Dublin student run off his feet with his sneaker cleaning business

Kevin Owens started Sneaker Cleaner in 2017, and is busier than ever due to Covid-19

Kevin  Owens, a student of Technological University Dublin,  cleaning a pair of sneakers at his workshop in Harcourt Street, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times

Kevin Owens, a student of Technological University Dublin, cleaning a pair of sneakers at his workshop in Harcourt Street, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times

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Dublin college student Kevin Owens (20), who started a sneaker cleaning business as a school transition year project, says he has never been busier due to the Covid-19 pandemic and also as more people turn towards “upcycling”.

The north Dublin student operates his business, Sneaker Cleaner, from an office space on Harcourt Street, with Grafton Cleaners on South William Street operating as a drop-off and pick-up location for the runners.

Mr Owens, who is studying visual communications at Technological University Dublin, started the business in 2017 while in fourth year at Belvedere College.

“I started an Instagram page back then. I would collect the shoes after school and put them in my locker or take them home, then clean them up and drop them off,” he said.

“When I left school, I started to set it up online, but I was still doing street pick-ups. When Covid first hit, business stopped dead in its tracks because really I had no idea how to work it.

Website

“Then I was talking to a friend and he said, ‘Would you not just put it all online?’ Ninety per cent of what I used to do was cash-in-hand, so I did a website and now it’s 100 per cent online, we don’t take any cash payments at all, which is great and it helps with the whole Covid situation.”

He says: “The whole idea of sustainability has definitely taken off. We’re taking an old pair of shoes and making them brand new again. You see a lot of really beat-up Gucci shoes coming in and even Air Force 1’s, which are notorious for getting creases after a few wears,” he said.

“People can spend €35 and they’re like a brand new pair of shoes again. We box them up and put the paper on them. I think a lot of people want to support Irish now or support local, because it’s very hard to shop for shoes at the moment.

“You don’t know how they feel or what the fit is. I know if I was buying a pair of shoes I’d always want to try them on.”