Laundry businesses still standing after looting and lockdown restrictions

Pauline Makwe founder of Orison Dry Cleaners & Laundry in Diepsloot, Johannesburg.
Pauline Makwe founder of Orison Dry Cleaners & Laundry in Diepsloot, Johannesburg.
Image: Fetola.

Pauline Makwe (55) and Thamari Ndlovu (64) started their businesses in the dry-cleaning and laundry sector in 2017.

Their inspirational journey is proof that mature entrepreneurs have everything it takes to run a successful business despite the challenges.

“I’ve always wanted to be my own boss,” said Pauline the founder of Orison Dry Cleaners & Laundry in Diepsloot, Johannesburg. She saw a business opportunity while working in hospitality and overseeing laundry operations.

She observed and learnt how dry-cleaning and laundry businesses operate. Her community in Diepsloot didn’t have dry cleaning service options and she decided to leave her corporate job to start a laundry business.

Some of the services that her business renders are dry-cleaning, alterations of clothes, design of traditional clothes, shoe repairs, key cutting and many more.

“People don’t have time to do their laundry and there are clothes like leather jackets that cannot be washed at home,” she said.

Pauline’s business was looted during protests and riots that took place in July 2021.

Her business was one of many that were destroyed in Diepsloot, Johannesburg. The looting happened after she had been struggling to keep her business afloat because of the pandemic. During this difficult time, she chose not to give up.

The business is situated in Bambanani Mall and it was impacted when trade in malls was restricted due to the pandemic. While her business was trying to recover from lack of customers caused by the lockdown restrictions, the looting started.

“My windows were broken, and equipment was stolen. It was demoralising, I never thought I’d operate again but my determination kept me going” she recalls. 

Giving up was not an option. Her business is slowly getting back on its feet and she is optimistic about the future.

Thamari Ndlovu the owner of Sitsepile Laundry.
Thamari Ndlovu the owner of Sitsepile Laundry.
Image: Fetola.

Another laundry business owner that continues to overcome challenges is Thamari Ndlovu the owner of Sitsepile Laundry, a laundromat and dry-cleaning service based in Mbombela, Mpumalanga. After teaching for 23 years, Thamari left her chalkboard behind and used some of her retirement funds to start her business.

Thamari’s small team makes sure every customer’s laundry is done exceptionally well, smells great and is properly packaged.

“I’m focused on creating a warm and friendly environment where every customer feels they are among friends,” said Thamari. She believes this approach has built her a steady base of return customers.

When the pandemic started in March 2020, her business was immediately affected. “My business is situated in Bambanani Mall and lockdown restriction caused less people to come to the mall, “said Thamari.

For her business to make profits and grow, it relies heavily on foot traffic in the mall and when this stopped happening, her business was negatively affected.

“It was hard to keep the business afloat, I even considered closing it, but I choose not to give up,” she said.  

The shopping centre is still quiet but Thamari is hopeful that busines will get better as a major retailer is expected to rent at the mall which will result in more foot traffic that will help her business.

Her business growth strategy involves looking into bulk services for hair salons, boutique hotels and guesthouses. 

Despite the challenges her business is facing, she is determined to keep going. “I’m not going to retire because I still strong,” she said.

Running a business is a dream come true for her and it’s makes her feel happy and alive.