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Today this award-winning enterprise offers a highly specialised service employing 79% women and youth, and Dudu’s next goal is to start a dry-cleaning school where she wants to train her staff to start their own businesses under the Legaći Dry Cleaning brand.

Legaći Dry Cleaners and Laundry Services is based in Silver Lakes, with four branches in Pretoria. Its industrial plant specialises in high-end dry cleaning services, but Legaći is the only certified South African dry cleaning business specialising in the cleaning, restoration and preservation of wedding gowns.

Around 75% of her employees are women and youths, many of whom have been retrenched from the clothing and textile industry.

“I am passionate about combating poverty and unemployment. I now want to open a dry cleaning school to train these women to start their own outlets under the Legaći brand,” says Dudu.

Dudu’s passion and commitment were recognised when she was awarded a special Judges’ Prize in the 2014 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® Competition. It was on the back of this recognition that the business was selected as a participant in the Sanlam-ASISA Enterprise Development (ED) Programme – a development which Dudu says has “completely changed the way” she runs her business.

Since she started on the programme, she has employed a further six people as her business has expanded.

As part of the programme, a diagnostic analysis was carried out, which highlighted areas of the business that needed attention, and where further growth could be achieved.

“Like many other small ventures, we had been neglecting areas such as human resources, compliance, finance, tax and marketing. With the support of the business advisors on the programme, we have now put processes and systems in place, and are already seeing a marked improvement,” she says.

An internal skills survey was also conducted, enabling Dudu to see where employees could be upskilled to meet the needs of her growing business.

“I had also never really thought about succession planning, and now have a proper plan in place to ensure the business will be able to carry on should I for some reason no longer be involved. It is not just my husband and me in this business – I also have employees and their livelihoods to think about.”

Dudu is a trained economist and manages the business with her husband, Leema. She says her passion for empowerment and for improving the lives of others was also fuelled by her mother, a domestic worker for many years.

“The first few years were the hardest. I was pregnant with my fourth child, and had to learn basic business principles the hard way, often with no support. This sometimes meant standing on street corners in the pouring rain, handing out flyers to passers-by,” Dudu says.

Jannie Rossouw, Head of Sanlam Business Market, says what is remarkable about this determined young entrepreneur is that she is not only building her business to benefit her family. “She has a strong social conscience, and we commend her for paying her success forward – helping both her employees and the community in which she operates.”

The sky does seem to be the limit for Dudu - she now plans to open more Legaći retail outlets in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. A mobile app for dry cleaning pick-up and delivery is also being piloted in the Silver Lakes area.

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