Lockdown Economy Indonesia in Shoe Cleaning Service with Rastono
The interview was translated and adapted into an article by Larisa Sitorus
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview hosted by Karlina Lubis, we meet Rastono, the Founder of Green Shoes, a shoe cleaning service in Magelang, Indonesia.
Where are you at the moment? Are you at the shop, or at home?
Rastono: I stopped by at my friend’s place, I left the shop already.
Why don’t you introduce us to your business, so that the audience can know you and the business a bit more? Maybe you could start with a description of the business, where it is located.
Rastono: The business is called Green Shoes. It is a service for cleaning shoes. So, we have several services. The first one is a deep clean, for us to clean the inside and outside of the shoes. We also have a service to do just the outside. Aside from cleaning (washing), we also provide re-colouring of the shoes for the ones that are fading in colours, we can revive its initial colour. My business is located on Tentara Unit Pelajar street, in Dumpo village, in Magelang city, Central Java. I started this business in June 2020 and it’s on its fifth month. So when corona happened, I was just starting it. I have two friends, and with one of them, Irsad, we started this business.
So you actually opened the business in the middle of the pandemic. This is very interesting, could you tell a bit more, what made you decide to do this business, especially in the middle at these times?
Rastono: Yes, actually, this Green Shoes started at the beginning of 2020. We were planning to open it then. In 2019, we already put the plan together, aiming to open it by early 2020. But since I was still working on my thesis, I put it on hold. I finished in March, and in April, I wanted to open the business. But corona hit, and I couldn’t do it. Since then, a few months into the corona, we had to return home from university. At home, I was so bored since I didn’t have any activities and no income. So I thought “We don’t know when this corona will end. It was still unclear. So let’s just open the business for now. Even if we don’t have any customers, at least we started the business.” At that time, even when there was no customer, it was more important to open the business first. We would work on customers eventually. We opened last June. That is the short story.
But you’ve already planned for it quite a while back. How did you end up deciding to focus on shoe cleaning and re-colouring?
Rastono: It started with a problem. There are many college students in the UNTIDAR campus that have shoes. It was a trend in 2019, sneakers. So we noticed from the data, that sneakers sales increased. But many people do not know how to wash/clean shoes properly and correctly. So the tendency was to wash it recklessly, which ended up ruining the shoes, ruining the material of the shoe. That was the problem that became an opportunity for us. From then on, we started to learn about it. I have a friend that was already running similar business in Jogja. We went there to learn from him. After that, we practised it in Magelang for months, it was then when we had the courage to start our own business.
Aside from this, we noticed there were only a few similar services near the UNTIDAR campus and the Magelang city. After running a survey, online survey, and through offline, we found there were 5 to 7 businesses that specialized in shoes. But there were those laundry services that also provide cleaning for shoes, and there were plenty of these. But the ones that were specialized in shoes were still limited. So this was our opportunity to start the business.
How is the business going? Strategy to market the service? How do you reach the customers in the middle of this pandemic?
Rastono: Ok, for sure the pandemic situation is a bit different than the normal situation. So we do free pick-up since the government requested for people to stay home and not to go outside. So instead of them leaving home, the Green Shoes team goes out and picks the shoes up from their homes. Once they are cleaned, we will deliver them back to the customers.
But, we are different than the others. This pick-up and delivery service are already common. We want to leave an impression. So the team that picks up the shoes would wear something unique. We wear a suit and white shirts, and red tie, and we wear the blangkon (traditional Javanese hat for men). And we wear dress shoes and this was very formal. So we looked like directors, like the president. So when the customer saw us coming, they asked: “What are you dressed up for?” We answered, “Nothing, we are just picking up your shoes, and want to look decent.” So we wanted to leave an impression and it became the branding of Green shoes.
How are the sales, do you get sufficient customers?
Rastono: Yes. It increases significantly from month to month.
Did you have the strategy of wearing the suit from the beginning you started or just recently?
Rastono: From the beginning. From July, we didn’t yet wear suits. But we already dressed up, wearing a white or black shirt, with blangkon and tie. But in September, there was feedback from a friend: “If you wear a white shirt, it looks like you are going to a job interview to apply for a job. Why don’t you add a suit, it would look better?” So then, we added suits and it was well seen, we thought.
So there was an adjustment on the second month. In a situation like this, with the selected strategy, if you take a look at the whole picture of the business, do you think this business will stay stable? Or do you think, there must be other adjustments in the coming months?
Rastono: From looking at the progress and the incoming shoe data from July until now in late November, there is a significant increase in shoes and bags. We also do bags. And from these few months, the data shows an increase, I checked earlier. So I think, it will go up even more in the coming months. Why? Because there is information from the government that next year, the schools will start opening again. And the main target for us is the college students of the UNTIDAR. And once they start going to the campus again, for sure that would be a tremendous market for us. At the moment, the UNTIDAR students are already arriving, the ones in the last semester especially. But, this is not all. These are only 5%, they are here. And that is still considered as low. But we are thankful, there are still shoes coming in. There will be many more coming once the education starts opening again, and that will be a high potential market, I think.
Stay optimistic. What are three things that you would need help with, in relation to your business?
Rasatano: Let’s start with the challenges. Our challenge is financial. We need capital for growing our business. We still need it for purchasing equipment for the shop. Yes, we’re doing it slowly, but there are still things that we are lacking. The first is the capital for growth, for sure. And then, for promotion, for shop equipment and everything, for expanding.
The second thing is a business mentor. My team and I often attend training, workshops about business. But they were for just a moment. They do not help us continuously. So I really need a mentor that can monitor us daily. That’s my wish.
And then third, I really wish there are training for digital marketing, and for the financial side, for the production side, that for several of these there are specific training on these.
About the Guest
Rastono just graduated from University and decided to start his own business along with the team. The business name is Green Shoes. Located on Jl. Tentara Genie Pelajar, Dumpoh, Potrobangsan, Magekang. They provide shoe and bag washing services. Besides that, they also do repaint. The business started in June 2020. They have a pickup and delivery for free in Magelang City Area.