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29 Jan 2006 07:37
Imagine a microwave-like machine that can wash and dry your smelly sneakers in ten minutes—because one day very soon you might be able to buy one.
South African Cheslyn Swart has invented a super-fast washing machine for sports shoes “out of pure desperation” after losing his job as floor manager in a cellphone warehouse six years ago.
He has no formal qualifications—the 24-year-old taught himself by taking apart his washing machine at home bit by bit.
“At first people thought I was insane. They were thinking, something is not right with this young boy, he must get himself a job,” Swart recalled.
Now his invention will be on the market in South Africa from March, and will be on sale in others parts of the world from June.
“We have licenses to sell the product in the United Kingdom, China, India, the Mideast, North and South America, South Africa, Namibia and Angola,” said business consultant Enver Buys, whose company helped Swart to patent the product.
The “Nu-Sportshoe” washing machine is a bit bigger than a microwave and has space for one pair of sports shoes at a time.
It cleans the shoes with steam and a special solvent, also patented by Swart.
“The machine needs no water.
After ten minutes, it is clean and dry,” explained Buys.
It will cost around R1Â 500 ($250).
“I was just thinking of the effort that it takes to get those things clean,” Swart told Agence France-Presse.
“You wash for half an hour, then you have to rinse for 10 minutes to get all the soap out, then it takes a whole day to get it dry in the sun. And if it rains, you have to take it inside and put it in front of a heater.”
Swart is also negotiating to sell the washing machine to gymnasiums.
“The idea is that after your work-out, you drop your sneakers into the machine. You hop into the shower and when you come out, your shoes are clean and dry.”
Designing the Nu-Sportshoe was not an easy task. Buys said Swart’s first prototype was “a horrible thing”.
“We literally had to use a crane to lift it. It was pure steel. Ten people could not lift it, it was massive, a monstrosity.
“I told Swart, I am very sorry, you cannot take this thing to the market.”
Buys, whose company Chaza Strategic Management helps entrepreneurs find funds and develop their ideas, said they called in friends who “specialised in designing modern things”.
With their help, the “monstrosity” was turned into a machine about twice the size of a microwave.
The capital investment in the project by two private investors was about R1-million, while the Danish government sponsored another R2-million in research.
“Swart made contact with the Danish government in 1999 and they did research about its potential markets in Europe, America and Asia. The results showed that the product would be bought by three million people in the first year,” said Buys.
“Currently we are looking at a turnover of R250-million in our first financial year ... the profit would be in the region R120-million,” said Swart. - Sapa-AFP
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