Business Review has launched a new campaign called #makeithappen. Every day, for a month, we will present 30 inspirational entrepreneurial stories of Romanians who turned passion, hobbies and knowledge into successful businesses. We will present the stories of entrepreneurial initiatives of all sizes in all economical fields, underlining the diversity and creativity of the local business environment. By starting this campaign, Business Review is strengthening its commitment to be the go-to source for inspiring stories of Romanian entrepreneurship.
Today’s #Makeithappen feature is about Maria Pitigoi (23), a young woman from Bucharest who saw an excellent business opportunity in something we all struggle with quite frequently: cleaning our sneakers or sports shoes properly without ruining them. She started Kixomania – “kix” is another term for sneakers – a service that collects footwear from customers and brings it back clean in a couple of days. Her remarkable entrepreneurial drive and creativity in business is what inspired us to tell her story.
“The idea came suddenly and unexpectedly, when we noticed that we owned a significant collection of sneakers – over 100 pairs – which needed better care. I also noticed that there’s a large community of people who are big fans of sneakers of all types and who are actively looking for efficient ways of maintaining them,” Maria explains.
Maria started Kixomania together with a close friend, and later hired one more person who works exclusively to clean the shoes. “Demand is constantly growing, so we’re looking to grow our team further,” Maria says. “We’re still starting out, so the number of unique clients and returning clients is always changing – in the first few months, we cleaned an average of 50 pairs of sneakers per month,” she adds.
Entrepreneurial mindset & courage
Despite her young age, Maria is not new to business. She studied Business Management in London and already has two other businesses besides Kixomania: the first is the unique importer and distributor of Kellogg’s and Nature’s Path breakfast cereals in Romania, while the second is registered in London and imports coffee and other Romanian products on the UK market.
“I encourage everyone I meet to take advantage of their entrepreneurial spirit and to let go of their fears when they see opportunities in certain fields. One of my favorite mottos is ‘If you want to do it, you do it’.”
“I’m the kind of person who doesn’t need much time to think once I get a great idea for a business. I call myself a ‘doer’ as I tend to act on about 95 percent of the business ideas I think of. From my experience, I’ve learned that opportunity goes hand in hand with perseverance and often this only comes after a great deal of work put in towards a certain objective,” Maria says.
Kixomania uses dedicated professional products in the cleaning process, especially those provided by Jason Markk, a brand with whom they want to sign an official partnership in the near future, according to Maria. “Cleaning techniques vary based on the material, how worn-out it is and the amount of dirt we have to get rid of,” she explains.
“We use a number of different brushes that are specifically designed to clean each material, professional liquid solutions as well as super premium microfiber materials to remove the dirt and the chemicals we use in the process.”
“This is a skill that you “steal” – we learned most of our techniques from professionals like Jason Markk and his collaborators and we add our unique finishing styles where it’s appropriate. Most of the techniques are self-taught, with many hours invested in perfecting the process and learning from mistakes.”
Delivery times depend on how much the customer is willing to pay – Kixomania offers both same-day and standard delivery that can take up to three days. “Up to this point, we’re proud to say that the sneakers have always been returned to the clients in the following day after collection,” Maria says.
Kixomania finds clients mostly through social media buzz on Facebook and Instagram. Their initial investment was small – around EUR 2,000 – and they predict a turnover of EUR 15,000 for their first year.
Read another #Makeithappen story here: From a two-man team to 200, via Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Sydney, to discovering ‘the recipe for innovation’
Prices for cleaning one pair of sneakers range from RON 20 to 35, depending on the materials and how difficult they are to clean. “We also offer additional services such as cleaning shoelaces, insoles or adding a hydrophobic film that protects the shoes when they come into contact with water. All the services we offer are discussed and agreed upon with the customer when we go to collect the sneakers,” Maria explains.
“Sometimes we deal with difficult situations like advanced deterioration of materials, when we do our best to clean and improve the condition of the shoes. However, we do let our customers know beforehand that some damages are irreversible and that they can’t be recovered through a simple cleaning. In our most complicated case, we managed to recover the sneakers to a level of about 90 percent,” Maria recounts.
“We haven’t had many difficulties in our business – there have been a few cases where people didn’t really understand what we do and decided to make negative comments without even trying us out,” Maria says.
“We try to improve the mindset regarding new businesses and we try to be as open and efficient as possible in our communication, in order to show that we have nothing to hide.”
As for future plans, Maria says they are planning to open an instant cleaning service in a commercial space, where people will be able to access services on the spot, without even taking off their sneakers, in a maximum of 10 minutes. Another option will be a drop-off and pick-up model, where people can leave their shoes to be cleaned without the need for delivery. “We also want to be present in several shopping centers and bring added value to them through the services we offer,” Maria tells us.
Read our other stories in the #Makeithappen series here: