Sneaker Laundry finds right fit for a niche business idea

26 April 2022

When you’re nurturing a left-of-centre idea for a new business, it helps to find a central location, according to Sneaker Laundry’s Eugene Cheng.

His specialist sneaker care shop, which also repurposes sneakers for people experiencing homelessness, found a home in Little Lonsdale Street in 2017.

‘The city itself has many pockets with such a diverse demographic. Really pinpoint where you want to be at and go for it,’ Eugene said.

Opening a new store can be a steep learning curve for new business owners.

A sneaker being cleaned

Sneaker Laundry

‘As a new business operator, you learn a lot of things around permits especially if you’re changing the use of the space or increasing the floor space of the building,’ said Eugene.

To smooth the path for startups City of Melbourne is streamlining its permits process, cutting red tape and standing alongside businesses every step of the way.

‘It’s not always very clear what you need to do, but City of Melbourne is contactable and has planning officers that are real humans that can give you an answer. So that helped a lot.’

A small business grant of $10,000 from the City of Melbourne helped to take the pressure off so Eugene and the Sneaker Laundry could think bigger.

‘The grant came at a really good time as it helped flick the switch and really buy us some breathing space to ask ourselves “where to from here?”’

‘Cash flow for new businesses is a struggle. It’s not even about growth at that stage, just whether you can continue paying the bills,’ Eugene said.

City of Melbourne has distributed more than $10 million in grants to more than 2000 small businesses, startups, social enterprises and business events since 2020.

So what’s next for the Sneaker Laundry?

‘We’re big on reducing the overconsumption of footwear. The number of sneakers going into landfill each year is excessive. More than 25 million pairs of sports shoes end up in landfill in Australia every year,’ Eugene said.

The team also has plans to step up in size.

‘We are constantly innovating to tackle more problems people face in the sneaker world and won’t be stopping anytime soon.’

Do you run a business in the city, or are you keen to start one? Subscribe to the Business in Melbourne newsletter or call the Business Concierge to talk next steps.

Share this story

You may also like
Virtual reality startup empowers people with limb loss 

Virtual reality startup empowers people with limb loss 

A promising Melbourne startup is using virtual reality to improve outcomes for people with limb loss in the critical time while they wait for a prosthesis. We’re supporting Virtetic on its journey from prototype to global impact through our Invest Melbourne team,...

Five deadly First Nations businesses to discover

Five deadly First Nations businesses to discover

Taste the flavours of the Torres Strait, fall in love with changemaking Aboriginal art and browse designer fashion that supports children in remote communities. Whether you’re dining out, buying a gift or contracting services for your workplace, we can all play a role...

Twins tackle climate change, one building at a time 

Twins tackle climate change, one building at a time 

Imagine if a piece of software could save enough energy to power more than 160,000 homes for a year and reduce emissions equivalent to removing 195,000 cars from the road. All this and nearly $318 million in annual energy savings is possible for Australia’s commercial...

How to grow leafy greens on Mars

How to grow leafy greens on Mars

Sending lettuce into space might sound like a scene from a sci-fi film, but one Docklands startup is planning for interplanetary growth. It could also change the face of local agriculture. Before you can grow leafy greens on Mars, you need to test the prototype of...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the City of Melbourne by subscribing to the Melbourne newsletter.

You have successfully subscribed!