The idea for Walk Fresh was born while Mokoena was completing his BA in Corporate Communication at the University of Johannesburg. Like many other students, he was forced to find himself part-time jobs in order to pay for his tuition and cover his expenses.
“I realised that many of my friends in Daveyton (Gauteng), where I grew up, were experiencing the same challenges, so I decided to build something meaningful that we could call our own, while creating employment for myself and my peers,” he explains. “My goal is to rewrite the township narrative as a whole – to write a new and positive story about young people in these communities.”
Building a brand
In 2015, Mokoena launched Walk Fresh. He says the first few months were the worst of his life.
“Everything was hard and the pressure was crazy,” he says.
“As a business, we were still trying to get our heads around the actual craft of cleaning footwear, as there was no formal documents – only YouTube videos. Most of the stuff we did was purely trial and error, but this also meant some of our clients footwear were ruined in the process. I overcame all of this through my willingness to learn, ask questions and seek guidance from entrepreneur friends.”
He adds that getting buy-in from people in the community was easy, because there is a lot of positive energy being directed towards black entrepreneurship, with hashtags such as #buyblack and #supportblackbusiness doing the rounds on social media.
Cementing a place in the market
A few months after launch, he received a call from shoe-polish brand Kiwi inviting him to participate in an enterprise development programme. He was also roped in by sportswear giant Nike to be part of its activation campaign.
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“The collaboration with Kiwi helped move my business a step higher, as I was able to secure equipment and the necessary resources to make our operations more efficient,” he says.
Walk Fresh currently has six full-time employees who provide shoe cleaning, polishing and refurbishing, pick-up and delivery of footwear and sales of accessories services at drop off points in Braamfontein, Auckland Park, Randburg, Boksburg and Greenstone in Johannesburg.
Mokoena also hosts monthly workshops/talks for aspiring entrepreneurs and collaborates with young brands in townships. He is currently working on establishing an integrated IT infrastructure for his business and he envisions franchising the company in the future.
Mokoena offers the following entrepreneurial advice: “Stop waiting on people, on funding, on the right time. Start where you are with what you have. Everything else will fall into place,” he says.