7 questions with MobiWashSA founder Robert Mtshali
From selling sweets as a child to digitising the concept of the traditional car wash, Robert Mtshali is a real trailblazer. Brenwin Naidu reached out to the 30-year-old entrepreneur to chat about start-ups, perseverance in difficult times and his plans for the road ahead.
Tell us all about your business?
MobiWashSA is an on-demand premium mobile car wash that allows you to book or schedule for a car wash through our mobile app. We then send our teams to your desired location. The company was started in Alexandra township but I had bigger plans. Of not just having a township business, but a national business which will create employment for young people in the townships. Our service is currently available in 13 locations around Johannesburg, with seven employees who are all between the ages of 17 and 23. MobiWashSA is using technology to change a very stagnant car wash industry.
The Covid-19 question: what steps did you take to stay afloat in these heavy times?
It was very hard in the beginning to adjust to the “new normal” but we were regarded as essential service under Level 4 in 2020. Our sales started picking up, we were washing cars for essential workers. More clients started using us because going to the wash was no longer safe for them. There's not much social distancing and people still used cash whereas we did everything online, at some point we would wash clients cars without even seeing them, so our service was convenient in these hard times.
What are the specific challenges facing your enterprise?
It's getting access to markets. We work a lot with estates and office parks but being allowed to operate in those premises has been hard because you have to know the right people. Another challenge is getting access to finances. There's a huge need in other provinces for our services but due to not having enough funds we can't scale as quick as we would've loved.
Where did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
I started my first business when I was 12 years old. I used to sell sweets. I then registered my first cleaning business when I was in grade 11. I was scouted to be part of the Richard Branson School of Entrepreneurship. After that I never looked back.
What keeps you motivated?
Being able to change people's lives by creating employment and giving them hope to be able to take care of their families.
Give some advice to young entrepreneurs trying to make their upstarts work ...
Just start, don't wait for that perfect moment because it will never come, while you are waiting someone is executing what you are thinking about.
Where to next?
We now have three vehicles that we recently bought, so we are planning on adding more vehicles before the end of the year to meet the demand in other areas and other provinces. The new vehicles mean we just added nine permanent jobs so we want to keep creating more jobs and growing the business.