With little more than a bucket, a few rags and some cleaning products, Priscilla Ludidi is hoping to wipe her slate clean and kick-start a new chapter in her life.
Ms Ludidi, as one of the successful trainees in the Carpenter’s Shop’s pilot micro-enterprise development car wash programme, started her humble car wash, based at Harrington Square, last week.
The programme is run by the organisation, which provides ablution facilities, social work services, rehabilitation, healthcare and opportunities for education and employment to unskilled, unemployed and homeless people.
Initiated in February, the programme is an extension of the regular car wash offered at the organisation’s Roeland Street base and offers trainees technical as well as business skills training.
James MacDonald, the Carpenter’s Shop’s social enterprise and business development manager, says: “We really wanted to make an impactful and measurable difference by equipping individuals to run their own micro enterprise – as opposed to us simply training them and then hoping for the best.”
During the six months it takes to complete the programme, trainees are given business skills development training, practical training as well as days on which they work and earn.
For this pilot project, 10 trainees were selected, although Mr MacDonald adds: “We envisage eventually training about 35 people.”
Back at Harrington Square, Ms Ludidi says: “Before I started here, I used to sell clothing, door-to-door. But you know, mos, business can be very up and down. But still, I was supporting my family with that money.”
A family feud saw her forced to leave the home she was living in and having to find a place of my own. “So, you see, that was when my business really went down.”
The Gugulethu resident adds: “I heard about the Carpenter’s Shop through a social worker at Ilitha Labantu, an organisation in Gugulethu. So I started training at the car wash there.”
Another trainee who started running his car wash business is Pricks Mvulana. Differing from Ms Ludidi in his reasons for joining the programme, Mr Mvulana, also a Gugulethu resident, says: “I have my own small business, which I run from home, Mnombo Cleaning and General Services.”
The business, he concedes, mostly provides valet service. Because of the training he receives as part of this programme, he says, “I can add this dry wash service to my business.”
The main aim behind this programme,” says Mr MacDonald, “is to have a real impact on the lives of these trainees. To see sustainable income generation for these candidates which will hopefully to make a real difference in their lives. We want to see people go from dependency to dignity.”
Mr MacDonald concedes that “getting the network developed to attract suitable candidates and finding suitable locations, such as car parks, for individuals to work in” are some of the challenges in rolling out the programme.
Making do with whichever location they are given is something the owners of these fledgling businesses have to contend with.
And while Mr Mvulana’s business, located at Roeland Street’s City Varsity campus, has the benefit of some overhead shelter, Ms Ludidi has no such luxury.
As we wrap up our interview, a light rain starts falling.
Is she not concerned about the impact these winter months will have on her business, I ask?
“No,” she says, with conviction. “I know it is not going to let me down. I’ve also got lots of ideas in mind. Like washing blinds, leather seats, lounge suites, carpets, whatever. I’m 300 percent confident in what I’m doing.”
Using the rag in her hand as a somewhat ineffective cover against the rain, she adds: “I’m a strong woman. You know, there was a time where I used to sleep in a place where rats walked over me at night while I was sleeping. So I’m not doing this because I want to do it. I’m doing this to push myself. That is why I’m doing this. I want my children to know that there are many rivers they will have to cross in life. And they must peel that potato.”
Picking up on my confusion at her mixed metaphors, she laughs and says: “Whether that potato you have in your hand is rotten or not, if you have nothing to eat, you must look at that potato, peel away that rotten part and eat what you can. You must make the best of what you have. You see?”
Smiling, she adds: “Ja, this a start. And I’m going to go far.”