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Hands-On Approach: Small Business Is Coming To The Aid With Innovative Sanitizing Solutions




The hygiene industry has received a shot in the arm with the recent pandemic. With emptying retail shelves, small business is also coming to the aid with innovative sanitizing ideas.

Retail stores in Johannesburg, as in most urban centers in the world currently, have run out of wet wipes and hand-sanitizers – the widely-recommended weapons to keep the coronavirus at bay.

With the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province on March 5, the pandemic has brought the country to high alert and a state of national disaster proclaimed by President Cyril Ramaphosa merely two weeks later, with 116 confirmed cases and counting (at the time of going to press).

Where there was plenty before news of the outbreak, exasperated customers are seeing ‘Out Of Stock or ‘Sold Out’’ signs in bold red letters on hand-sanitizer shelves at retail outlets and pharmacies. There is a long waiting list at dispensaries such as Clicks in Johannesburg.

At a store at The Marc, a fairly new retail mall in Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile, the manager echoes the sentiments of his counterparts in other malls in the area: “Three weeks ago, we were fully stocked, now, we are out of stock. This happened the week of the first coronavirus report in KwaZulu-Natal, when we had foreign nationals who bought hand-sanitizers more than the [locals] because of the [five-star] hotels in the area.”

About 21kms from Sandton in Roodepoort, another city in Johannesburg, Khensani Moleko, a 27-year-old account manager in the advertising industry, says she mall-hopped a whole weekend in search of hand-sanitizers.

“We went to multiple shops in the Roodepoort area and found nothing. However, we had sanitizers before the outbreak so we still have some left but it’s running out. I’ll be looking online,” says Moleko.

This is what consumers like Mufhenyi Mashamba, a Johannesburg-based interior designer, are doing too.

“On the websites, all sanitizers were out of stock, and they are usually priced between R20 and R30. When I checked the next day, people were auctioning hand-sanitizers [at ridiculous prices]. So now, I’m sitting here with no wipes and no sanitizers. I’m relying on personal hygiene and making sure I’m aware of my surroundings and that people have their hygiene in check,” says Mashaba. 

This is also an opportunity for private business and small entrepreneurs such as Ludwick Marishane, founder of Headbody Industries and inventor of DryBath Gel, an innovative gel that can be used as a water-less body wash.

“We are making an antiseptic version of the product and the idea is to provide it to businesses because facilities are no longer safe. We have also been approached by a few retailers interested in listing our product.”

The gel is currently sold online, and should find its way on to retail shelves by June next year, says Marishane.

He is not the only entrepreneur making money off the hygiene industry.

Whitey Chemicals, founded by Joanna Stewart in Johannesburg, is a chemical cleaning service and supplier. The company started with cleaning petrol stations; one of their products is used to remove oil from concrete and restore it to its original form. The company also supplies disinfectants and cleaning solutions for schools, businesses and homes. “When I started the business two months ago, we fully got into hand-sanitizers because of the increase in the chaos going on in the country. Sanitizers are in high demand and business has picked up rapidly, it’s the main focus currently,” says Stewart, who has been in the pharmaceutical industry for the last 15 years. She has a full-time staff of six but has had to employ another 15 as freelancers to keep up with the demand.

With emptying retail shelves, small business is coming to the rescue, whilst also cashing in on the timely opportunity.