They say cleanliness is next to godliness, and for Daniel Benayo, this extends to shoes as well.
Daniel owns the shoe-polishing stall outside of Zara at the V&A Waterfront, a business that has been putting food on his table for over a decade.
The stall is recognisable by the elevated chair. Anyone who wants to have their shoes shined can have a seat while Daniel uses his polish, brushes and cloths to polish the shoes the old-school way.
He even keeps a stack of newspapers for customers to read while getting their shoes polished to give an authentic experience “like back in the day”.
Daniel grew up in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape and studied public management at Eastern Cape Technikon.
While studying, he worked as a security guard back home but decided to quit and move to Cape Town in search of better job opportunities.
“I arrived in Cape Town and started working at a telemarketing company in Bellville but decided to quit because the income was too low, and I couldn’t sustain myself.”
While looking for work, he met businessman Patrick O’Shea at the V&A Waterfront, who helped Daniel set up his business.
Asked why he had decided on a shoe shining business, Daniel had grown up cleaning his shoes and had taken care of everyone’s shoes in the family.
“You don’t go to a special school to learn to polish shoes – it’s just lots of concentration and practice.”
He said he had started out with an ordinary chair, and as the money had come in, he bought a polished chair, a stool with a compartment to store his cloths and brushes, and a stand for signage.
“I had to gather the equipment as I went along to look the part. The shoe-shining business wasn’t an expensive one to set up, but there was no way I could get capital for it as I was unemployed.”
He said he was now making a living on his Plan B.
“After I did my diploma and searched for a job, it was very challenging. After Plan A didn’t work, I had to action Plan B.”
Daniel said the V&A Waterfront was an ideal space for him to run his shoe-shining business.
“The Waterfront attracts the right kind of people. Shops that you find all over the world are here, so I meet many people from all over.”
He said customers also felt safe at the Waterfront because of the security there.
“The place is also clean, and that’s important because cleanliness is next to godliness.”
He said his customers were the driving force behind his business.
“They support me and give me advice.
“I love being at work because to chat and laugh with my customers makes me forget my own stress back home. They are very generous people.”
He said he hoped to expand his business to companies and hotels.
“As for the Waterfront, I am part of the furniture here, so I’m staying.”