William Mosola and his wife Kefilwe look forward to having three “babies” turning five in the coming months: their twin boys and their growing laundry business.
In fact, explains Mosola, the idea for their small enterprise, All Things Laundry, was sparked by their dissatisfaction with the laundromat they used when the twins (now big brothers to a three-year-old sibling) were newborns.
Building the venture in Dobsonville, Soweto, was no walk in the park, he says, adding that “laundry businesses are not taken seriously” in townships.
The couple, however, had a “different mindset”. “We want to make a difference … I want to take my kids to better schools because of this business – and that speaks to how we present ourselves.
“What sets us apart is that we don’t depend on those who come to us … We go out and seek business. And we’re flexible. If a company wants something done in a day, or if there’s more work than usual, then the team and I will put in more hours.”
It’s a juggling act – the couple both have “day jobs” as well. So, on top of being a creditor’s clerk at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, Mosola makes sure he’s hands-on at All Things Laundry.
“The secret is the separation of powers,” he stresses. “We work according to our strengths. Kefilwe is better at admin and compliance, and I’m more on the ground.”
All Things Laundry has grown from providing laundry services for individuals and households to offering bulk services for commercial businesses, including a linen service for bed and breakfasts, hotels and restaurants, personal protective clothing, work uniforms and more.
A big boost came when the business was chosen as one of 12 SMMEs out of almost 300 applicants to be supported by Hollard’s Big Ads for Small Business campaign in 2021. To bolster small enterprises in tough times, the insurer shared its advertising space – from big billboards to digital ads – with “the little guy” for six months.
The “great” exposure from the campaign “translated into increased numbers of people supporting the business”, says Mosola. And the increase in sales made a real difference.
“This growth enabled us to buy our first company vehicle in December 2021, after we used our personal car for the longest time,” he says – a development that also helped them to streamline their pick-up and delivery service. “If we didn’t get that exposure, we would never have been able to get that vehicle.”
‘Believe in your craft’
Recently securing a monthly retainer with the International Organization for Migration – to provide laundry services for its medical facility for migrants in Pretoria – has been a shot in the arm for All Things Laundry. The contract has enabled the enterprise to open a new outlet in Midrand and to employ two additional staff members – bringing the total count to seven (including Mosola himself). The couple is also considering employing a driver in future.
Mosola credits the Big Ads for Small Business campaign for the business’s “massive increase” of 63% in revenue from 2020 to 2021.
On a good day, he says, All Things Laundry assists about 20 customers, washing up to 180 to 200 baskets of laundry a week. And it’s not all clothing and linen – among the more unusual items to emerge sparkling after an expert All Things Laundry scrub are a regular client’s branded gazebos!
The most difficult items to wash? “The white items – you have to start by treating the stains, and most people do not separate their whites from their colours. We do that for them.”
The biggest business challenge in today’s tough environment is load-shedding. “My concern has always been safety,” says Mosola. Rather than depending on a generator, he has set up another site in Dobsonville, on a different load-shedding schedule, where laundry operations can continue during power cuts at the main laundrette.
The couple is also starting to diversify their offering. They have just completed an office for a short-term insurance brokerage next to the laundry shop (Kefilwe has a background in insurance), and they’re also setting up a residential-rentals property business in Soweto. “All the transfer costs and attorney fees for the property we bought were paid from proceeds from All Things Laundry – just another benefit from the Hollard Big Ads campaign.”
Mosola’s first lesson for other entrepreneurs is “to believe in your craft”. It’s a question of “making magic with what you’ve got”, he says. “We never had any funding of any sort, or cash from anywhere. Everything came through hard work and dedication.”
The second lesson is to be patient. “Create the systems in the background to make sure your business can grow.”
As for the Mosolas’ own business plans, they intend to continue increasing their footprint. “We want to open more laundry services outlets, and one is definitely in the pipeline for Pretoria.”
* Read more about All Things Laundry here: https://allthingslaundry.co.za/.
Follow its Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/All-Things-Laundry-282529428944253/; Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlThingsLaundry. Find out more about the Big Ads for Small Business campaign: https://www.hollard.co.za/bigads