Mr Eniibukun Adebayo, founder of CleanAce brand, CleanAce Foundation and CleanAce Academy. The first drycleaning academy in the country.
In this interview with Moses Nosike, he revealed how he started drycleaning in his room with his wife, and after his primiary, secondary and university education, he went back to drycleaning because of the burning passion he had when he was young.
I have been in this business for 25 years. It started from my grandfather to my father and my very self; but my own component of the business started in 1991. This is the only business I have done and I’m still doing it. I took it more as a calling. My motivation, passion to set up CleanAce Academy was the fact that for 25 years of drycleaning business the industry has no formal structuring and I looked at it that for businesses to thrive there is need for structuring, rules and regulations to guide operation.
I came into dry cleaning industry in 1991. I have worked in my father’s business, also worked in the biggest and best laundry in Nigeria. After that I wanted to go into consulting in the drycleaning industry, but on a second thought I was convinced to first build a brand of worthiness before I can start training or consulting for others so that the brand would be a prove to people that this man really has a idea of what he wants to give out or share”.
What inspired you into drycleaning business?
The inspiration came when I was a young boy. So when I was in the primary and secondary school levels, I had some school mates in my class whose fathers were drivers, mechanics, capentre, petty traders, vulganisers and any time our teachers asked what is father doing for a living my colleagues would be bold enough with high level of satisfaction to say it to the hearing of everybody even though there were the children of the rich, accountants, doctors lawyers etc. my happiness was we were all sitting in the same classrooms.
But for me as a young boy, I love pressing clothes even though I don’t like washing it but I can spend a whole day, weekends pressing clothes. I did so much that my father’s friends in the streets were bringing their clothes to me for pressing and I would do it happily without complain or ask for money. I was passionately doing it.
In 1991 when my father was starting his first laundry I was happy because I saw it as an avenue that could enhance my skills having seen bigger pressing irons that makes pressing clothes easy like the ones you saw in our training rooms. So when I finished secondary school in 1988 and was expecting admission which delayed because I wrote JAMB for 6 consecutive times before I could gain admission into the higher institution. When the admission finally came, my father having seen my passion for the business asked me if I wanted to continue with the laundry business or go to school, but I decided to go to school, realising that education would enhance skill for laundry business.
My story is that I already had it mind during my growing up that for me and many young people that would be interested I would build a good place in Nigeria where people will work, train them and they would be happy to tell people they are working in a laundry. However, coming into the drycleaning industry, I discovered a lot of loopholes and why young people would not be interested in the industry because it lacks structure, no training, everybody is doing it at the local level, no standard except few of us who were able to travel to England, America and other part of Europe to learn drycleaning professionally. I now decided to replicate the training here instead of going to aborad for training, let us have a drycleaning training academy here with same standard in abroad.
The vision of the CleanAce school of drycleaning is to be the re-engineering and re-defining factor in making quality fabricare affordable to all. Our mission is to establish a self-sustaining organization, pioneering the promotion of international best practice in drycleaning, laundry operations and allied services in Nigeria.”
With your passion for drycleaning, how is the academy going to run?
Before now, people use the local way of pressing clothes in the business, but now there are mordern equipment that can wash as many clothes efficiently and more economical. The academy would strictly implore modern innovation that promotes drycleaning business. This is the technology applied for drycleaning services in hotels. So what we are bringing to our people is first of its kind. We are bringing professional people that would mind the faculties, train people in a proper way of running laundry. Even the tailors that make clothes, do they know proper way of testing materials before joining them together? The academy is set up to address those issues. In the aspect of chemical usage for drycleaning, trainees will be taught rightful ways of using chemicals for washing and how to avoid imitations and chemicals that are injurious to health. So, the academy is set to support the vendors, manufacturers, tailors and so on and so forth.
Can you estimate how much involved in equipping such a modern laundry academy?
Going by the quality of our facilities in the academy, we have spent about N50 million and more innovation is still in progress. On how many students we can admit, with the 3 classrooms for training and a fully fitted factory for practical demonstration, what we want to do is to create a training platform for many that want to add value to their lives and by extension impact in their business. You can’t decide the number of people that would be admitted; who doesn’t clean. In Lagos alone, we have at least 6,500 drycleaners at different level. These drycleaners have workers working with them. A lot of people are working in this industry but nobody regulates nor trains them. We are number one in Nigeria and Africa and we want to reach the whole Africa because the academy is for everybody.
Is the training going to be free?
It is not going to be entirely free and that is why I talked about the CleanAce Foundation which is our way we want to give back to the society, but the academy is the operational arm. It must be self sustainable. It’s not for profit. We are not begging people to come and support. It is what we have been called to do, it is a legacy we are proven to leave behind, that we have come into the drycleaning industry and we are not going to leave it the way we met it.
Are you into partnership with government or any corporation?
It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. We hope to get both private and government support so that we can reach more people. First, we are moving to sort out issue of training. Now I have not talked about the other things the academy is going to be doing on entrepreneurship, soft skills on leadership, management, sales, marketing etc. We are going to train people on customer service in the drycleaning industry with the use of technology in managing quality control, operational and entrepreneurial management. And for those who want to start drycleaning business, we can support you to get it right from the onset of your business. You may ask me how do I manage competition? For us this is not a competition but a legacy. If we can impact lives, safeguard investments in fashion and style we would have achieved 99% of our goal because a lot of investments are being wasted over the years because of the shoddy drycleaning and laundry services available, we will position to support as many that will be interested in quality drycleaning.
How do you ensure sustainability of the academy?
Sustainability will be hinged on the little the people are encouraged to pay for their training. We are not here to make the money but to meet the need of the people. The truth remains that commitment to anything that is free is always low, and commitment is key for us. We are going to be charging a fraction of the real cost that will keep the place up and running. The support the CleanAce drycleaners will be giving to the Academy will not stop. The sustainability is assured because this is our brand and what we stand for.
There is nobody that doesn’t wash his or her clothes. Everybody must wear clean clothes, it doesn’t have to be a new one. But they must be clean and fit right. We are a very fashionable set of people in Nigeria, there must be people to maintain all the investment in these clothes. My wife and I started washing with our bare hands in our apartment in Gbagada and today, see what God has done with over 100 plus people working in CleanAce and our 12 branches.