UP’s start-up ecosystem may be difficult to locate, but it is thriving, with business ventures such as Laundrify and TheSandwichCompany showing what can be done with vision and hard work. Both of these businesses are conceptualised and run by UP students who recognized a gap in the market for affordable student services.
Laundrify, which drew inspiration from Taxify, is run by four third-year BCom Entrepreneurship students. “Laundrify was inspired by our desire to add a bit more convenience to students’ life at a student price – and what’s more tedious than laundry?” said the team. The laundry delivery service was started in May this year, and operates by picking up dirty laundry and delivering clean laundry to students. After contacting Laundrify on their business number or Instagram page, @laundrify123, a pickup time is arranged. For R50 per/kilogram, the price is set after weighing laundry in front of the customer, after which it is taken to the partnered laundromat. Students receive their laundry within two days, after arranging a drop off time.
“We know how time-consuming it is to do laundry,” said the team, who have been very successful at the opening and managing of the business, including promotional ideas aimed at helping customers. The team hopes to eventually expand provincially, and even nationally, and aim to dominate the market and provide a range of other services in future.
Cody Gill, one of the members of the Laundrify team, said that breaking even was strenuous. “The business principle of you have to spend money to make money [became] very clear to me,” he said, explaining that, while costs initially added up, after breaking even after three months, “it was worth it.”
One of Laundrify’s members, Siyaneliswa Chokoe, explained that the start-up, being in line with her studies, has given her the opportunity to learn a lot about running a business. “There are so many learning curves we’ve come across and really that’s what I came to university for,” she said, adding that “building foundations of business practice, creating connections, and learning by doing” are some of the benefits of being involved with Laundrify.
Yeukai Musarurwa, another team member, said that running Laundrify has taught her about teamwork. “Usually, working in teams is challenging as people always have their differences and one thing I’ve learnt is how to overcome these challenges,” said Musarurwa, adding that her balancing a business and full-time studies has taught her about time allocation and priorities.
Similarly, Zibusiso Maxase, who runs TheSandwichCompany, said that “time has become one of my most valuable commodities.” TheSandwichCompany, which is based out of an apartment, was started in August this year and delivers affordable homemade sandwiches to students.
According to the company’s Instagram, @thesandwich_247, sandwiches cost students only R20 each, with no delivery charges. Operating throughout Hatfield, Hillcrest and Brooklyn, all sandwich orders are made and delivered by Maxase and a business partner, who is a personal friend. Maxase said that the business idea was formulated in response to “the lack of affordable healthy food on campus and surrounding areas […] as students are forced to buy unhealthy overpriced food.” TheSandwichCompany hopes to expand by intensifying its marketing and opening stores on campuses across South Africa, “delivering healthy affordable food to all students within our country.”
Like the members of Laundrify, Maxase said that that balancing classes and running a business is challenging and that starting the new business has not changed any financial burdens that he faces. In Maxase’s case, money made from TheSandwichCompany is focused on reinvesting in the business at this point.
Gill said that the extra income from Laundrify is “minuscule, but it does make a difference” to the financial burdens he faces as a student. Musarurwa explained that her financial burdens weren’t significantly changed by the business, although she said that it has encouraged her to save instead of spend more often. “When we managed to break even, my first thought was to keep the money and not splurge it on unnecessary things,” said Musarurwa. “It feels more like a reward,” Chokoe told PDBY when asked about the financial benefits of the start-up, stating that the pay-out hasn’t significantly alleviated financial stress.
The other benefits, are however still valuable it seems, as Akosua Mensah claims that, from learning to manage time and money to working with others and becoming more practical, “being a student business owner has […] impacted me in such a positive way.” Mensah also said that the experience “has definitely helped me manage my finances.” Gill added that the opportunity has allowed him to grasp theory taught in lectures, providing him with a point of reference he didn’t have before. “It has been a rough journey but […] I am now more knowledgeable about what the market truly holds – ranging from its opportunities to threats.”
While Maxase expressed that his experience has shown that the saying “it’s always easier said than done” rings true, it appears that the learning experience offered by running a start-up is worthwhile. “It’s a blessing and I hope it continues to teach me (and pay me),” Chokoe jokingly added.