Shoe Shining: Clean Looks, Rich Pockets
THE saying, ‘you are addressed as you are dressed’ reminds any conscious person to always dress well to avoid being embarrassed or mistaken for whom one is not. It is for this reason that some people, irrespective of their status go the extra mile to dress well. Dressing well goes beyond knowing the right colours or cloths to wear. It includes how one makes the hair and the looks of the footwear.
Footwear plays a very important role in any outfit; in fact, they complement one’s look. Unkempt footwear speaks volumes of the wearer. Some people could assess a person’s level of cleanliness from the looks of his/ her shoes. It is in making the feet look good that some people have gone into the business of shoe repairs and polishing.
According to Eric Okon, who has been in shoe shinning and mending business for close to two decades, it helps to make an individual dress look good. “I came into the business to make people’s feet look nice. I hate seeing torn and dirty shoes; they irritate me like mad, so I began to help people who cannot make their shoes look good to do that and before long the passion turned into a money making venture for me.
“Apart from shinning the shoes, I also mend, change their soles, heels and patch the vamp, which in most shoes are easily noticed when they are torn,” he said.
On what has kept him in the business, he said, “I make between N3,000 to N4,000 everyday and whenever it rains, I make about N10,000. People patronize us more during the rainy season. This is because they would want to clean the mud in their shoes and to make them gleam. Though, the polishing job is regular, it does not bring in much money like amending shoes.”
Mohammed Amusa, who unlike Okon is an itinerant shoe cobbler, said the business is good.
Shoe shinning business brings in easy money. I make close to N3,000 a day, after removing money for my daily food. I got my first motorcycle from the money I made from the business. As an itinerant cobbler, I move from place to place, including entering people’s houses to sew and shine their shoes.
Imagine, I make close to N2,000 from a tin of N2.50 polish. On a good day polishing a pair of shoe goes for N20 to N50 and during the rains, it moves up to N50 to N100, yet people would still pay because they do not want to look dirty. The feet of any body tell how neat or dirty that person is and we are here to make them look good. Since most people cannot polish their shoes, they allow us do it for them for a price. The business is good and gives me time to do other things, like running my provisions stores,” he disclosed.
On what a new entrant needs to know to succeed in the business, John Ikechukwu revealed that short training of one to three months would be ideal for any body willing to go into the business. According to him it is to enable the person identify the various leather types, know where to get them and also how to handle them.
The leather may look alike, but they are of different texture and they are not to be handled the same way. For instance, while one can easily drive the awl in and out of Italian leather and it would still look fine, such strong handling cannot be done with the synthetic leather. This is what any repairer must first learn before going into the business. Also, as the leather comes in different texture, so must the adhesives and polishes used on them.
“On the whole, entering the business is easy and cheap. With N10,000 any itinerant shoe repairer is on the go. The money is enough to get all the necessary tools like shear, awl, hammer, pliers, punch cutter and others,” he disclosed.
Imagine, I make close to N2,000 from a tin of N2.50 polish. On a good day polishing a pair of shoe goes for N20 to N50 and during the rains, it moves up to N50 to N100, yet people would still pay because they do not want to look dirty. The feet of any body tell how neat or dirty that person is and we are here to make them look good
According to Ikechukwu, who has also been in the business for over two decades, shoe shinning and sewing trade is a business that one needs to start with little capital and with dedication the business would grow.
“ I started at a street corner with a table, an awl and a roll of stitching thread over 20 years ago; but today, I have become big to the extent of having apprentices and people come to learn from me. It is a business that promotes itself; and once the operator knows how to handle clients and how to repair different shoes –– male, female and children –– the sky would be his stepping stone. I have been able to train two of my five children through the university from the money I made in this business.
“I do not design, I only repair, dye and sew shoes. I have different dyes for different shoes. Knowing that would give any operator an edge in the business. So, I really know what most customers want, which is the reason I am still in the business,” he said.
While most cobblers say skill is key to growth and making money, Adeyinka Ojo said it goes beyond that. According to him, locating one’s shop or operating at busy places would attract customers and bring in more money.
“I know one has to build his/her skills to make it big in the business, but the area one operates from is also important. I make close to N150,000 per month. I leave my house in Lawanson to Yaba bus stop, where I operate from Monday to Saturday. I charge N50 to N100 for polishing a pair of shoe. These charges depend on my assessment of the client. The more affluent a client looks, the higher
I charge him because I do not just use the ordinary kiwi shoe polish for them.
“As you must also know we have different prices for different shoe polish. For Kiwi Nigeria polish, we charge less because the polish is cheaper and has too much wax that enables the shoes to accumulate dust within a short time if applied. Also one has to rub it into shoes with a soft cloth or foam to achieve the desired sheen. For Kiwi Kenya, the price is higher and you need to apply a little of it to get the right result.
“When these options are presented and a client rejects them, we would offer the liquid polish and that goes for between N1.50 to N200 in some places,” he disclosed.
Corroborating Ojo’s idea, Michael, who operates at Ikotun garage said he makes between N2,000 to N3,000 per day and makes a daily contribution of N2,000.
“The bus stops or garages may not be the best options because of vehicles running into us, but it is surely the best place to operate, as the volume of human traffic coming into them could not be got elsewhere.
All one needs to do is to settle local government officials and any agency operating in the garages to allow one to take a stand. Besides, because people know we are in these places, they on their own. I do not carry my work tool about looking for clients, rather they come to me. Imagine, I make a daily contribution of N2,000 and still goes home with the same amount. It is a business that gives one rest of mind and would always put food on the table,” he said.