Entrepreneurial UWC law student’s and partners’ sneaker rehab business growing like wildfire

UWC students and business partners Sakhile Ngobe and Bafana Kane.

UWC students and business partners Sakhile Ngobe and Bafana Kane.

Published Dec 10, 2023


In just a few months, what began as a simple idea among four financially strapped UWC students, backed by a modest R250 investment, has blossomed into a thriving business that stretches beyond the campus boundaries.

The Sneaker Cleaning Rehab Club offers sneaker services from collection to cleaning and delivery. The business has rapidly expanded its footprint from serving local clients on campus to reaching areas such as Belhar, UCT, the city centre, and even as far as Pretoria.

The brains behind the business is final-year law student Sakhile Ngobe, who later brought on board his current business partners and classmates, Bafana Kane, Bayden Pedro and Sibusiso Quse. At the time of establishing the business, Ngobe had also just been informed that he had been defunded by the institution, which paid for his tuition.

“What drives my hunger for business is being defunded from that institution. I believe students who find themselves in similar positions need to be cognisant that, as much as we are entrepreneurs, we are students first.

“We started with a guy who was initially doing marketing and he invested R250 into the businesses because we were broke at the time. That covered the brushes and the basic supplies. From there we got a logo for free because my best friend, Zayn Matsombe, is a graphic designer,” Ngobe said.

He added that a few days after launching the business in June, news spread like wildfire on campus and surrounds, which forced Ngobe and friends to hit the ground running.

“The discussion to officially launch started around 4 June, but I remember on 8 June we were already washing sneakers. We already had about 10 pairs .”

According to Ngobe, he was always business-minded, having during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 also started a food delivery business. He said he used R3 500 intended to travel home to buy equity shares at a very low price with his older brother, Muzi Ngobe, and used the returns to buy a motorbike.

“I was on Facebook, browsing through content and an entrepreneur (Thabang Moloto) provided advice on the food delivery business. I then bought a bike with the help of my brother and found a driver after placing an advertisement on Gumtree.”

However, after a few good months, Ngobe ran into problems with the driver, who wasn’t paying his share for the use of the motorbike. He then sold his motorbike and started consulting and helping students from other universities to become acquainted with the food delivery business.

To date, he has assisted a few students to acquire bikes, and said his biggest achievement was to see his close friend buy more than three bikes within a year. He has recently been recognised by the Student Development and Support unit at UWC and has received an award for innovation.

Ngobe credits his entrepreneurial success to his mentor and friend, Tokelo Hlagala, of Afro Centric Media House in Pretoria, who introduced him to the right people.

Cape Times