Lere Mgayiya is the owner of Africa’s biggest shoe shining business. He was a flight boarding cards distributor, which he later quit to start selling eggs. His story is one of determination, hard work and reward.
Mgayiya is someone that loved challenges, he was promoted to a supervisory role in his flight boarding cards distributor job. Due to the promotion, he felt that will cause redundancy in his career, so he had a change of carrier by quitting. He loved talking to clients, making sales and meeting every day’s targets.
He moved on to join his family business of transporting livestock, looking for clients and making sales. From there he started his own livestock selling business from borrowed funds but that failed after a year. He delved into another business of selling the farmers eggs to the parliamentary kitchen after that unlucky failure.
However whatever I was earning from the selling of eggs was not sufficient to run the day to day operations of the business, “I fell behind with payments to farmers,” remembers Mgayiya. “I didn’t have money to start my car. You need big pockets to run a supply business.”
The business did not last long before he turned to a different business. Mgayiya fate changed after winning about 3,100 USD in a TV competition. He set up a tree planting company with the money he had won. After putting all his effort in the tree planting company, he experienced another failure after six months.
After so many failures in 2002, Mgayiya decided to do shoe shining at Cape Town airport. He went ahead and applied for business space. It took him almost a year to receive a go ahead for the business. He sold his car in that year, worked as a receptionist for three months, he begged and borrowed just to make ends meet.
There were challenges during the first few days of business. Disappointments began the very first day in the business from failure of pedestals supplier to deliver. He polished shoes on his lap.
Working for about 15 hours every day, Mgayiya and his only employee had to put extra effort to get their new establishment off ground. It was impossible for Mgayiya to see his children; he left very early while they were asleep and returned after they had retired to bed.
Their hard work would soon pay as the business grew to have 5 employees in the first four months of operation. Customer numbers increased and they rebranded from “Airport Shoeshine” to “Lere’s Shoe Shine.”
Mgayiya soon had an opportunity to meet the one in charge of all airports in S.A and since then the business expanded drastically. Today he is operating from the three major airport; Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. His company has now 45 employees. He doesn’t need to work many hours a day anymore.
“We’re the biggest shoe-shine company in Africa,” Mgayiya explains. “In Johannesburg we shine about 350 pairs of shoes a day, and about 120 pairs in Cape Town and another 120 in Durban.” With the company making revenue in the tune of 227,000 US dollars per year, the entrepreneur is planning for partnerships in the UK and America.
Article by Titus Kivite