Sneaker Laundry finds right fit for a niche business idea

Three people standing in front of a shop window each holding a white sneaker in their hands.

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
Invest Melbourne supports business growth

Invest Melbourne supports business growth

Unlock your business potential with support from expert advisers and join the many innovative and successful companies investing in Melbourne. Melbourne is projected to be the fastest-growing capital city from 2023–24, and the nation’s most populated city by 2030....

Activating Docklands

Activating Docklands

Vibrant new pop-up shopfronts in Docklands are breathing new life into our waterfront community. A market, but indoors is how Julia Mateariki describes the new Your Locals store in Docklands. The pop-up shop stocks a varied range of products, including clothing,...

Turkish artisans team up at Micro-Labs on Bourke Street

Turkish artisans team up at Micro-Labs on Bourke Street

Marvel at handmade leather shoes crafted using a 600-year-old method and sand-free bamboo beach towels made by Turkish artisans at Micro-Labs until 30 November.  Shoemakers Serenay and Can of Akana also make leather bags and house slippers, while Irem...

Explore the city with the Melbourne Greeter Service

Explore the city with the Melbourne Greeter Service

Discover what locals love about Melbourne by taking a free walking orientation of the city, conducted by our enthusiastic volunteers.  We’re pleased to announce that the Melbourne Greeter Service has resumed, offering free two to four-hour orientations of the...

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!