient way for you to get that done quicker and better? OffBeat Sneaker Services is trying to serve you that convenience by offering a range of sneaker cleaning and repair services in-store.

Some might argue and say that sneaker washing is a township trend, but judging from what we saw with our own eyes at OffBeat’s headquarters in Johannesburg, it is safe to say that sneaker cleaning business is no longer a venture that is limited to the township.

In recent years there has been an uptick in sneaker cleaning businesses, with entrepreneurs launching businesses in the suburbs and central business districts (CBDs) of cities.

Sibangani Ncube, the owner of OffBeat Sneaker Services, told EntertainmentSA, that sneaker culture was evolving which is creating new opportunities in the industry.

“Over the years I’ve watched them go from being something that only kids and students wear to having billionaires such as Kanye West wear them to meetings. At the end of the day it’s a shoe, it’s whatever makes you feel comfortable, because at the end of the day it’s who you are.”

What started as a charity drive during Sibangani’s early days while working in retail, has now grown into a sustainable business that is widely recognized.

“When I started the business, I started it off as a charity drive called Kicks For Change and would put a box at the store I was working for so that people could drop off their old sneakers that they no longer use. The sneakers would then be collected and washed, then distributed around communities for free.”

In 2018 around September Sibangani was retrenched and decided to establish OffBeat

The business is run from a rented cool space in MillPark and attracts clients from different parts of Johannesburg and surrounding arrears

Even so, after its launch in 2018, OffBeat got almost immediate buy-in from big brands, who are slowly recognizing the young entrepreneur’s vision and are willing to endorse him on major business deals.

Last month the store was visited by Nike who dropped Sibangani a personalized sneaker and a locker with a shoutout on the side.

On average, the business takes in about 68 pairs of different kinds of shoes per week and the cost of the service depends on the material of the shoe. The monthly and annual income of the business continues to grow steadily each year.

“We have big plans for our business and we plan on turning it into an institution that teaches young people the craft of sneaker cleaning. We would also like to join hands with the Department of Education to make this off,” said Sibangani.

But OffBeat is also aware that there’s a broader base of sneaker wearers that they need to attract – and part of this process is educating the public that chucking even entry level trainers into the washing machine for a quick spin isn’t going to do the shoes any favours.

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“We’ve had to teach people things like how putting sneakers into a washing machine can actually damage them over time, and that using the wrong detergents can make the colour run out,” he says. “This is for anyone who wants to take care of their shoes and make them last a bit longer. It’s not only for cool kids, it’s also for your Nike shoes that you spent R1,300 on – that’s a lot of money, and you don’t want to damage them,” he says.

OffBeat is also aligning itself to have a strong corporate social investment angle – aside from their messages around repairing and sustainability, they have also grown their Kicks For Change charity drive, which encourages the public to drop off old but wearable sneakers at their store, which they’ll clean up and pass on to youth in need.

A big shoutout to OffBeat Sneaker Service – we stan a JSE-listed company in the making!

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