Teen in the sneaker business

Aakifah Slarmie developed her own eco-friendly sneaker cleaner.

She’s only 15 years old, but Aakifah Slarmie has already established her own business.

Aakifah is the owner of SneekerClean, an eco-friendly sneaker cleaner, and the brand is about to grow, as she will be releasing a guard to protect sneakers, as well as a cap cleaner, this week.

Her product is sold at two stores in the city centre – Sneaker Cartel in Long Street, and Rocksole in Wale Street.

The Ocean View teenager says when she was little, her parents bought her all sorts of shoes. “When I grew older, I started my sneaker collection. I have 12 pairs now.”

She said she always struggled to keep her sneakers clean. “I used a toothbrush and soap, but it wasn’t effective enough, and all the sneaker cleaners were expensive – teenagers could hardly afford it.”

She experimented with lots of cleaning products to keep her sneakers clean. “When I found the right solution, my dad, Nizaam, and I teamed up with a local manufacturer and we produced SneekerClean.”

The product is waterless and eco-friendly, so it contains no harmful chemicals, is kind to your skin and easy to use too. “All you do is spray it on your sneaker, scrub it with a brush and then wipe it off with a microfibre cloth. If your sneaker is not yet clean, just repeat the process.”

Aakifah packages all the products and labels them herself.

She said she chose to make the product waterless because Cape Town was in the middle of a drought.

The Grade 10 pupil from Fish Hoek High School said it was difficult to juggle school and her business duties, but she finds a balance.

Her father, Nizaam, manages the business when Aakifah needs to prioritise school.

“She knows school comes first and when that’s done she can continue with things she needs to do for the business.

“My wife and I fully support her in every way we can.”

Mother Nazeema helps Aakifah with her school work, while Nizaam takes care of things for the business such as stocktaking, making sure the product, brushes and cloths are available.

He said it is fitting to have the product sold in the CBD because “this is where the money is”.

“There is a lot of foot traffic in Long Street and the Sneaker Cartel is a lounge as well, so the sneaker cleaner is paired up with sneakers, and it is available until the early hours of the morning.”

He said Aakifah sold between 150 and 300 packages of SneekerClean a month. “It’s going very well for her,” her father said proudly.

Aakifah said when she has completed school, she would like to continue with her business.

Asked what she does with the profit, she said it all gets put into an account and a portion is used to buy stock.

“And a pair of sneakers every now and then,” Mr Slarmie adds.