Getting your favorite old sneakers looking brand spanking new brings the same amount of joy as buying a new pair of one.
When Ryan Wong saw the growing sneaker culture and shoe enthusiasts in the sultanate, he took it as an opportunity.
Knowing how much shoe aficionados have a strong desire to keep their footwear always looking fresh-out-of-the-box, the budding entrepreneur saw a gap in the market and decided to tap into the emerging shoe care service business.
That was when he found out about Shoe Maestro or commonly known as Shoe Mo, a leading shoe care service brand in Southeast Asia.
The Malaysian-born brand was established in 2016 and has made its mark in the shoe cleaning business across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei.
The Malaysian franchise was first introduced in the Brunei market in 2018, however, it was only in December 2019, when Ryan decided to become the full owner of the franchise license.
According to the serial entrepreneur, the concept of shoe cleaning is not exactly new and that there are several local shoe cleaning businesses.
However, what attracted him to Shoe Mo brand is its tech-savvy approach and streamlined business model that is easy to operate.
The concept is simple; customers could either drop off their shoes at the Shoe Mo branch, or they can opt for pickup and delivery service via the website at shoemobn.com, he said.
Shoe Mo offers a variety of services and treatments including cleaning, repair, restoration, customisation, leather polish, de-odouring, water repellent and sole protection.
The services at Shoe Mo are available for both kids and adult footwear.
The business caters to all brands from high-end ones like Balenciaga and Christian Louboutin to mid-range ones such as Adidas and Nike.
Customers bringing in their shoes will also receive consultation where they will discuss with the customers on what services they can provide depending on the difficulty and the condition of the shoes.
“Shoe Mo also has a built-in system that helps the business to manage and track customer’s orders easily,” he added.
Not only does the business focus on footwear, they have expanded their service to bags and caps.
“The demand still remains the same for shoes, but we are starting to see a growing interest in other cleaning services. We recently launched cleaning services for Yoga mat, wallet, and even boxing gloves,” he said.
In the beginning of the journey, Ryan shared that the business has grown exponentially, and that they are cleaning on average 10-20 pairs of shoes per day, from limited edition Christian Dior sneakers to everyday jogging shoes.
Originally located at Centrepoint Gadong, the flagship store moved to its new location at HJ Zakaria H.M & Howsten Building, in Kiarong (same block with Coffee 7T1 & Project Ice-cream) in 2020. The new location offers easy accessibility for its customers.
“There was too much traffic in the Gadong area. We were also on the first floor, which made it difficult for our clients to drop off their shoes with the limited parking spaces available,” he explained.
He further added that the decision to have the new store in Kiarong is owing to its strategic location.
“We have a designated parking space for our clients and we’re located on the ground floor so whenever there’s no parking our customers can just easily stop in front of our shop and drop off their shoes,” he shared.
“On top of that, we also provide drop off branches where our clients can drop off their items at Superkleen Mabohai and Gadong, Ride and Cycle at Tungku and Dynamic at The Walk Beribi,” he added.
Despite the hopeful beginning however, the initial journey was anything but smooth sailing as the challenge of opening an international franchise came down to the operation of the business, said Ryan.
“One of the biggest challenges was setting the operations right, it was a challenging at first since we’re dealing with “fragile” items. We have to be careful not to use too much cleaning solution on the shoes or we could damage them,” he said.
It takes trust and teamwork to overcome the obstacles, he shared. Along with Ryan, the team behind Shoe Mo comprises of Shoe tech and customer service manager, Dayana Mimihayati Zainal Abiddin and Store Manager, Muhammad Zulhilmi Abd Halim.
Adding to that the COVID-19 restrictions, which has forced businesses throughout the country to close or limit visitors.
“The business was going really well, and was on a stable growth but when the second pandemic hit the country, the business had quite an impact and now we’re back to square one,” Ryan said.
According to Ryan, during the pandemic, they would receive three to four pairs of shoes per day.
“Our business has definitely been greatly affected by the pandemic, and we’re just barely surviving,” he said.
“We’ve also been offering our customers flexibility and promotions to keep our business going. We’ve introduced our online vouchers at a very discounted rate which our customers can redeem in 6 months, or whenever they see fit,” continued Ryan.
The challenges of the pandemic taught him that patience and adaptability is key, adding that it took determination to overcome the obstacles and that every day is a new lesson for them.
He said that, looking back on journey, the moment that helped the business move forward involved a lot of perseverance and support from their loyal customers.
In addition, when asked about future plans for the franchise, Ryan shared that they are eyeing on expanding and improving their services.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN